The Word's Christian Fellowship, Inc.
#74 Another Roman "holy" day                                                             February 1, 2009

[The following was originally published in February of 1997.  I should also mention that at the time I owned some goats, an animal which figures prominently in what I wrote at that time]. 

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and though no one has really asked me, I thought I might offer my perspective on this national day of love, and perhaps elucidate some of the background and “heart” behind the more modern customs associated with this particular day.

To begin with, Valentine’s Day should actually be on the 15th instead of the 14th of February and should really be called “Lupercalia” Day.  As you may know, “Lupercalia” was a pagan Roman festival celebrated on Feb. 15th in honor of one of the big Roman sex gods, “Faunus”.  Apparently the Romans believed that Faunus was responsible for the fertility of just about every living thing: horseradishes, hogs, even humans.  Since we’re talking about a fertility god you can probably figure out what the general theme of the festival would be but allow me to briefly outline a few of the high points anyway.

On Lupercalia Day, the faithful followers of Faunus would get together and kick off the festival by slaughtering a bunch of goats.  From the bloody goatskins they would fashion whips and then selected young men called “Luperci” would race through the crowd raining bloody blows on anyone they met.  If you happened to be a woman and one of the Luperci was kind enough to beat you senseless with his bloody goatskin whip, you were ensured of an imminent pregnancy and successful delivery.  The well lashed lass needed only to receive the kind attentions of a willing male and plans for the baby shower could begin.  Hooking up with a hot male ready to do his duty for Faunus in particular and females in general was accomplished by “Lupercalia cards” [I’m not making any of this up].  It seems the ladies would write passionate love notes and sign their names to them and the notes were then put in a special container.  Willing males then drew a note from the container, located the wanton wench who had signed her name on the lust note and off they would trot to the nearest hay pile where………well, you know.

As the Roman Empire declined and Roman Catholicism advanced, Lupercalia was another of those pesky pagan festivals that the Roman church had to deal with.  How could the “holy” Roman church condone such a thing? Perhaps I should ask, “How could the “holy” Roman church capitalize on such a thing?”  [After all, there’s just no better time to gain new converts than right in the middle of a good old-fashioned orgy.]  The Roman church had done a pretty good job of dealing with other pagan festivals like Saturnalia, for example.  As you probably know, with that festival to the Roman sun-god, the Roman church simply decreed that the Lord Jesus Christ was born on Dec. 25th around the time when Saturnalia was celebrated and instituted a special “Mass” on the 25th of December called “Christ-mass” [now Christmas].

Utilizing those same basic principles of religious deceit and treachery, they contrived a brand new “saint” for the Lupercalia Festival and called him [oddly enough] “Valentine”.  Then the Roman church made him the patron saint of lovers, changed Lupercalia to Saint Valentine’s Day, bumped the day back to the 14th and everybody’s happy once again; except the goats of course.  As the centuries went by giving the ladies a good old bloody goatskin whipping gradually lost its appeal, but the Lupercalia/Valentine cards continued to be a big hit.

The Roman church finally dropped Saint Valentine’s Day from their official calendar in 1969.  By that time nobody was calling it “Saint” Valentine’s Day anyway.  I suppose the greeting card and floral and candy industry figured out they could sell more cards and flowers and chocolates if no one knew it was a religious “holyday”.  Unfortunately, the real “heart” of Lupercalia/Valentine’s Day got buried under all the money that they’ve made and became lost in the obscurity of ancient history.

Now don’t think for a moment that my motive in mentioning some of this stuff has anything to do with the fact that I own some goats.  It is a fact that I stand to make a fortune should the more traditional method of celebrating Lupercalia/Valentine’s Day make a comeback and the bloody goatskin market skyrockets.  Even if that should happen, please understand that my goats simply could not participate.  They don’t have a religious bone in their bodies.

Learning remains an exciting adventure.

©  Stephen A. Harrison,  The Word’s Christian Fellowship, Inc.  4415 Yank Road  Wilson, NC 27893