Updated: Feb 28
February 14th marks the feast of Saint Valentine. It is one of the most celebrated festivals in the Christian world and widely copied elsewhere. Caught in the intoxication of desire, love and revelry we are clueless as to the origins and significance of Valentine's day.
Incidents become notes, notes become history, history creates legends and legends become myths. So it is with St. Valentine's day.
The celebration began in ancient Rome as Lupercalia around 6th century B.C.E. ago honouring 'Lupa' the she wolf who nurtured the twin brothers Romulus and Remus who founded Rome and 'Fornis' the Roman God of fertility.
The ancient Romans who worshipped the elements and nature represented in countless Gods and deities, each representing some aspect of the spiritual, emotional, intellectual and physical nature of Creation and us humans. (Such peoples who do not follow Christian beliefs are disparagingly called 'Pagans'.)
St. Valentine an obscure priest (born 2 centuries earlier) who helped couples to marry so that the married men would not have to serve in the Roman military. While such actions helped swell the conversion of many to Christianity, it was looked upon with hostility by the Roman Empire. When Valentine refused to obey the Roman emperor's commands he was imprisoned and beheaded.
Valentine was soon forgotten.
As the mighty Roman Empire gradually morphed into the Roman Catholic Church, it began christianising all aspects of Roman life. A small irrelevant incident became a historical 'fact' because of the command of Pope Gelasius in 496 C.E. He ordered the the festival of Lupercalia to be changed to honour St. Valentine instead, but to keep alive several aspects of Lupercalia alive so as to not offend the newly converted Romans.
History became legend in 1375 C.E. with the writing of the line "For this was on Valentine's day, when every bird comes there to choose his mate" in his poem 'Parliament of the Fowles' by English Poet Geoffrey Chaucer. Then all the nobles of Europe began to write 'your Valentine' in their communications to the objects of their desire, and it became a rage.
When there is talk of love and celebration, food, drink, sweet, gifts and dance is bound to follow. Marketeers and manufacturers teamed up with artists and media companies to create the myth of Valentine's day. Throw in Venus the Roman goddess of love and romance, Cupid, Venus's son from Mercury with his gold tipped arrow and voila we inject magic int the myth of Valentine's day, making it now a US$ 50 billion annual celebration business.
Love, desire and desirability for many are rare because it is fleeting but that has not stopped the people from seeking them, or to deny one the pleasure of pursing wine, song, sex and love.
Though Valentine's day is frowned upon by some religions and some societies, many ask is it not better to be pursuing love than to be pursuing conflict?
Alas the world is not that perfect and the loving person should not loose sight and awareness of reality.