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Fasting for Februa

Reviving an Ancient Practice

by Stannous Fluoride

Februa (as in February) is the ancient Pagan predecessor to the Christian Lent. It is a physical gesture of spiritual sacrifice to the Goddess.

Like Carnaval (Feast of the Flesh) or Mardi Gras, preceding Lent, we have Lupercalia (Feast of the She-Wolf), a communal debauche followed by a fast, Februa, which lasts until the Spring Equinox.

I suspect that in prehistoric times it began thusly: Along about mid-February the food stocks in hunter-gatherer groups began to get pretty low. The grain and roots put up in the Fall had mostly been eaten, rotted, or become infested. Game was sparse, and the first shoots of Spring were not yet up.

In such difficult times, one of the most dangerous and destructive emotions for a small, interdependent group is jealousy (in many stone-age myths greed and jealousy are held up as prime evils). The way to conquer this is simple — everyone puts what is left of their cache into the pot and a feast is had by all. Then everyone is equally hungry until the birthing season and early shoots arrive about six weeks later at the Equinox. The groups that did this prospered and outlived those that did not.

"Good Ideas become Traditions become Rituals become Religious Law become Law."

"Good Ideas become Traditions become Rituals become Religious Law become Law."

When I became a Pagan, I started looking at the calendar, specifically at the midpoint between the Equinoxes and Solstices. At these times, we see Beltane/May Day, Midsummer, Samhain/Halloween, and Valentine's Day.

When I looked up the etymology of February, I discovered its roots in fasting and saw the parallel between Februa and Lent. This led me to discover Lupercalia, and the connection to Mardi Gras/Carnaval was obvious. I decided that I would, in my own small way, observe (and try to expound to others) these rites. I have been doing so for seven years. My fast is cumulative, each year adding one more item to the list.

To adapt it to my modern life and to use it as an offering to the Goddess that I worship (Yara/Maria Lionza), I chose to give up first that which She prefers as offerings: chocolate. The second year I added ice cream, the third coffee, the fourth meat, then dairy products, TV, and most recently, sexual gratification or play. (I think I'll give up something easier next year, like water or oxygen.)

On Valentine's Eve, I usually have a small "orgy" of my own that includes a small taste of each thing from a previous year and a lot of the present year's choice.

A relatively small sacrifice reinforces my faith in large ways.

I choose these particular items as things which are part of my life and for which I am grateful but which I do not need to survive. Though I have always seen asceticism as the province of more traditional faiths, my practice has taught me much about such acts. Whenever I crave any of these things I am given pause to reflect on Her generosity, not just to me but to all of Us. That such wonderous and wonderful things are put here for our pleasure always makes me smile. A relatively small sacrifice reinforces my faith in large ways. I have also observed that whatever I am presently sacrificing seems harder than all the previous. But I adjust to doing without and know that after all, it is merely 40 days (actually 36 by our calendar). Much as I did when I was detoxing from drugs and cigarettes, I have intense dreams/nightmares about using, in which I find myself feeling horrible because I have given in to the craving. Now that I am familiar with this pattern, it is much easier when I wake up feeling disappointed to dismiss that guilt and relax.

This year, lacking everyone's favorite sedative and having that foremost on my mind, I found myself wide awake at 4 a.m., bursting with energy (so to speak), and unable to slumber again. My dreams were delightfully (or demonically) explicit and erotic, vivid, and colorful, filled with all manner of faeries and beasts and nymphs as well as the usual memories and fantasies.

I enjoy observing myself and the effect of these fasts. They leave me feeling refreshed and alive and filled with Her strength. I picture a time when I am down to juice and grains, but that is far away — and it will mean that I have lived long and well.

Stannous Flouride is a Blue Owl Wizard of Yara, and can be reached at