Happy Valentine’s Day!
Ever wonder why, on this one random day a year, people everywhere have a contest to see who can say “I love you” with the most flair?
Valentine’s Day, celebrated every year on February 14, has many varied customs that help remember 3 martyred Catholic saints (we are told) and allow couples to celebrate their love for one another…but… maybe it’s time we look at the deeper history of this ancient celebrated day of the “love Feast”….
Valentine’s Day, though now associated with chocolates, expensive gifts, roses (symbol of Eros or sexual Love) and sweet cards for the romantically involved and for those who want to be, originally had a different name.
Christianity Meets the Pagans (meaning “country dwelling gardeners”) of the Roman Empire: Lupercalia
The non-Christian Pagan’s of the Roman Empire already had a romance-related celebration in mid-February: Lupercalia.
This holiday required that all the houses (symbol of one’s body) be purified, first by sweeping and then with a sprinkling of salt and spelt, a type of wheat.
This prepared the ancients for the celebration in honor of Faunus, the god of agriculture (seeds and fertility), and Romulus and Remus, the twin gods of Rome who are given credit for building Rome on one of the 7 Hills along the Tiber River (vale means to flow as does a river…valen means to attract…entine, comes of entice/enthuseos, hence, “Valentine”… To Flow with the attraction of sexual excitement.
The origins of our modern Valentine’s Day were that it was an attempt to “Christianize” the pagans. The Christians took all the Pagan Celebrations and rewrote them to fit their own Names and Events. Easter bunnies, hiding, searching and finding the eggs. Christmas Santa’s, pine trees, etc.
During this time, pagan gardeners made offerings of fresh foods as gifts to Faunus as a Love Feast, meant for couples who were not expecting a child at the time, so they could then act as “eligible singles” to then choose a new romantic partner to have a baby with for the upcoming year through a lottery process.
This practice of union going for one year or until the birth of a baby was later seen as “unchristian” and “evil” and was later outlawed by the Church.
Romance (erotic people of Rome) and Valentine’s Day are usually seen as being paired together, but the specific reason for this pairing goes back to a natural observation of “Nature”… even during medieval times, people in England and France observed and wrote that February 14th was the beginning of the mating season for birds.
Since animals were beginning to mate and pair off, people believed that there must be in nature itself a certain romantic aspect of the day.
The first Valentine cards began appearing around 1400 and were often exchanged among friends and lovers in all social classes.
What is believed to be the first Valentine card is on display in the British Museum, I got to see it myself in the late 1970′s. Anciently they scratched an “I love You” into the skin and peelings of foods that looked like the Heart, such as mangoes, tomatoes, capsicum (bell Peppers), etc.
Then they ate the food together in a “spirit of Love”. Today, Valentine’s Day is one of the biggest card-purchasing holidays in many countries, with customers buying more cards for this occasion than every other day except Christmas.
Valentine’s Day is often a day shrouded in red, pink, and white hearts, Cupids with Love arrows, chocolate, as it is believed to be an aphrodisiac, Unicorns and romantic gestures.
Many of the ways in which the holiday is celebrated date back to ancient and medieval times and are still present in celebrations today.
The, “saint’s” part of Valentine’s Day remained an official date on the Catholic calendar until 1969, when the Catholic Church did away with its official recognition as part of a church-wide reformation.
Some researchers have suggested that the Catholic Church may have removed it from the calendar because of an assumed relationship to the “pagan” holiday Lupercalia, the fertility ritual celebrated pre-Christian era, as I have mentioned.
Others suggest that it was removed from the calendar because it was unclear whom the Feast of St. Valentine was actually intended to commemorate.
One researcher has traced the contemporary traditions of the holiday to a work by the 14th-century writer Geoffrey Chaucer, suggesting that they did not actually exist until after the publication of the Parliament of Fouls almost 1,000 years after St. Valentine was said to have lived.
Clarifying the actual theological origins of Valentine’s Day therefore, has proved to be difficult.
The name may suggest Christian origins, but the traditions that give it contemporary meaning (candy hearts, love letters and boxes of rich chocolates all in the name of love) suggest an entirely different significance. Hence the “dropping from the Catholic church.”
DIONYSIUS OF HALICARNASSUS (WINE, BEER AND LOVE) MORE ON VALENTINES FROM LIVY. LIVY OR LEVY, IS THE NAME IN ENGLISH, BUT THE ANCIENT HISTORIAN WAS BORN AS TITUS LIVIUS IN PATAVIUM IN NORTHERN ITALY, NOW MODERN PADUA. THERE IS A DEBATE ABOUT THE YEAR OF TITUS LIVIUS’ BIRTH, 64 BC OR MORE LIKELY 59 BC. AT THE TIME OF LIVY’S BIRTH, HIS HOME CITY OF PATAVIUM WAS THE SECOND WEALTHIEST CITY IN THE ITALIAN PENINSULA. PATAVIUM WAS A PART OF THE PROVINCE OF CISALPINE GAUL; THEREFORE TITUS LIVIUS MAY NOT HAVE BEEN BORN A ROMAN CITIZEN. IN HIS WORKS, LIVY OFTEN EXPRESSED HIS DEEP AFFECTION AND PRIDE FOR PATAVIUM, AND THE CITY WAS WELL KNOWN FOR ITS CONSERVATIVE VALUES IN MORALITY AND POLITICS.
