The Origins of Valentines

Well today is Valentines Day. No doubt some of you would have spent a lot of money on your significant other just because someone somewhere decided today’s the day you should. So, who decided the 14 February was to be the day that you should show someone you love them?

The Pagan Roots 

Between the 13 – 15 February the Romans held a festival called “Lupercalia”. Lupercus was a roman god and is sometimes identified as the god Faunus. It is believed that the origins of the festival come from a celebration for Romulus and Remus, Romes founders. They were raised by a she-wolf which is Latin is called Lupus hence the name.

lupercalia-large
Artist impression of the Lupercalia Fertility Festival. 

Lupercalia though was a festival to celebrate fertility. The priests of the god Lupercus, known as the Luperci would sacrifice a goat. They would following a ritual strip the skin of the goat into thin throngs then dipping them into the blood. They would then proceed to run through the streets, hitting women with the throngs and marking them with the blood. The women would welcome the touch of the throng as this would make them fertile.

Another ritual that was also known to take place was a type of lottery. All the names of the young women would be placed into an urn. The men would then take turns to pick a name from the urn. The woman that they picked would then be their “female companion” for the forth coming year.

The Rise of Christianity 

Pope Gelasius I, in 494 C.E decided that he was going to replace the Fertility Festival. The Pope did not approve of young men effectively choosing their sexual partners for the forthcoming year by means of a lottery.

Pope Gelasius I, changed the name of the day to Saint Valentines Day. There was still a lottery but instead of picking out their partners, young men and women picked out the names of Saints instead. They were encouraged to work of the qualities of they Saint they picked for the next 12 months.

Needless to say that this was not a very popular change and eventually the masses went back to the first lottery as it was a lot more fun.

Who is Saint Valentine? 

It would be true to say that no-one actually knows, including the Catholic Church. At the time Pope Gelasius I decided to change the name there were already three Saint Valentines. No one is sure which one he meant to honour.

The most popular choice though falls upon a young Priest who was martyred by the Roman Emperor Claudius II around 270 C.E. Claudius decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families. Claudius outlawed marriage for all the younger men.  The Priest understanding the injustice of the situation would marry young lovers in secret. When Claudius discovered the actions of the young Priest, Valentine, he had him put to death on the 14 February.

Another story is that Valentine was imprisoned for helping Christians. While in prison he fell in love with the jailers daughters and they would send notes to each other. In the story Valentine would sign his notes “from your Valentine”.

Whatever the story since 494 C.E the date of the 14 February has been known as Saint Valentines Day. A day tied up in pagan fertility rites and supposed martyrdom of someone who died for a just cause.

In today’s world Valentine’s Day is second only to Christmas with the amount of money consumers spend on gifts for supposed loved one.

Ask your self the question, why is there so much expectation levelled at this one day? Why do you give into the media and declare this day “the day of love”?

If you truly love someone you should not have to wait till this one day to tell them. Why not tell/show them everyday?

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