Every year, chocolatiers and florists make an unholy mint on February 14th, Valentine’s day. Couples are making their first declarations of love (or lust as the case maybe), others proposing marriage, and others smiling, crying, or quaking through their wedding vows. Thank all the powers that be, in some states, some of those couples who are getting married are gay.
But what makes February 14th the romantic pinnacle of the year? The day is named after a Christian (Catholic) Saint who allegedly was martyred on that day. Yes, martyred, as in put to death whilst taking a stand for a cause, which doesn’t seem very romantic, in the sense of love and happily ever after. Of course, as soon as someone says that, someone’s conscience will lead them to proclaim that, like just about every other “Christian” holiday, the celebration had pagan origins—and they’re right.
In fact, ancient Romans celebrated Lupercalia on February 13th – 15th,, commemorating (who else?) Romulus and Remus, the twin hotties who, after being suckled by a wolf in a cave called the Lupercal, grew up to found Rome. “Ah,” you say, glancing back at my title. “There is the wolf connection, right there.” Well, yes, but the connection is multi-faceted and a lot more convoluted. You see, the festival was connected with the Roman God Lupercus, represented by a wolf, who strangely enough was the God of shepherds. Yes, Roman shepherds worshipped the wolf—and I’m sure they had their reasons. During the festival a goat (standing in for a sheep?) and a dog (standing in for a wolf?) were sacrificed, and salt cakes prepared by vestal virgins were burnt. Okay, vestal virgins/romance, a vague connection, but a step further reveals that Lupercus was sometimes identified with Faunus, the Roman version of Pan.
Okay, Pan. Not so much romance, but hot sex with glorious abandon. That’s possibly a connection. And in fact, before the Roman holiday, a Greek festival on the ides (13th) of February celebrated Lykaia (the wolf-god) and Pan (the pleasure and chaos god, or at least that’s how I like to think of the little devil).
But we’re still a far cry from the public vow of love (or at least commitment) which we know as marriage, and especially (see title of post), equality of marriage rights. For that, we must return to the story of the martyr, Valentine. There are many stories about the man, but it is agreed he was a real fellow and did indeed get martyred on February 14th by the Roman emperor Claudius II in the 3rd century of the common era (AD). One story about why he was martyred… wait for it… wait for it… he was performing marriages for Christians! Apparently, Christians in 3rd century Rome did not enjoy marriage equality, and our dear Saint Valentine defied the powers that were, either just because he wanted to, or because he believed love is love, marriage is marriage. (Or else he didn’t do it at all, as no one knows for sure.)
To further muddy the waters, there are a dozen or so Saints Valentine. That’s unimportant, as the February 14th date is definitely connected with the forward thinker I mentioned above, identified for disambiguation as Valentine of Rome. But it does tickle the imagination—what if we celebrated a smexy holiday for each of them?
As a last little tidbit of information, in medieval times, Valentine’s Day may already have been a celebration of love, courtly and/or marital. Chaucer took note that on February 14th, birds find their mates. Also humans, for he wrote:
For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day when every foul (fool) cometh ther (sic) to choose his mate.
So, go forth and give chocolates, send bouquets, kiss, make love, and marry the person of your dreams no matter the gender and (possibly thanks to Saint Valentine) even if you’re Christian.
So yeah, comment below, tell me something lovely about Valentine’s day, or the reason you loathe it, if that’s the case, and you’ll be in the drawing for $14 spending cash at Dreamspinner–and they just happen to be having a sale!