Friday, February 14, 2020
Lupercalia and a possible origin of Valentine's Day?
Lupercalia was an ancient, possibly pre-Roman festival observed in the city of Rome between February 13 and February 15, to repel evil spirits and purify the city, releasing health and fertility.
The name Lupercalia means "wolf festival" and is associated with the worship of Pan, who the Romans called Lupercus, and he was depicted as a naked man wearing a goatskin. A statue of Lupercus stood in the Lupercal, which was the name of the cave where it was believed Romulus and Remus were suckled by the she-wolf, Lupa. The Lupercal cave lay at the foot of the Palatine Hill on which Romulus was thought to have founded Rome. Near the cave stood the sanctuary of Rumina, goddess of breastfeeding, as well as a wild fig tree where Romulus and Remus supposedly landed on the banks of the Tiber River in their makeshift cradle. Some Roman sources call the wild fig tree "caprificus", literally "goat fig", and like the cultivated fig, the tree exudes a milky sap if cut, which made it appropriate for a celebration of breastfeeding.
The Lupercalia had its own priesthood, the Luperci ("brothers of the wolf"). During the Lupercalia, at the altar in the Lupercal cave, a male goat and a dog were sacrificed by the Luperci. An offering was also made of salted meal cakes prepared by the Vestal Virgins.
After the blood sacrifice, two Luperci approached the altar. Their foreheads were first anointed with blood from the sacrificial knife, and then they were wiped clean with wool soaked in milk, after which they were expected to smile and laugh. The sacrificial feast followed, after which the Luperci cut strips of hide (known as februa, the origin of word "February") from the flayed skin of the sacrificial animals and ran with these, naked or near-naked, along the old Palatine boundary in an anticlockwise direction, laughing and striking those they met with their shaggy bloody strips of animal hide. Many women would purposely get in their way, and would present their hands to be struck, believing that the pregnant would be helped in delivery and the barren to conceive. The Luperci completed their circuit of the Palatine hill then returned to the Lupercal cave.
Despite the banning in the year 391 of all non-Christian cults and festivals, the Lupercalia was celebrated by the nominally Christian populace of Rome on a regular basis as late as the reign of the emperor Anastasius, which ended in the year 515.
Around the year 495, Pope Gelasius sought to abolish the festival but the Senate protested that the Lupercalia was essential to Rome's safety and well-being. The following year in 496, Pope Gelasius in his attempts to Christianize the Lupercalia, added Saint Valentine of Rome to the calendar of saints. Saint Valentine was a priest and bishop in Rome who ministered to Christians that were persecuted there. He was executed by the Romans and buried at a Christian cemetery to the north of Rome on February 14 in the year 269.
So, ever since the year 496, February 14th has been observed as the Feast of Saint Valentine.
-Dave Bad Person
According to the following Time article, people in the Middle Ages did not celebrate anything in the middle of February, and there is no evidence of Pope Gelasius having replaced the Lupercalia with Valentine's Day, but rather with the feast of the Purification. Still, I've made a good story out of it.
More articles rebutting the idea of Valentine's Day originating with Lupercalia.
And another that doesn't rebut the idea.