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The True History of Valentine's Day

Updated: Jun 13, 2022

Unveiling the dark origin of the celebrated day of love.

Valentine's Day (also known as Saint Valentine's Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine's) originated as a day to honor a "Christian Saint'' named "Valentine" who was a martyr (a person who died for their cause, usually something heroic or righteous).


The truth about Saint Valentine is the fact that there were multiple people by that name who could've been the "Valentine" that is honored on February 14, but this is not confirmed and is highly debated.


A few stories associated with the saint "Valentine" of legend include one where Valentine married young lovers in secret because young men were banned to marry for the sake of serving as soldiers in the Roman Kingdom Military by Emperor Claudius II and was put to death because of his actions, a saint named "Valentine" who was a bishop and was beheaded for aiding imprisoned Christians to escape the harsh conditions of Roman prisons, and another person named "Valentine'' sent the first “valentine greeting” himself after he fell in love with a young girl who was possibly his jailor’s daughter who also visited him during his confinement before his death. It is alleged that he wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine,” an expression that is still in use today. The identity of the "Saint Valentine'' that is honored on Valentine's Day is unknown.


Origins:





The ancient origins of Valentine's Day date back to ancient Rome from the pagan Festival of Lupercalia, a festival created to ward off evil spirits through purification and to strengthen fertility. The festival was also used to honor Lupa, a female wolf from the Roman mythology of the founding of both the City of Rome and the Roman Kingdom by Romulus who was suckled (or nursed) along with his twin brother Remus. Both brothers were placed in the Lupercal cave to be abandoned on the orders of their granduncle King Amulius who saw the infant boys as a threat to his reign. The festival was also created to honor the Roman gods Lupercus, Faun, Faunus, and Februus with Faun, Faunus, as well as Februus possibly being the same god.


The Lupercal cave where the twins of the Roman myth were cared for by the wolf Lupa was the sacrificial site for the festival. The priest order known as the “Luperci” would sacrifice one or more goats - as a symbol of sexuality - as well as a dog. After the sacrifice, the two naked Luperci would smear their foreheads with the animal's blood using the bloody, sacrificial knife. The blood was then removed with a piece of milk-soaked wool as the Luperci laughed. This symbolically washed away the feud & violence between the founding brothers of Rome, for the Luperci were divided into two groups with one sect being followers of Romulus and the other sect being followers of Remus.


Once the ritual was completed, all the priests would leave the cave and take the hides of the sacrificed goats to create whips out of the pieces of hiding called "thongs” or “Februa"; a feast began upon their return from the cave back to the Kingdom where they would eat and get drunk. After the feast, I assume in their inebriated state the participants would strip naked, and run up and down the city streets of Rome, "lightly" whipping the people as they ran. According to my research, the whips weren’t designed to hurt anyone and were used playfully, but I don't know how a drunk could gauge what is considered "lightly" whipping if under the influence of alcohol intoxication?


People didn't mind getting hit as it was believed that being hit with the goat whip would bring good luck and make you more fertile. As far as the lashes from the whips on the body, the symbolism of the lashes is unknown and is open to speculation. Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city’s bachelors would each choose a name and become paired for the year with their chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage.


Throughout History:


The celebration of Lupercalia was so popular that it even survived after the fall of the Roman empire and made its way into the Dark Ages or the Medieval Period of history. In the 5th century because of the violent, bloody, and sexual acts that were synonymous with the Roman observance, Pope Gelasius I banned the celebration altogether and began February 14 as St. Valentine's Day in honor of the "martyr" that died or was buried around A.D. 270 to "Christianized" the pagan holiday which was deemed "un-Christian" by the Catholic Church. Despite the ban on Lupercalia, some people throughout the centuries have continued to celebrate the observance in secret.


In The Contemporary Setting:


Valentine's Day became an observance of the same thing Lupercalia stood for but without the violence and blood. Valentine's Day is synonymous with love, affection, sexual expression of lust, and desire between two lovers. It has also become another day used commercially to get people to purchase items that would show appreciation, affection, and sentimental symbolization between a couple. Internationally, it symbolizes the same thing and is observed by different countries in July with the dates including July 6th in some places and July 30th in others. Not all people observe the day and Valentine's Day is a day that will forever be celebrated.


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