To all on Nexus!
History.com might not be the most reliable source.... On their website, they state Valentine's day had origins in the Roman holiday of Lupercalia. npr.com has more detail - on the Roman feast of Lupercalia, "The men sacrificed a goat and a dog, then whipped women with the hides of the animals they had just slain. This involved drunk, naked people. "Young women would actually line up for the men to hit them....believed this would make them fertile." There was " a matchmaking lottery, in which young men drew the names of women from a jar. The couple would then be, um, coupled up for the duration of the festival — or longer, if the match was right."
Why am I suddenly thinking about Fort Lauderdale during Spring Break? (By image source)
From about.com, Lupercalia "may have started at the time of the founding of Rome (traditionally 753 B.C.) or even before. It ended about 1200 years later, at the end of the 5th century A.D., at least in the West, although it continued in the East for another few centuries. There may be many reasons why Lupercalia lasted so long, but most important must have been its wide appeal."
It was during the Lupercalia, "that day on which, sodden with wine, smothered with perfumes and naked (Antony) dared to urge the groaning people of Rome into slavery by offering Caesar the diadem that symbolized the kingship." but Ceasar declined. At least, he declined the crown.
By the way, "Lupa" was the she-wolf who suckled Romulus and Remus at the birth of Rome. Her cave was the Lupercal.
Here's another description of the festival, attributed to Plutarch: "Lupercalia, of which many write that it was anciently celebrated by shepherds, and has also some connection with the Arcadian Lycaea. At this time many of the noble youths and of the magistrates run up and down through the city naked, for sport and laughter striking those they meet with shaggy thongs. And many women of rank also purposely get in their way, and like children at school present their hands to be struck, believing that the pregnant will thus be helped in delivery, and the barren to pregnancy.
From the same website, "The god Lupercus was the Roman incarnation of our old friend, the Greek god Pan" which I find confusing. But there always seems to be a lot of appropriating one tradition into another. And both Pan and the Lupercalia are pretty licentious.
I tried to avoid wikipedia in this description, but the discussion there is more detailed and referenced.
The catholics, of course, always try to ruin everything. And did so by subsuming Lupercalia into what later became Valentine's day. Back to the npr article, "The ancient Romans may also be responsible for the name of our modern day of love. Emperor Claudius II executed two men — both named Valentine — on Feb. 14 of different years in the 3rd century A.D. Their martyrdom was honored by the Catholic Church with the celebration of St. Valentine's Day." But try as they could to cleanse the Roman empire of its christian infestation, it was the christians who took over, and it's the winners who write the history books. "Pope Gelasius I muddled things in the 5th century by combining St. Valentine's Day with Lupercalia to expel the pagan rituals. But the festival was more of a theatrical interpretation of what it had once been. Lenski adds, "It was a little more of a drunken revel, but the Christians put clothes back on it. That didn't stop it from being a day of fertility and love."
The histories of the various "Valentius" or "Valentines" are muddled, as part of catholic propaganda. I tried to stay away from the catholic "education" sites, where valentine is presented as an earlier "National Organisation for Marriage", executed for marrying one man / one woman couplings. Which sort of puts to a lie the "marriage has always been one man / one woman" but consistency is not needed for religion. From the wikipedia article (there, I did it again), "St. Valentine's Day began as a liturgical celebration of one or more early Christian saints named Valentinus. Several martyrdom stories were invented for the various Valentines that belonged to February 14, and added to later martyrologies. A popular hagiographical account of Saint Valentine of Rome states that he was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians, who were persecuted under the Roman Empire.
Fortunately, there is no "War on Valentine's Day". Yet. But really, the war was fought and the occasion was made violent and hateful, and should be taken back by good people everywhere.
That 2nd article states that the first is not true, there is no connection between Lupercalia and Valentines day, except the calendar coincidence. Despite that, I think it would be a great improvement to revert to the old Roman holiday, which celebrated life, and forget the strange "romantic" holiday that supposedly commemorated the execution of a religious zealot. Not that I'm proposing we have naked men running through the streets whipping people with hides of sacrificed animals. Maybe we could make it a little less extreme than that.
(Image above,St. Valentine baptising St. Lucia, Jacopo da Ponte, 1500s.)
Anyway, a happy Valentines Day Lupercalia to all!
