They Lied To Us About “Valentine’s Day”
I know, I know. Valentine’s Day sucks. If you’re single, you have to suffer through all the adorable, lovey-dovey couples holding hands and kissing, exchanging chocolates and sappy cards. If you’re in a relationship, you fret over what the perfect gift to give your significant other will be. “Should I go with the 3 foot-tall white stuffed bear holding a big heart? I think she already has two. How many roses will make me look like I care enough to get laid tonight, but not cost half my paycheck? If I buy her too much chocolate, is it going to make her ass even fatter than it already is? Maybe I should go one of those fancy fruit bouquets instead, just as a hint.” As a direct result of these annoyances, many people are following the growing trend that “you shouldn’t have to have a holiday to tell someone you love them;” people are blowing off the holiday altogether, calling it a fabricated, bullshit excuse to spend money you don’t really have on Hallmark cards no one really wants.
This is how I have felt about all holidays for a while now. I’m perfectly capable of walking into a store and buying chocolate for myself, and if you buy me flowers, I’ll forget to water them and they’ll be dead in a couple days. Everything about these holidays is so watered-down, so commercialized, that the meaning behind every one of them is completely different from the original intention of the “holy day” each was named for. In fact, I was going to write-off Valentine’s Day altogether as one of the worst, made-up holidays of all time… until I discovered Lupercalia.
Lupercalia, as I recently learned, is a very ancient festival that was originally celebrated from February 13th through the 15th in ancient Rome and dedicated to the eradication of evil spirits and the celebration of health and fertility. (Februarius was the month of purification for Romans.) Sounded pretty standard at first to me… fertility and the coming of Spring, shaking off the winter, etc etc. Yawn. But then I started reading more into it, and my wannabe furry ears perked up at the mention of my favorite satyr, Pan, and priests wearing bloody goatskins. And the whippings.
In Roman mythology, Lupercus is most commonly compared to Faunus, the Roman equivalent of Pan. His priests were called Luperci, or “brothers of the wolf” (a reference to the shemale wolf who weened the city’s founders, Romulus and Remus), and it was these Luperci who presided over the rituals and rites of the festival. Gathering in the cave of Lupercal, they would sacrifice two goats and a young dog to Faunus, smearing their foreheads with the blood of the sacrificed animals. They then soaked the goatskins in milk and were required to laugh heartily to seal the ritual. Next they held a great feast, and after eating, the priests would cut furry thongs from the goat carcasses and dress up in the fur of the goats, slathered in blood. Donning cut strips of goat skin, the men would then run around the walls of the old Palatine city flogging the women in order to bring them enhanced fertility; if a woman was known to be infertile, they would whip her harder, to really get the point across. Apparently, it actually worked sometimes, and barren women occasionally got knocked up.
Now, I’m not an advocate of hitting women (unless that’s their thing)… but flogging them with woolly goat hides while wearing a furry thong and smeared with blood? Sounds kinky. In fact, the festival was so popular that it survived far beyond the Christianization of Roman Empire, until Pope Gelasius ruined all the furry fun in 494 AD. Two years later, he presented the “totally original idea” of naming a “totally new holiday” dedicated to love, affection amongst lovers, and fertility, and named it after a martyred saint, just to be safe. Thus, St. Valentine’s Day was born, and became much less fun.
I am appalled that I am just finding out about this festival. My parents clearly dropped the ball here. When I have kids, in addition to be scared to death of Krampus, they will be forced to celebrate Lupercalia as well. We’ll start off with sacrificing plush goats and using dyed karo syrup, just to be cute, but once they reach the age of 13, we’ll start the real deal. No children of mine will grow up to be pawns of the evil Hallmark empire.
Anyways, Happy Valentine’s Day. Now get going; those barren women ain’t gonna flog themselves.
Photos courtesy of http://fuckyeahpartypics.tumblr.com