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Christian Filice

A Valentine’s Tale

The exact origin of Valentine’s Day is a murky tale at best, yet the middle of February has been a time to celebrate life and love since before the Roman Empire.  Centered around the worship of Faunus, the Roman god of fertility (sometimes identified with Lupercus), the ancient pagan festival of Lupercalia was initiated on the 15th of February as a means of cleansing the people of evil spirits and bringing them health. One of the rituals in particular involved the priests dressed in goatskins, performing an animal sacrifice and then whipping the women with strips of skin taken from the animal’s flesh to 'bestow them with fertility.' Another customary tradition of the festival was for the young, virile men to draw the name of one of the newly flowered girls and engage in erotic play during the festivities, remaining sexual partners for the rest of the calendar year.  Intriguingly, this lottery actually originated from an earlier festival on the 14th of February, celebrating Juno, the goddess of Love. Many of the Ancient Roman gods and customs are merely whitewashed, adapted from those of the Ancient Greeks and in this case specifically from Pan, the Greek god of shepherds and flocks, often associated with sexuality. It seems only natural throughout the course of history to take something from someone else and paint it with your own brush, a process repeated countless times, especially in cultural practice and in religion. After all, that is exactly what the Christians did to this festival when they sought to right these 'unholy acts of perversion.' It was not until the very end of the 5th century that Emperor Gelasius was able to do away with Lupercalia and declare the 14th of February the feast of Saint Valentine. Gone were the animal sacrifices and the… Read More