Unlike January’s ‘Full Wolf Moon’, the ‘Full Snow Moon’ doesn’t have a long history of mythology, legend, and lore associated with its name, but much like its predecessor, February’s moon was so named thanks to the experiences of the Native Americans, settlers, or other cultures of the area. In most areas of the United States, the month of February sees the largest amount of snowfall and frigid temperatures. Native peoples in these areas would have associated this time of year with the frozen ground, dangerously cold weather, and other factors which made finding food difficult, and life dangerous.
The Full Moon for Feb. 2017 will occur in the afternoon of February 10th for the United States and just after midnight on February 11th for Europe.
February’s Full Moon is commonly known as the Full Snow Moon or Hunger Moon by the American Indians. The Apache Indians referred to it as the “frost sparkling in the sun” Moon while the Omaha Indians referred to it as the “moon when geese come home”.
February: The Snow Moon
Snow piles even higher in February, giving this moon its most common name. Among tribes that used this name for the January moon, the February moon was called the Hunger Moon due to the challenging hunting conditions.
February meaning might best be kicked off with a quick look at the etymology of the month’s moniker. The word February is born from the Latin word Februarius, from Latin februare meaning to “purify” or “expiate.”In ancient Rome, Februarius was the “Month of Purification” and great festivities were held to reestablish the empire’s focus on righteous living.To me, this idea of devoting a month to the process of purification is invigorating. The hustle-bustle of the holidays are left behind – February finally sees many of us getting our first breath of fresh air. And, by this time of year the pressure of New Year’s resolutions is either incorporated itself into healthy habits or dropped by the wayside (depending upon if we’ve kept our resolution vows or not :).February is a transitional month, and so February meaning and symbolism will have a transitional feel too. There is a change in the air this time of year, and we can see this manifested in certain festivals & holidays in this month.Where I live, up in the cold regions of North America, the Earth begins to kick just a bit. Everything is still clutched in snow and ice, but February marks the forward momentum of the seasonal procession and offers a reminder that Spring is not far.To give you a feel for symbolic February meaning, I’m offering a few symbolic lists for your contemplation.
We can learn more about this transitional month through exploration of symbols sacred to February. Here are a few:
In ancient Celtic thought, trees offer magnificent wisdom and open up new branches of understanding about everything, including phases of the year. The Ogham is a sacred system of tree knowledge used for many purposes, including the passage of time. The Rowan tree twists in February’s awareness as a tribute to Brigid, a matriarch, Celtic goddess and magical maven in Irish mythology. With this association, the Rowan is a symbol of protection, discernment, transition, and balance. Rowans are ideal witching sticks (for locating “power-pockets” in the earth, finding water for wells) – this is symbolic of finding our spiritual paths. When invoked in February, the Rowan can help us clarify our vision and seek advantageous routes upon our life’s journey.
February is shared by both Ash and Rowan in the Celtic lunar calendar. According to the ancient Druidic Ogham, the Ash is also a transitional symbol – making it a fitting icon for February – a month in which Spring is just beginning its ascension. Ash is a sign of creation and connects new life to our awareness where once there may have been a bleak outlook. In-line with many festivals of renewal in February, the Ash is also symbolic of rebirth. In your February meditations, incorporate the expansive Ash for protection, earthy connections and bolstering inspiration/creativity/motivation.
Violets will bloom in very cold weather. Sighting their bright petals in the snow is a picture of hope, inspiration, and promise. Spring is not far when the Violets come to call. The Violet is a symbol of the ancient city of Athens. Its fragrance is sweet and the Violet has been used for centuries as a key ingredient for perfumes to arouse and stir whirlpools of love. In ancient festivals & ceremony, Violets were often woven as a crown to be worn upon the head. This signified high-minded intentions as well as protection from mental ruin. Folk medicine prescribes Violets for protection against headaches and hangovers. The color violet, a mix of blue and red (purple) is symbolic of the Crown chakra and also represents the connection between heaven and earth. Incorporate these attributes of the Violet during your contemplative moments in February. Violets are also featured at the Feast of Feralia.
