Happy Valentine’s Day – Part One
I think that it’s a nice idea for Wiccans to celebrate the season of love. Because Valentine’s Day goes far back before the Modern Christian ‘official’ holiday.
Valentines Ancient History
Did you know that Februa was an earlier-origin spring cleansing pagan ritual, which gave the month of February its name?
The Ancient Athenian calendar decreed the period bet mid-January and mid-February should be dedicated to marriage of the Greek gods Zeus and Hera. Around this very same time, the celebration known as Lupercalia was also observed. This was an ancient pastoral fertility festival, specifically observed on February 13 through 15. Lupercus was a Roman god, the equivalent of the rowdy and randy Greek god Pan. It was a good time to get the ball rolling on creating pregnancies (leading up to the feast of Beltane) to ensure happy babies would be born around the harvest season – and before the harsh winter hit. With all this festivity centering around bawdy lusty-ness and love, is it any wonder that the early Christian Church wanted to up-sell the time period with a more, let’s say, heavenly approach to love? So in comes Saint Valentine…
Saint Valentine was a priest who lived in third century Rome, about the year 270 A.D. This was around the time of Emperor Claudius II. Good old Claudius was at war and decided that marriage should be outlawed, because single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families. Single men had nothing larger to live for and no one to come home to.
So Valentine’s ministry was to help the early Christians to escape this persecution, and to provide them the sacraments, especially marriage, which was officially outlawed by the Roman Empire at that time. Valentine defied the law and married young lovers in secret. The myth goes that he gave the soldiers hearts cut out from parchment to take into battle with them to remind them of their faith and Christian marital pledges.
He was eventually discovered by the authorities. Claudius had a discussion with Valentine, asking him to convert to Roman paganism to save his life. In turn, Valentine tried to convert Claudius to Christianity instead! So he was sentenced to death. the legend continues that in prison, he fell in love with the jailer’s blind daughter and healed her vision. Then, as a final act of love before he was sent to his death Valentine wrote her a love note and signed it “From your Valentine.” Today still a phrase of endearment.
In the fifth or sixth century, a work called Passio Marii et Marthae published a story of martyrdom for Saint Valentine of Rome.
Stay tuned for Valentine’s Day – Part Two in next week’s blog!