Monday, February 14, 2011

The Dark Origins Of Valentine's Day

The Dark Origins Of Valentine's Day

Though no one has pinpointed the exact origin of the holiday, one good place to start is ancient Rome, where men hit on women by, well, hitting them.

Those Wild and Crazy Romans

From Feb. 13 to 15, the Romans celebrated the feast of Lupercalia. The men sacrificed a goat and a dog, then whipped women with the hides of the animals they had just slain.


Andrew said...

I don't know if you are aware of this, James, but the goat and dog thing was started by Martin Luther. Of course, he would always make sure that the sacrificial animals were the beloved pets of terminally ill children. But what would you expect from Luther, right?

James Swan said...

Yeah, it's not like the old days... I think many Roman Catholic bloggers have learned to actually use a bit more caution citing herr doktor.

Viisaus said...

This is indeed a classic example of the sort of pragmatically unprincipled syncretism that the post-Constantinian church practised in seeking to absorb the masses of Greco-Roman world: replacing the old pagan festival with the celebration of (an imaginary) saint:

"The name Valentinus does not occur in the earliest list of Roman martyrs, compiled by the Chronographer of 354. The feast of St. Valentine was first established in 496 by Pope Gelasius I, who included Valentine among those "... whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose acts are known only to God." As Gelasius implied, nothing was known, even then, about the lives of any of these martyrs.

English eighteenth-century antiquarians Alban Butler and Francis Douce, noting the obscurity of Saint Valentine's identity, suggested that Valentine's Day was created as an attempt to supersede the pagan holiday of Lupercalia."