Tuesday, February 10, 2009
(And again I have to ask...why do we celebrate this day?)
February fertility festivals
On the ancient Athens calendar, the period between mid-January and mid-February was the month of Gamelion, dedicated to the sacred
marriage of Zeus and Hera.
In Ancient Rome, February 15 was Lupercalia. Plutarch wrote:
Lupercalia, of which many write that it was anciently celebrated by shepherds, and has also some connection with the Arcadian Lycaea. At
this time many of the noble youths and of the magistrates run up and down through the city naked, for sport and laughter striking those they meet with shaggy thongs. And many women of rank also purposely got in their way, and like children at school present their hands to be struck, believing that the pregnant will thus be helped in delivery, and the barren to pregnancy.
The word Lupercalia comes from lupus, or wolf, so the holiday may be connected with the legendary wolf that suckled Romulus and Remus. Priests of this cult, luperci would travel to the lupercal, the cave where the she-wolf who reared Romulus and Remus allegedly lived, and sacrifice animals (two goats and a dog). The blood would then be scattered in the streets, to bring fertility and keep the wolves away from the fields.  Lupercalia was a festival local to the city of Rome. The more general Festival of Juno Februa, meaning "Juno the purifier "or "the chaste Juno," was celebrated on February 13-14. Pope Gelasius I (492-496) abolished Lupercalia. Some historians argue that Candlemas (then held on February 14, later moved to February 2) was promoted as its replacement, but this feast was already being celebrated in Jerusalem by AD 381. The pope also declared in 496 that the feast of St. Valentine would be on February 14.
Chaucer's love birds
A portrait of English poet Geoffrey Chaucer by Thomas Hoccleve (1412). The earliest known link between Valentine's Day and romance is found in Chaucer's poetry. A portrait of English poet Geoffrey Chaucer by Thomas Hoccleve (1412). The earliest known link between Valentine's Day and romance is found in Chaucer's poetry.
The first recorded association of Valentine's Day with romantic love is in Parlement of Foules (1382) by Geoffrey Chaucer:
For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese [chose] his make [mate].
This poem was written to honor the first anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia. A treaty providing for a marriage was signed on May 2, 1381. (When they were married eight months later, he was 13 or 14. She was 14.)
Chaucer's Parliament of Foules is generally set in a supposed context of an old tradition, in fact there was no such tradition before Chaucer. The speculative explanation of sentimental customs, posing as historical fact, had their origins among eighteenth-century antiquaries, notably Alban Butler, the author of Butler's Lives of Saints, and have been perpetuated even by respectable modern scholars. Most notably, "the idea that Valentin's Day customed perpetuated those of the Roman Lupercalia has been accepted uncritically and repeated, in various forms, up to the present"
On the liturgical calendar, May 2 is the saints' day for Valentine of Genoa. This St. Valentine was an early bishop of Genoa who died around AD 307. Readers incorrectly assumed that Chaucer was referring to February 14 as Valentine's Day. However, mid-February is an unlikely time for birds to be mating in England.
Medieval and modern times
Swedish calendar showing St Valentine's Day, February 14, 1712
On St. Valentine's Day in 1349, roughly 2,000 Jews were burned to death by Christian mobs in Strasbourg. These mobs, led by nobles who owed large sums to Jewish moneylenders (usury being a sin for Christians), blamed the Jews for poisoning the city's wells and causing the bubonic plague.
Using the language of the law courts for the rituals of courtly love, a "High Court of Love" was established in Paris on Valentine's Day in
1400. The court dealt with love contracts, betrayals, and violence against women. Judges were selected by women on the basis of a poetry
The earliest surviving valentine dates from 1415. It is a poem written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife. At the time, the duke was being held in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt .
It is probable that the various legends about St. Valentine were invented during this period. Among these legends:
* On the evening before Valentine was to be martyred for being a Christian, he passed a love note to his jailer's daughter that read,
"From your Valentine."
* During a ban on marriages of Roman soldiers by the Emperor Claudius II, St. Valentine secretly helped arrange marriages.
*Valentine's Day is mentioned by the character Ophelia in Hamlet: "Tomorrow is Saint Valentine's Day."
In 1836, relics of St. Valentine of Rome were donated by Pope Gregory XVI to the Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland.
In the 1960s, the church was renovated and relics restored to prominence.
In 1969, as part of a larger effort to pare down the number of saint days of purely legendary origin, the Church removed St. Valentine's Day as an official holiday from its calendar. February 14 is now dedicated only to Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius.
For more reading on this go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valentine's_D