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Phenomena of the Months
HE Zodiacal sign of the month of February is “Pisces, the Fishes," said to symbolize the fishing of the Nile, which usually commenced at this season of the year. According to the ancient fables it represented Venus and Cupid, who, to avoid Typhon,
a dreadful giant, with a hundred heads, transformed themselves into fish. This fabulous monster, it seems, threw the whole host of heathen deities into confusion. His story shortly is, that, as soon as he was born, he began to avenge the death of his brethren (the giants) who had warred against Olympus, by resuming the conflict alone. Flames of fire darted from his eyes and mouth. He uttered horrid yells, and so frightened the celestials, that Jupiter himself became a ram, Juno a cow, Mercury an ibis, Bacchus a goat, Diana a cat, Venus a fish; till at last Jupiter hurled
a rock, and buried Typhon under Etna. The idol Dagon, with a hundred heads and arms, and a fish's tail, is affirmed to be the Sun in Pisces, and to allegorize that the earth is now teeming.
Our Saxon ancestors called February, Sprout Kele, by kele meaning the kele wurt, which we now call the calewort, the greatest pot wort (in times long past) that our ancestors used, and the broth made therewith was called kele; for, before we borrowed from the French the name of potage, and the name of herb, the one in our own language was called kele, and the other wurt; and as this kele wort (or potage herb) was the chief winter wurt for the sustenance of the husbandman, so was it the great herb that in this month began to yield wholesome young sprouts, and consequently given unto them the name of “sprout-kele.” The kele here mentioned is the well-known kale of the cabbage tribe. But the Saxons likewise called this month Sol Monath, because, in the course of it, cakes were offered by the Saxon Pagans to the Sun. The Romans dedicated it to Neptune, the lord of waters. Its name is from the Februa or Feralia, sacrifices offered to the manes of the gods at this
Ovid—I hope many of my young friends can read Ovid in Latin-Ovid, in his Fasti, says :
“ In ancient times, purgation had the name
Of Februa: various customs prove the same.
In short, with whatsoe'er our hearts we hold
February is a month that always cheers old Peter Parley's heart. It speaks of the resurrection, the glorious hope of all, but especially of the old—those who are fading like the latter end of a year, and who look forward with hope and faith. For as the little bud sprouts, and the little seed shoots up, it seems to say, God is still faithful, and that however winter and her snows, and her desolating frosts may prevail, yet the providence of God rules over all, and will, in due time and season, keep His eternal promise with us. And now the snows melt, and the green things appear; numerous little flowers are in blossom—the birds, too, begin to sing—and, in spite of the wet and the stiffening from melting snows, and the raw, cold,
• I wish some of my young friends would translate this into Latin.
wet winds, sleet, and mist—the heart is cheered-cheered by the lengthened days and the longer sunshine, and by the sunshine that knows no ebb or change in the heart of man.
One of the first feasts in this month is Candlemas Day, which occurs on the second. It is the festival which is called the Purification of the Virgin. On this day, candles are solemnly blessed in the Roman Catholic churches, borne about in procession, and lighted, and hence the name Candlemas. The candle-bearing had reference to Simon's declaration in the temple, when he took Jesus in his arms, and affirmed that He was a light to lighten the Gentiles. The Pagans used lights in their worship, and Constantine and other Emperors endowed churches with land and various possessions for the maintenance of lights in the churches, and frequently presented ecclesiastics with coffers full of candles and tapers. Pope Innocent, in a sermon on this festival, inquires, why do we, in this feast, carry candles ? and then he explains the matter, by way
of answer, Because,” says he, “ the Gentiles dedicated the month of February to the infernal gods, and as, at the beginning of it, Pluto stole Proserpine, and her mother (Ceres) sought her in the night with lighted candles; because the holy fathers could not utterly extirpate this custom, they ordered that Christians should carry about candles in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary; and thus,” says the Pope, “what was done before to the honour of Ceres, is now done to the honour of the Virgin.” It is to be noted, that from Candlemas, the use of tapers at vespers in litanies, which prevailed throughout the winter, ceased until the ensuing All Hallow mass, and hence the origin of an old English proverb :
“ On Candlemas Day,
And to this I say, Let the Light of Truth alone bear sway.” St. Valentine's Day is another notable day in the month of February. Lydgate, the monk, of Bury, who died in the year 1440, and is described by Warton to have been not only the poet of his monastery, but of the world in general, has a poem in praise of Queen Catherine, consort to Henry VI., wherein he says :
Seynte Valentine !-Of custome, yeere by yeere,
Men have an usaunce, in this regioun,
And chose theyr choyse by grete affeccioan.