From 'Juno Februa' to Candlemas Feb 1, 2019 8:09:50 GMT -5
Post by Joanna on Feb 1, 2019 8:09:50 GMT -5
From Juno Februa to Candlemas
While there are many longstanding pagan holidays observed at the beginning of February, the Christian celebration of Candlemas sprouted from a specific Roman observance.
February was an important festival month in the Roman calendar and began with a purification ceremony known as Juno Februa (Juno the Purifier). The most prominent of the Roman matriarchal deities, Juno was/is essentially the goddess of essence itself. She is considered a moon goddess because her worship originally revolved around the lunar cycle: She is the state of Being, illustrated by the waxing white moon appearing out of the black void.
The Romans believed not only plants, animals and inanimate objects such as rocks, mountains and bodies of water possessed a spirit (genius loci), but core truths or principles as well. Thus the month of vital ceremonies required more than simple purification practices, it was necessary to invoke the essence of purification herself: Juno Regina (the queen goddess). Some say Juno Februa occurred at the second full moon following the winter solstice prior to Rome’s adoption of a solar calendar, but by the beginning of the common era, the date of the festival was fixed at 40 days after the winter solstice festivities.
Under Christian rule, Juno Februa became a celebration of the purification of the Virgin Mary following the birth of Jesus. The mass was celebrated with a procession involving the lights of many candles, the same as the earlier Roman holiday. Mary took on the role of Juno and the day’s association with purification as well as Juno’s white lily, which became a symbol of Mary’s renewed purity. Juno, however, though a mother like the Blessed Virgin, required no such purification because the idea of pollution in childbirth was foreign to her followers. She came to bestow purification, not to partake of it, and would give birth a full month later to her son, the god Mars. The birth of Mars was also a virgin birth: Juno conceived through the fragrance of the white lily, which was a part of Juno herself. In other words, Juno impregnated herself and the white lily symbolizes self-generation.
Some attribute Candlemas to Gelasius I, the 5th century pope, however, it appears his problem was with the climactic February festival of Lupercalia, which was eventually replaced by St. Valentine’s Day. Gelasius may have been successful at quashing Lupercalia, but people continued to celebrate the rite of Juno. As a consequence, in 684, Pope Sergius I officially instituted the mass of the Purification of the Virgin Mary to be celebrated February 2 on the church calendar.
From the beginning, many theologians protested the event, arguing that Mary would have required no purification because she had been impregnated not through sexual congress but by the Holy Spirit. Within the logic of Christianity this was correct, but as time wore on, the church was plagued by conflicts at Candlemas, not only by remnants of the Roman pagan cult, but by propitiation to weather deities and fire goddesses elsewhere.
The tension between theological purists and synergistic forces was eventually satisfied by fixing the time of the presentation of Jesus at the temple, which is referenced in scripture, at 40 days following his birth, or the 2nd of February. Nevertheless, the focus on Mary remained popular with the masses, so the celebration of the purification of the Virgin, while declining in emphasis, never totally vanished.
Today among witches and many other pagans, February 2nd is a time for vows and initiations. Many practices are based on Celtic and Germanic beliefs, but the Roman observation of Juno Februa also fits nicely into this understanding of the holy day. During this time of commitment, one’s intentions should be unassailable, infused by the essence of Juno herself.
Source: Hearth Moon Rising.