Awesome! Quite a thorough history of the Roman, Roman catholic and christian recognition of the day.
I much prefer the pre-Roman mythology that came through the Druids of northern Europe and the British Isles. These myths come from the neolithic era when woman was seen as particularly special because she bled and did not die, gave birth to children and suckled them. They were not seen as goddesses, but as valuable to their clans. There was no such thing as matriarchy, meaning that women ruled over men. It was more of a matrilineal or matrilocal relationship, meaning the children followed and/or lived with the mother's family. I am giving a compilation of Marija Gimbutas' and Elinor Gadon's work.
According to Druid mythology, at Imbolc, that time between winter and spring, when the lambs were born, three great yearnings manifested: to be fully creative in our lives, to commune deeply with the world of Nature, and to gain access to a source of profound wisdom.
These yearnings come from the different aspects of ourselves, the Singer, the Shaman and the Sage.
nurture the Singer, the artist or storyteller, the creative self;
foster the Shaman, the lover of Nature, the healer;
develop the Sage, the inner wisdom that dwells within.
As you can see, there was no notion of domination, exploitation, or manipulation, certainly not violence. That came along in more recent times. I don't know where the Romans received their philosophies, but the Roman Catholic and Christian influences were based on Abrahamic tales. Just more reason to cast off religion as a force for dysfunction.
A philosophy of flourishing seems far more healthy, desirable and fun! By the way, May day was a time for the young men and women to enjoy their sexuality with singing, dancing, and sexual intercourse. That sure wins when pitted against flogging of women in celebration of the day.
HAPPY IMBOLC everyone! Bring forth your Singer, Shaman and Sage in celebration of the end of winter and beginning of a new growing season.
Joan, I think the Romans were big on machismo, which might be expected for a Latin (literally) culture. Many other traditions seem much more oriented to celebration of the feminine.
I haven't studied as much of the Northern European legends. There are so many. With the next big one being the Spring festivals, I think we'll head into that. Certainly with the name "Easter" or Oestre or Astarte, and other names, and traditions in east Asia, south Asia and other places, there is a healthy celebration of feminine goddesses and tradition. I think celebrating these traditions is a nice way to remember that catholicism, and it's evil child protestantism, and other Abrahamic mutants, are only transient, politically edited, censored, and partial sources for our celebrations.
With Rome being the empire of war, I expect in most things Mars gets more attention than Venus. Looking at the Valentinus Lupercalia tradition, that is true too. But - a Lupa was the canine mother who nurtured the future Rome. It would be nice to see her honored as such. She gets short shrift, in a tale with much bad behavior all around.
I will have to look into Imbolc in more detail, sounds very interesting. Midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. A much needed time to give hope that winter is not everlasting, and the planet is turning our part of the world towards Sol's nurturing radiation. "Imbolc derives from the Old Irish i mbolg meaning in the belly, a time when sheep began to lactate and their udders filled and the grass began to grow."
Fascinating look at how traditions get changed to comport a religious 'party line.' Part and parcel of the spread of christianity by the intentional adoption and manipulation of the customs, celebrations and places of worship of the local inhabitants who were unfortunate enough to be targeted for conversion.
I do agree with your assessment. Not that I'm proposing we have naked men running through the streets whipping people with hides of sacrificed animals.
You're absolutely correct. We can use synthetically produced whips. No reason to make innocent animals suffer.
Pat, I can just see that in small town Illinois. FOX news at 11.
I wonder why those poor ladies of Rome didn't use the old Greek philosophy of Lysistrata:
“What matters that I was born a woman, if I can cure your misfortunes? I pay my share of tolls and taxes, by giving men to the State. But you, you miserable greybeards, you contribute nothing to the public charges; on the contrary, you have wasted the treasure of our forefathers, as it was called, the treasure amassed in the days of the Persian Wars. You pay nothing at all in return; and into the bargain you endanger our lives and liberties by your mistakes. Have you one word to say for yourselves?... Ah! don't irritate me, you there, or I'll lay my slipper across your jaws; and it's pretty heavy.”
― Aristophanes, Lysistrata
Oh yes, heathen and heretic. They surely produce a more flourishing opportunity than the alternatives! Future, Glad you are in the camp with us.
Thanks, Daniel. I never knew this before. Good read.