In ancient Roman religion, Februus was the god of purification. He was also worshipped under the same name by the Etruscans, as the Etruscan god of purification and also of the underworld.
For the Etruscans, Februus was also the god of riches (money/gold) and death, both connected to the underworld in the same natural manner as with the better-known Roman god Pluto.
Februus may have become the Roman Febris, goddess of fever (febris in Latin means fever) and malaria. These are possibly connected with the sweating of fevers, which was considered a washing and purification process.
Februus is also possibly named in honor of the more ancient Februa, deriving his name from an earlier Etruscan word referring to purging. Februalia or Februatio was the Roman spring festival of washing and ritual purification, later incorporated into Lupercalia.
Februus’ holy month was Februarius (of Februa), hence English February, a month named for the Februa/februalia spring purification festival which occurred on the 13th to 15th days of that month.
Februa was later incorporated into Lupercalia, a Roman festival in honor of Faun and also the wolf who nursed Romulus and Remus. It was a pastoral fertility and purification festival meant to purify the city by banishing evil spirits, associated with the god of shepherds Lupercus (“he who wards off the wolf’), during which expiatory sacrifices and ritual purifications were also performed. Because of this coincidence, the two gods (Faun and Februus) were often considered the same entity.
In the Roman calendar, February was the last month of the year and also the beginning of spring. Thus, the sense of “spring cleaning” emerges with this festival.
After Lupercalia’s fertility rites were conducted, men drew the names of women from a jar to determine partners for the rest of the celebration. Because of this romantic partnering, Lupercalia is often seen as an early version of Valentine’s Day.