What Livy doesn’t share in his writings is the Interpreted Meaning of all of this… but read on… I want to share with you the recorded but forgotten and no longer taught meaning of the symbols and stories at my first Tolman Adventure Event… while standing in blue lagoons in classes I call Aquagnosis…
According to Livy, Rhea claimed that the God Mars came upon her and seduced her in the forest, where she conceived the twins.
When her uncle found out, he had her imprisoned and ordered a servant to kill the babies.
The servant set them adrift in baskets on the river Tiber instead, where the river deity, Tiberius, caused the basket to be caught upon the roots of a fig tree.
The legend goes on to say that Romulus and Remus were suckled by a she-wolf, Lupa (some legends say by Luperca the wolf Goddess), and fed beneath the fig tree by a woodpecker named Picus. Both were animals sacred to the god Mars.
The brothers grew up to become shepherds. After coming into conflict with the king’s shepherds, Remus was captured. Romulus gathered a band of followers to liberate his brother, and Amulius was killed.
The Founding of Rome: Killing Remus and Raping the Sabines
Romulus and Remus refused to take the crown while their grandfather still lived. So they, along with a group of mostly male followers, headed off to find their own city.
The two argued over where the city should be, and decided to settle their disagreement by the will of the Gods. Whom ever saw the most birds would win. According to Plutarch, Remus saw six, but Romulus saw twelve. Remus was furious. He’d seen his six birds first and believed he should have won.
On April 21, 753 BCE Romulus began building his city. Remus ridiculed, criticized, and obstructed Romulus’s work and was killed. Remus was killed either by Romulus, his Commander Fabius, or another of Romulus’s followers. Romulus called his new city Rome and served as its first king.
The inherent difficulty of starting a kingdom with only a few women did not escape the fledgling King, so he invited the neighbouring Sabines to a festival: the Consualia.
The Sabines came in droves, bringing with them their daughters. During the festival, the Romans drew arms, encouraged the Sabine men to leave unharmed, and brought back with them 700 Sabine maidens as wives.
Lupercalia, sometimes called Februatio, was part fertility rite, part purification ritual, and part festival honouring the she-wolf who nursed Romulus and Remus.
In 375 BCE the Roman birth rate was still insufficient. They dedicated a temple to the Goddess Juno in her aspect as goddess of marriage, fertility, and childbirth.
The Romans claimed she had spoken from a bush during the taking of the Sabines saying, “The sacred goat must penetrate Italy’s mothers.”
The Lupercalia festival began on February 15th. The Luperci (wolf priests), sacrificed two male goats and a dog at the Lupercal (the cave where the she-wolf was said to have suckled Romulus and Remus).
The dog probably represented the wolves that the wolf god Lupercus was supposed to keep at bay as a protector of herds.
Two boys were then chosen to represent the legendary twins, and brought to the cave, where the priests anointed them on the forehead with the bloodied knives used in the sacrifice. The knives were immediately wiped on goatskins soaked in milk.
The boys would then join in the race of the Luperci, clad only in goatskin loin cloths. The Luperci used strips of the sacred goats’ skin, called februa, to whip women in the streets and purify them. In this way, the women were afforded fertility and protection in childbirth.
On the eve of Lupercalia, February 14th, boys drew the names of girls by lot, sometimes pairing them as friends for months, for a year, or even as spouses for a lifetime, there was Liberty and Freedom to choose.
St. Valentine’s Feast Day
Pope Gelasius I outlawed the Lupercalia festival during his papacy c. 492 CE- 496 CE and replaced it in 496 CE when he decreed February 14th as “St. Valentine’s Feast Day”.
There were numerous early Christian martyrs named Valentine. One legend is that the Roman Emperor Claudius II ordered young men to remain single. He believed that bachelors were better soldiers.
Valentine, a priest, secretly married young Roman lovers and was sentenced to death for his defiance of the law.
In the 1969 revision of “The Roman Catholic Calendar of Saints” St. Valentine’s Feast was removed from the calendar, (as I mentioned above).
Most people don’t think of Romulus and Remus, Roman mythology, ancient festivals, or of the early Christian church when celebrating Valentine’s Day.
Today, Valentine’s Day is a celebration of romance and love in all its forms. Children, family, friends, and lovers around the world exchange notes, cards, confections, flowers, and gifts with the special people in their lives.
Few of the original customs remain with us today, but much like the ancient Roman tradition on Lupercalia Eve, February 14th is still a day of choosing. Men and women, young and old, in many places throughout the world will ask that special someone, “Will you be my Valentine?”
At the end of the day, in the 21st Century, Valentines is a day to remember that when people get together in a Spirit of Love, Caring and Kindness it is the Highest Good.