Roman festivals and ancient gods originated in Valentine’s Day

By on February 7, 2002

Many people tend to think of Valentine’s Day as a corny commercialized holiday for couples but this so called day of love means much more than chocolates and flowers.
The origins of this holiday date back to the Roman festival of Lupercalia, which took place on Feb. 15 each year, and it also involves the god of love, Cupid.
Cupid used a bow as a weapon, and whoever was hit by one of his arrows fell madly in love. One day Cupid accidentally scratched himself with one of his own arrows while he was looking at the woman Psyche. He fell madly in love with her instantaneously.
Cupid knew that his mother Venus would be very angry if she found out he was in love with a mortal, so he hid Psyhe and told her never to look at him.
Psyche was convinced that a monster had captured her, so she looked at him and realized he was devastatingly handsome. Then she began to play with his arrows, scratched herself, and fell madly in love with Cupid.
Venus used her powers to drive Psyche away, but after many adventures Psyche was allowed to stay with Cupid.
The festival of Lupercalia was celebrated in honor of the gods Lupercus and Faunus. It also honored Romulus and Remus, the twin founders of Rome. According to the myth, the twins were led into a cave by a she-wolf on the Palantine Hill.
This cave was called Lupercal and was said to be the birthplace of the god Luperci. It became the center for the Lupercalia celebration.
In the first celebration the Quintilii and Fabii priests sacrificed a dog and goats and smeared the blood on the twins while the boys bit down on a piece of goatskin. Then the priests ran around the hill, striking women with a thong. This process was supposed to guarantee fertility and ease childbirth.
At the end of this ceremony each woman chose the name of a man. The names were all picked out of a box, and sometimes there was a love letter attached to the name. This is thought to be one of the origins of the valentine’s card.
As time passed, the Romans eliminated the beginning of this ceremony but still honored Lupercus. The process came down to putting the names of teenage women in a box and having young men picking a name at random. The woman selected was seen as the young man’s companion for mutual entertainment and pleasure over the next year.
Roman society was determined to find another person representing love that could replace Luperous. They found St. Valentine, who had been martyred two hundred years earlier.
St. Valentine was the bishop of Interamna, most famous for his revolt against emperor Claudius II. Claudius II had issued an edict forbidding marriage, because he believed that married men made poor soldiers.
St. Valentine invited young lovers to come to him in secret where he joined them in the sacrament of matrimony. Claudius II heard of this and had St. Valentine brought to the palace. Impressed with the young priest’s pride and confidence, he tried to convert him into worshipping the Roman gods. St. Valentine refused to give up Christianity and attempted to convert the emperor.
St. Valentine did not succeed and was clubbed, stoned, and beheaded on Feb. 24, 270. While in prison, it is said that St. Valentine fell in love with the blind daughter of the prison guard, Asterius. Through his extreme faith he restored her vision and left her a farewell message that said “From Your Valentine.”
In A.D. 496 Pope Gelasius outlawed the mid-February Lupercian festival and replaced it with a game that entailed the names of saints within the box. Both men and women drew these names and in the next year they were expected to act and live as that particular saint.
Over time, many Romans replaced their pagan festival and replaced it with the game that honored St. Valentine.
Today Valentine’s Day has many perspective meanings. Each of these meanings is basically surrounded by the power and intensity of love.
So, however this holiday began, remember it is a day to celebrate those we love and want to make happy.


About Amanda Barrett - Staff Writer