Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Happy, Bloody Valentine’s Day

by Madeleine Kando

Did you get roses for Valentine’s day? A card? Chocolates? I was going to order those ’12 long-stemmed roses’, advertised ad nauseam on NPR, but then I asked myself: who is this Valentine guy anyway? What gives him the right to mind-control an entire population to go out and spend their hard earned money on others? ** There should be a law against saints telling us what to do, I reasoned.

So I went digging and I came across several articles on The Dark Origins Of Valentine's Day. Let me warn you, it ain’t pretty. And quite convoluted.

There are two theories on the origin of this supposedly lovey-dovey celebration; one cruel and bloody, the other salacious and sex-driven.

The first connection is to the ancient Roman festival called Lupercalia, in honor of the fertility god Lupercus. During this pagan ritual from February 13 to 15, a group of priests called Luperci, sacrificed a goat (the symbol for virility) and a dog (not sure why), sliced strips of skin from these victims and ran around naked, whipping young women who willingly lined up for a beating. They believed that being beaten by naked men would make them fertile. This ‘naked guys running amok frenzy’ was followed by a blind-date lottery where names of young girls were put in a large urn, followed by activities better not described here in detail.

The other connection is more in line with what the church would like us to remember: the martyrdom of not one but two men named Valentine. One was a Roman priest persecuted by the emperor Claudius II. He thought that single men made better soldiers, so he outlawed young men from marrying. When Valentine defied this order and kept performing marriages, Claudius had him executed. Another Valentine was killed for trying to help Christians escape Roman prisons. When he was imprisoned, he fell in love with a girl and sent her the first Valentine, a letter he signed “From your Valentine.”

Later, Pope Gelasius I, the third and last Bishop of Rome, declared February 14th as the official St. Valentine's Day in an attempt to eliminate Lupercalia, the pagan ritual and from then on, especially due to English poet Geoffrey Chaucer and William Shakespeare’s writing, St. Valentine became more and more associated with romantic love and lost all of its original wildness rooted in a pagan fertility and rebirth rite.

So now you know why, on this day, we go out and buy candy and flowers for each other, instead of putting our name in an urn and being chased and whipped by naked men. leave comment here

** According to the National Retail Federation, Americans are projected to spend an average $136.57 per person, on things like candy, flowers, cards and fancy dinners for Valentine’s Day this year.