Dea Febris

Every age and every culture has its own way to respond to viral diseases, plagues and epidemics. While we have medicine, technology and social services, the ancient Romans had Dea Febris, the goddess of fever, the protector against malaria and other infectious diseases, though by no means the only one. According to one theory, Febris evolved from the god Februus after whom the month of February is named. If feverish conditions must happen, then February is the right time. The irony of this wild speculation won’t be lost on anyone.

If Febris was the tutelary deity against the destructive effects of fever, Februus was the god of purification, possibly connected with the salutary (this time) effect of fever, since fever led to sweating, which then as now, is considered the body’s way of ejecting the disease and purifying itself. If this is correct, then Februus and Febris are an ideal pair, the reflection of an insightful theory of pyrexia, the human body’s ability to increase its temperature – both as symptom of an infection and as protection against it.

So I’m submitting Dea Febris to anyone who needs a patron saint for these feverish times, anyone who is not happy with the historical performance of Saints Adrian of Nicomedia (patron saint of plagues), Bernardino of Siena (same), Edmund of East Anglia (of pandemics), the Fourteen Holy Helpers (same), Hugh of Cluny or even latter-day Saint Corona.

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