February comes from the Latin februum. It refers back to the Roman festival of purification—Lupercalia.
Contrary to some notions, the month was not named for the Roman god Februus. The god was named for the festival.
Purification was seen as an important rite. To cleanse oneself of impurities was believed to be set on the right course to please the gods.
The notions of love came along centuries later. February is always associated with hearts and roses which is surprising since the official flowers of the month are violet and primrose.
In William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream he wove a tale of tangled love between two couples: Hermia / Lysander and Demetrius / Helena. The complication was that Hermia’s father Egeus commanded her to marry Demetrius even though she loved Lysander.
At one time Demetrius was in love with Hermia’s friend Helena, but once he laid eyes on Hermia, he was captivated. Helena who viewed herself as plain still loved Demetrius.
To add further complication to the matter, Egeus dragged Hermia before King Theseus. The King gave Hermia two choices regarding disobedience to her father’s will: either her death or her confinement to a female religious order away from male companionship.
A daughter had no choice but to obey her father in these matters or suffer the dire consequences. Unfortunately, this is still true in many places on this planet traversing the cosmos.
Hermia and Lysander made a daring escape plan. Unfortunately, Hermia told Helena of the plan, and Helena believed if she revealed the plan to Demetrius, he would see his folly and return to her as his only true love.
Like Lysander said to Hermia: “The course of true love never did run smooth.” So it was, especially when the Fairy King Oberon became involved. Taking pity on Helena who once again was rejected by Demetrius, he instructed Puck to obtain a magic flower.
Once the juice of the flower is made, Oberon ordered Puck to place it on the eyes of Helena’s true love. Unfortunately, Oberon gave Puck poor directions ,and Puck placed the juice on the eyes of the sleeping Lysander instead of Demetrius. The juice acted as a charm to cause the person to fall in love with the first thing seen upon awakening.
As misfortunate or a comedy of errors would have it, Helena is the first person Lysander sees. Helena is not amused by his fervent attention since she believed he was cruelly playing with her emotions—how could he find her desirable when Hermia was so beautiful.
Once Puck’s error was discovered, he attempted to correct it by finding Demetrius. This time it worked, but with Lysander and Demetrius pursuing Helena, Hermia was very confused and somewhat miffed.
Hermia assumed that Helena had done something to cause Lysander to abandon her. She was ready to fight the poor girl just as Lysander and Demetrius were about to fight to the death for the love of Helena.
By trickery, Puck was able to separate them in the woods. When Lysander fell asleep, Puck applied the flower juice to his eyes and made sure that Hermia was the first person he saw upon awakening.
Now, the romantic fortune was in the proper place. Each was married to the right person in the end.
Oberon sent fairies to bless the sleeping couples on their wedding night. This was the least he could do after his good-intended meddling.
Puck ended this tale of entangled love with these words:
If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
if you pardon, we will mend:
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call;
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.
May your course of true love run smooth. Hopefully, no misguided enchantments will confuse the subject for you and your beloved.
G. D. Williams © 2020