The Primrose is included in February meaning because of its initiatory nature – it’s one of the first to herald the forthcoming of spring. Its name, primrose is derived from the Latin primus meaning first. Primrose symbolism includes courage because it takes moxie to blossom in the face of stark cold conditions -it also takes gumption to be the first to come out in the open. Primrose symbolism also includes renewal, love, and devotion – all themes germane to this month of February. Primrose is also a sacred symbol of Freya, the ancient Norse goddess of beauty, refinement, fertility, love purity and youthfulness. Ancient Celtic wisdom cites the primrose affiliated with the fairie realms. Seeing a patch of primroses is a landmark or gateway into the fairie lands. Meditate on the primrose and pay homage to this delicate beauty. Doing so will elicit a levity within your heart – promoting elevated states and blissfulness.
We can learn a lot more about symbolic February meaning when we investigate the rituals, parties, holidays, ceremonies and festivals that take place this time of year. Here are a few:
This is a fire festival (one of four) devised by ancient Celts to mark the halfway point between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox. This day (Feb 1st) is symbolic of the light half of the year returning. Bone-fires are lit, as are candles as a representation of the sun’s light returning to the lands. Consequently, abundant living returns to the clans too (agriculture begins anew, birth, renewal of spring, etc). As mentioned, February is a transitional month. The Celts knew this, and Imbolc is a festival honoring the transition unique to the birth process of the seasons – particularly the transition between winter and spring. Brigid, the exalted Celtic goddess of many aspects including attributes of fertility, fire, water, healing and smithery. The goddess link to fertility sense as one translation of the word Imbolc is “of the belly” – this festival commemorates the potential of all things…there is potential in the belly; it’s only a matter of time when potential is made manifest. This February, consider the potential indwelling your soul and light a candle to coax the birth of your inner light to be made visible in the world.
Fortuna Dies (Day of Fortuna):
February meaning is made more invigorating when we explore ancient Rome for festivals held this month. The Roman goddess Fortuna holds her debut in February (around the 5th, but often these festivals honoring various deities lasted for weeks in old Rome!). She is the goddess of luck, fortune, marriage, fertility, and fate. Her symbols and her visage are commonly seen on the Wheel of Fortune card of the Tarot which might be a useful meditative card this month. Fortuna Dies is the day devoted to Fortuna, and is a day for practicing divination and “fortune telling.” Roman sorceresses, magicians, seers, and oracles were all honored on this day. It was a day for paying respect to the invisible powers that influence our lives. A day for becoming more mindful of the signs and symbols of the environment with a goal to foretell upcoming events.
Any discussion about February symbolism without mention of Valentine’s day is criminal. Whether you are in the “bah humbug” camp about this day (February 14th) or don your own cupid wings – there is no denying Valentine’s day is devoted to love. There are several St. Valentine’s associated with the date in history. Several theories surface at the explanation of the holiday, one depicts a rebel St. Valentine administering the sacred vows of marriage to military men and their wives even though Claudius the Second banned marriages (amongst soldiers). Another theory links Valentine’s day with Lupercalia, an ancient festival (also Roman) of fertility and purification. Lupercalia is derived from Lupa, the legendary she-wolf who nursed the founders of Rome: Romulus & Remus. The feast of Lupercalia is symbolic of the founding, provision, and growth of the empire. Therefore, Lupercalian ceremonies and rituals were performed as a means to galvanize the proliferation & expansion of the empire.
Feast of Feralia:
One of my favorite observances. Around the 21st of February, ancient Romans honored their ancestors, the souls of their deceased (aka “Manes”). Feralia is the public festival, whereas Parentalia is the private observance of loved ones passed from physical realms. Parentalia was a week-long observance conducted privately among Roman citizens. Behind closed doors, words of honor were spoken in reverence to ancestors, special meals were eaten in observance of transitioned souls and ceremonies were held within the family to pay tribute to loved ones of days gone by. After a week of somber devotion, Feralia sparked a public festival. Feasts were consumed and offerings were left at gravesites to publicly convey love, honor, and remembrance of the dead. Violets were strewn everywhere, particularly upon gravestones to make the memories of loved ones immortal. Special artisan bread and wines were also left as offerings to the dearly departed. Salt was also sprinkled around altars and graves as a symbol of preserving (curing) the memories of loved ones. There is the legend that states Romans eventually neglected the public feast of Feralia, and ultimately, the result was Rome’s decline. Perhaps the symbolic lesson here is to remember the spirits of kin and clan and honor them, otherwise, succumb to a life of ambiguity and decrepitude.