St. Valentine, Juno Februata,
Valentine's Day, and Lupercilia
Valentine is related to: Cupid, Eros, Juno Februata,
Valentine's Day is derived from the Lupercalia feast
The church replaced elements of various love-gods (Juno Februata,
Eros, Cupid, Kama, Priapus) with St. Valentine, an imaginary Christian. A number of
contradictory biographies were created for him. One source claims that there were
as many as seven
Valentines. Some were:
||A Bishop of Interamna (modern-day Terni) who was martyred circa 271 CE.
A priest at Rome who married couples in secret. The Emperor Claudius II
had previously cancelled all marriages in the city in order to encourage
more men to join the military. According to the story, Valentine was caught
and executed on FEB-14, in the year 270 or perhaps 269 CE.
A Rome priest who clamed that the Roman gods Jupiter and Mercury were
"shameless and contemptible characters." He was arrested, beaten
and beheaded...but not before he befriended the blind daughter of the
jailer, and restored her sight.
||A Christian who lived in Africa, about which little is known.
By taking over some of the features of the
Pagan gods and goddesses, St. Valentine became the patron saint of lovers.
"The crocus, which flowers about [FEB-14]...is St. Valentine’s
Flower." Pope Gregory XVI gave the remains of one of the St.
Valentines to the Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin
Valentine's Day and its traditions originated in two separate Roman feasts: Lupercalia
and the feast day of Juno Februata.
St. Valentine's Day can be traced back to Lupercalia, the Roman "festival
of sexual license." This purification and fertility
festival that seems to have been uniquely Roman. "...there is no other Indo-European
equivalent in Vedic, Scandinavian, Irish, or Indo-Iranian traditions."
Its origin has been lost to us, although it might have been associated with
protection from wolves (lupus in Latin). Even the Pagan Romans in the 1st
century BCE had forgotten its source. 2
A group of male Pagan priests, called Luperci, had only a single function: to
conduct the Lupercalia festival annually on FEB-15. Cicero described them as:
"A certain wild association of Lupercalian brothers, both plainly
pastoral and savage, whose rustic alliance was formed before civilization and
laws..." (Cael. 26) The celebration was held in the Lupercal cave on
the Palantine Hill in Rome. Here, it was beleived, Romulus and Remus had been sheltered and
fed by a she-wolf before they founded Rome. Two naked young priests, assisted by
Vestal Virgins, would sacrifice a dog and a goat. The dog was probably a
substitue for a wolf. (Some sources say that more
than one goat was sacrificed. 4) Blood from the animals was
spread on the two priests' foreheads and wiped off with some wool dipped in milk.
The priests then clothed themselves with loincloths made from the skin of the goat.
about the city, scourging women with februa (Latin for "means of
purification"). These were strips of skin taken from the sacrificed goat. The
Romans believed that this flogging would purify
them, and assure their future fertility and easy childbirth. 2 Feasts
and parties were later celebrated throughout the city. 5
The month of February was sacred to "Juno Februata, the Goddess of
the 'fever' (febris in Latin) of love" in ancient Pagan Rome. 1
She was also the goddess of women and of marriage. FEB-14 was her
festival day. At that time, a box was provided from which single men could draw a
"billet" -- a small piece of paper on which a woman's name was
written. The couple would then form a temporary liaison for the erotic games to
follow. They would remain partners for the following 12 months. Sometimes marriages
resulted from this practice.
The church was opposed to this display of open eroticism and sensuality. They
tried various ways of changing the festival. One method was to replace the
women's names with those of saints and short sermons. The young women and men
were expected to
emulate the life of the saint whose name was on the billet that they had drawn. However, it was soon
apparent that the public preferred the old ways. "By the fourteenth
century they reverted back to the use of girl's names. In the sixteenth century
they once again tried to have saintly valentines but it was as unsuccessful as
the first attempt." 7
In 494 CE, Pope Gelasius 1 renamed a cleaned-up festival
the "Feast of the Purification of the Virgin Mary." 3
The date was later changed to FEB-2. It is now called the Presentation
of the Lord. This recognizes the time when Mary was purified in the Jewish temple
after having given birth to Jesus.
St. Valentine's day was set as FEB-14, also by Pope Gelasius 1 in 494 CE.
"One historian notes that there is no link between the Roman festivals
and Valentine's Day, and says that before Chaucer's time, there wasn't any link
between the day of St. Valentine and courting - but after him, the link becomes
widespread...After the time of Chaucer, the tradition of exchanging love letters,
gifts, and cards became established.
The custom of sending love letters on this day appeared in the 14th and 15th
century in both France and England. 6 A common European belief
was that birds choose their mates on FEB-14; this added to the association of
love with Valentine's Day. The exchanging of hand-made Valentine's cards
became commonplace by the 17th century. Commercial cards were
introduced during the 18th century.
"The feast was finally dropped from the 1969 Roman Church Calendar."
10 Today, Valentine's day is second only to Christmas in the
number of cards exchanged in the U.S.
Cupid in Roman mythology was the same god as Amor or Eros in ancient Greece.
He was a minor god, the son of Venus, the Roman goddess of love and beauty. "Eros seems to have been responsible for impregnating a number of
goddesses and mortals. The ancient Greeks believed Eros was the force 'love,' a
force they believe was behind all creation." 8 He is
portrayed today as a cute, chubby, cherub with bow and arrow, ready to shoot
people and infect them with pangs of love. He is often associated with
Barbara G. Walker, "The woman's encyclopedia of myths and secrets,"
Harper & Row, (1983), Page 1037 to 1038). Read
reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
"Lupercalia She-Wolf," at: http://www.sacred-texts.com/
"Lupercalia," Encyclopaedia Britannica. Accessble via http://members.eb.com/
"Lupercalia," at: http://depthome.brooklyn.cuny.edu/
Wendilyn Emrys, "Lupercalia," at: http://members.aol.com/
Herbert Thurston, "St. Valentine," The Catholic
Encyclopedia, at: http://www.newadvent.org/
"The origins of Valentine's Day," at: http://techdirect.com/
Sheryl Tirol, "The history of St. Valentine's Day," at: http://www5.interaccess.com/
"The true story of Valentine's Day," at: http://www.kewlsite.com/
Kelly Griggs, "Will you be my Valentine?" at: http://teenexchange.about.com/
Sandor Gardos, "Valentine's Day '98," at: http://sexuality.about.com/
Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church, Dublin, Ireland has a website
Copyright © 2000 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on
Originally written: 2000-JAN-25
Latest update: 2011-FEB-22
Author: B.A. Robinson