The ides of February is the time when St. Valentines’Day is celebrated. Have you ever wondered where this hearts & flowers frivolity came from? Well it wasn’t always about chocolates & sappy hallmark cards.
Let’s look back to the origins of this Holiday & set the record straight. For one thing, Valentinus was a very common Roman name meaning strong, effective fertility. Please excuse me if I must commit a little history here, but basically the church fathers were trying to replace a very potent ancient Roman festival called Lupercalia with a Christian martyr named Valentinus, to usurp the power of this rite of great antiquity. Now don’t get me wrong, frivolity has its place, & so it was in the festival of Lupercalia, a ritual of purification & fertility, sacred to the Wolf-Goddess Rumina.
Maybe you’ve heard of Her, the She-Wolf & founder of Rome. The festival of Lupercalia was celebrated on the ides of February (the 15th)…& February comes from the Latin word ‘februare’…meaning tools of purification.
The rite began in the cave of the She-Wolf, where legend has it, the founders of the city, Romulus & Remus, were suckled by the Wolf-Goddess. As fate would have it a sacred fig tree (symbol of the feminine sex) grew outside the cave & vestals would come, with cakes made from the corn of last years grain harvest, laying them beneath the fig tree as offerings.
Meanwhile Rumina’s priests would preside over the sacrifice of a goat. Now this was a pretty big deal since this was the only time of year a goat was used as a sacrifice. It was an offering given to the guardian angels associated with the crops, & the ancestral guardians, as well as the guardians of the city & community. The priests would mark their foreheads with it’s blood, which was then ritualistically wiped clean with a ‘Februare’ or tool of purification, which was, in this case, wool, dipped in the milk of the goat. The priests would then dress themselves in the skin of the sacrificial animal, & using strips of the hide they would fashion a scourge, another tool of purification. They would then jog around in their little loincloths, running up & down Rome’s seven hills, wielding their strips of hide, ‘purifying’ anything & anybody in their path.
Women seeking pregnancy & easy childbirth lined the streets, extending hands, or baring their bodies, to afford a better target, to be briefly & symbolically ‘purified’ as they passed by. Fertility, of course, is worthless without sex, so as time passed, sex became the festival’s primary focus for the average Roman citizen, & the occasion took on a character much like carnival.
When the church tried to ban it, the people needless to say, stubbornly resisted. Hence the substitute of St. Valentine’s Day emerged, with its more innocent version of love.
And let’s face it folks, the real Cupid was not the cute little cherub he is today, but rather, a very randy Roman God responsible for a more tangible fertility.
So all the frivolous frivolity aside, lets take ourselves back to the days when the Wolf Goddess, Rumina, was at the heart, of this time of celebration, as we purify & purge all of our afflictions & ills before we begin to plant the new seeds of creativity. For by the ancient calendars, winter is ended by the ides of February, & Spring, a season of new beginnings, has arrived.
So on Valentine’s Day, let’s remember the potent powers of the Wolf, asking Her to spare the herds, taking only what She must, to keep us free & fertile & abundant, like the crops – as fruitful, & as wild as we want to be.
Peace & Blessed Bee`~hag