Wednesday, February 14, 2007

History of Valentine's Day

All right, I just had to add this before Valentine's Day is gone. I had an inkling that the holiday was older than Saint Valentine's early christian connotation, and that it was some sort of pagan holiday. It is. After the workshop I wandered around the college campus, where I first went right after high school. There was a little booklet called "Minerva Zine" that supposedly had a web page. The page doesn't work so I have to type in the information, but it's from that zine, to give it the proper credit, although they got it from somewhere else, too. I did run into other information online that tells pretty much the same history of the Valentine's Day holiday:

The Romans celebrated (febris, in Latin) a holiday of the Goddess of amorous love, Juno Februa, on February 14, coinciding with the time when the birds in Italy were thought to mate. Rites of the Patroness of Passionate Love, merged with Lupercalia, the festivities in honor of the pagan god, Pan which were observed on the following day, February 15. On Lupercalia, (named incidentally in honor of the she-wolf who suckled Romulus and Remus, fabled founders of Rome), men and women inscribed their names on love notes or billets and then drew lots to determine who their sex partner would be during this festival of erotic games.

Lupercalia, which combined elements of worship of Juno Februa and Her Northern equivalent, the Norse goddess Sjofn, was the original Valentine's Day. Naturally, the fathers of the early Christian Church outlawed its observance as lewd and heathenish. However, they were quite unable to halt the practice. Eventually it was necessary to create a sainted martyr whose feast day would be observed on February 14th. In this way, the Church could sanction a celebration that it simply could
not suppress. There are, depending on the source, anywhere from three to eight Saint Valentines. Each has a conflicting biography concocted by a different author. But in every version he emerges as the patron of lovers, bowing to the original intention of the occasion.

The first St. Valentine's Day was celebrated in 468 AD In the beginning, the Church attempted to institute the practice of exchanging billets printed with pious sermons and scripture to encourage a holy attitude. But the experiment failed on a grand scale. By the fourteenth century, the celebration of Valentine's Day had lost all Christian content and had reverted back to the love feasts of old, albeit, tempered by more than a thousand years of church-imposed morality built on the separation and opposition of body and soul. One now strove for perfection of the spirit through the repression of the body. Courtly love, which was chaste and pure, was the ideal in the Middle Ages.

The symbols of Lupercalia come down to us intact, but thoroughly cleansed, completely abstracted from their original flesh and blood intensity. The cute little chubby Valentine angel so familiar to us, is a characterization of Cupid, the Roman equivalent of the Greek god Eros, the Hindu Kama. He was the son of the Roman, Venus and Mercury, The Greek, Aphrodite and Hermes. S/he was thus an Herm-Aphrodite, an embodiment of the duality and opposition of the sexual union. The arrows that Cupid shoots are the phallus, the lingham. These projectiles of passion are often depicted as piercing the heart. The heart, the center of the soul. A bittersweet image which intimates that love hurts. A graphic image of penetration, which is reminiscent of the arrows that Hopi's shoot into rounded bundles of corn as a ceremonial gesture of fertility.

So, OK, I retract my semi-harsh words of this morning. Christians might NOT like the Valentine's Day holiday much! But I still do. Hope you had a good one.


Blogger Stacy The Peanut Queen said...

Eh, my V-Day was the same as every other day in my life...relatively mundane!


6:14 AM  

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