Sunday, 1 February 2015

mokie: A woman in elegant restraints wailing (holiday lurve)
WOO, February! We made it through a whole month full of January, and so far, 2015 has been awful. So much for wishing 2014 would just come to an end already, eh?

Februarius takes its name from Februa, a festival of purification. There's an etymological link to febris, 'fever', from which we get our word 'febrile', though some linguists think they both really come from an earlier Etruscan root meaning 'purge'. Thus, all crime was legal in February. The month was also dedicated to a slew of funerary rituals, which might be why it's so short: "Februarius was thus such a religiously complex month that during the Julian reform of the calendar, when days were added to some months, it was left as it had been, even though it was the shortest month." (Wikipedia!)

Don't know about you, but I choose to read 'religiously complex' as, "Who's going to tell the ghosts of the dead that we're pushing their festivals back to make the calendar work better? Anybody?"

You might not be a Roman worried about family ghosts, but you've been stuck inside this place with this stuff so long that the urge - nay, the need! - to chuck the clutter and trim the fat has probably kicked in. If you were a pre-industrial farmer, that would likely translate to tending your tools in anticipation of spring, eyeballing the rapidly emptying root cellar, and making sure you grabbed for dinner what looked least likely to last another month (and then, depending on how off it was, maybe later a little purging of your own).

So the keyword for February is 'purification'. No daydream resolutions about changing habits here: you've been stuck with yourself and your stuff long enough to know what you really can't stand anymore.

For those to whom such things are interesting:
- Zodiac signs: Aquarius / Pisces (starting Feb 19)
- Birthstone: amethyst
- Flower: the primrose or the violet (depending on which list you prefer)

If you're of a witchy persuasion, I had these scribbled in my little book, though the sources are lost to the mists of time my shoddy memory:
- Magical correspondences: Februus/Pluto (rites of purification), Persephone (rites of the dead), Brigid (the light of hope at the end of winter)
- Magic: personal achievement and advancement

There is no 'Indian name' for any of the full moons. That's a vicious lie spread by the weatherpeople to distract us from the real issues. However, the full moon in February is usually the mid winter moon, and various folks of various nationalities and ethnicities have slapped their own fun name on that, including the Bony Moon, Death Moon, Famine Moon, Hunger Moon, Frost or Ice Moon, Storm Moon, and Purification Moon. Oh, and the Quickening Moon, presumably because there can be only one moon like the moment in pregnancy when a woman can feel the first movements of her offspring, February has the first little signs that winter intends to start letting up soon.

February is best known as Black History Month. March is Irish-American and Greek-American Heritage Month, April is Scottish-American Heritage Month, May is Jewish-American Heritage Month, July is French-American Heritage Month, September is German-American Heritage Month, and October is Italian-American and Polish-American Heritage Month, so, on top of every month already being General White History Month, we have a shit-ton of Specific White History Months, allowing folks to just shut right the fuck up about this point already.

February is also Boost Your Self-Esteem Month (it's okay! Who needs a Valentine anyway?), Chocolate Lover's Month, Dental Month (see previous), and Pencil Month (sigh). The third is Friendship Week, Flirting Week, and Condom Week, presumably depending on how well you did on Valentine's Day.

Movable feasts include:
- Presidents Day on the third Monday, because February was already too 'religiously complex' to give Washington and Lincoln their own federal holiday while leaving out Taft, Adams and Skroob.
- Chinese New Year on the second new moon after the solstice, which works out to February 19th this year and good on the Chinese for not just declaring it the Xth Monday of the month for the sake of a long weekend.
- Mardi Gras! Or Carnival! A pre-Lent party which could last just a weekend or a whole week or a goddamn month, depending on where you live and, possibly, how you live.
- Shrove Tuesday, which is the same thing as Mardi Gras except in English and with more Jesus and less beads. It's more about doing penance and eating pancakes (eh?) than getting in one last party, and I'd thank the Christians for also not giving into the long weekend urge, except the math by which Lent is decided is so arcane that there's great dissent about when Shrove Tuesday actually falls, with it landing on a Monday for some denominations.
- Ash Wednesday is the day after Shrove Tuesday, and marks the beginning of Lent, a period of penance and Friday fish fries - at least here in St. Louis, which is so Catholic even our non-Catholics are Catholic.* Since I live in a Catholic town, and Mardi Gras as we know it comes to us by way of New Orleans, also a Catholic town, let's go with the Catholic dates: February 17th for Shrove Tuesday, February 18th for Ash Wednesday. Resist the urge to wipe off any smudges you see on foreheads in February, just in case.
- And once every four years, February spits out a Leap Day to catch up with the rest of the calendar. Seems like we could make that Inauguration Day, which also falls only once every four years, and pretend politics didn't exist except on that day, but we're not that together as a nation yet.

So, on with the show!


* St. Louis is an old city by American standards - 251 years old this Valentine's Day! It may technically be only 52% Catholic, but it's old Catholicism, permeating so bone deep that it looks like St. Louisism until you step outside the city.

Of course, it's 52% Catholic in a state that's 66% Protestant, with 48% of that 'Evangelical'**, so many residents would recommend against stepping outside the city unless absolutely necessary.

** The statistics page doesn't officially define 'Evangelical', and it has different definitions in different places. For instance, in Europe, it can apparently mean Protestant, or refer to a certain branch of Protestant churches. Here in the US, and Missouri, it's often used synonymously with 'fundie'.
mokie: A package of meat wishes you happy holidays (holiday tribal)
You might have noticed that America gets pretty hot and bothered about freedom.

Not only do our politicians go on and on and on about it - a tax on snacks is a violation of our freedom, forcing parents to vaccinate is a violation of their freedom, withholding a crappy movie because another country objects* is a violation of our freedom - but we wave flags throughout the year because freedom! The day our founders flipped England the bird, the day we honor soldiers** who died defending our freedom, the day we honor soldiers who didn't die defending our freedom, the day we honor the flag that represents our freedom...

Naturally we would be totally on board with National Freedom Day, the day that celebrates the freedom of all Americans, right?

So why have you (probably) never heard of it?

Veteran (yeah!), entrepreneur (yes!), civil rights advocate (oh f...) and former slave (oooh...) Richard R. Wright, Sr. wanted to commemorate the freedom of all Americans. He (or the committee he organized) suggested February 1st, since it was on that date in 1865 that Lincoln signed into law the Thirteenth Amendment:
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
(If you're familiar with America's profitable private prison system, you know just how far 'as punishment for crime' has been stretched, and how far we have yet to go.)

I'm not saying that National Freedom Day isn't a federal holiday because the North was twitchy about pouring salt in old wounds, or because white America doesn't like being reminded that we have been, collectively speaking, royal dicks to other races and nationalities.

No! See, February is already religiously complex...


* As opposed to withholding a movie because it's crap, which happens all the time.

** Unbunch all panties! My point isn't about the military and soldiers, but our national rhetoric. When was the last time you heard a newscast, particularly on Memorial or Veterans Day, that didn't immediately follow up 'solders' with 'defending our freedom'?

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