Thursday, February 17, 2011

Lupercalia (aka Valentine's Day)

Now that the Valentine's Day hoo-ha is all over and the leftover heart shaped boxes of chocolates are on sale at your local drug store, I thought it would be great to talk a bit about the pagan origins of Valentine's Day. After all, all the fun holidays are pagan (at least I think so) and "St. Valentine" (if he indeed ever existed) is a modern Christian spin on this ancient holiday.

They have yet to show that there was a priest called Valentine who married people in secret. (In the context of today's evangelical Christianity beating the drum for "traditional marriage", I find it hilarious that marriage was also not Christian in those days- it was a pagan rite that St. Paul opposed.)

Lupercalia was associated with Pan, Romulus and Remus (who were raised by a wolf to later found Rome), fertility (read: lots of sex), and whipping/flagellation with dead animal skins (to stimulate fertility). How romantic, no? I can just imagine the early Christian dialogue around keeping the hliday: "Hey- it's always fun and sexy to dress as a goat, sacrifice a dog, and then get it on in the woods- so how can we make this more Christian?"

These days, the holiday has been properly sanitized and lost a lot of its "edge". Hot and steamy sex with everyone and anyone has now become the exchange of flowers and chocolates with one specific someone, and sex only happens after a nice dinner. Decidedly less lusty, but accessible to more people, I suppose.

What, if any, are your Valentine's traditions? This year, I helped some kids at the local UU church make valentines for their friends and families, then went out with my family for a nice Dim Sum lunch and then my sweetie bought me a gift at a local pagan shop. We snuggled on the sofa watching a movie later that night. Simple togetherness- that's my new ritual.


  1. over here (UK) the old country tradition (pre christian echos presumably) is that it's the bird's wedding day - and sure enough, its around this date that the song birds start singing again, which is the males marking their breeding teritory and attracting a mate.

    Growing up, (in a happy catholic family) we always sent each other valantines cards, and Papacrow and I have kept that up - we have a big crafty sesion with the kids, make lots of cards which we exchange, and sometimes some fun little gifts like a dvd or new t-shirt.

    We do some bird watching and sketched birds out of our many books, also this year we had hot chocolate after dinner with heart shaped marshmallows and heart shaped dairy free fair trade chocolate hearts (thank you Devine!)

  2. @ Mamacrow: As an avid "bird person" (my affinity is for parrots and corvids), I love this bit of lore!

    I am collecting things for a year-round curricula for Rowan (and others, if folks are interested) which is a multi-religious education through a witch filter. I will add this lore to my notes.

  3. ooo corvids? I love corvids.. if you hadn't guessed already :P

    Am interested to see what else you put in your curricula :D

  4. That first painting is "The Rape of the Sabines". not related to Lupercalia festival.


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