The month of February is named after the mother of Mars, Fefrua. The Latin word febris, signifying the passions of love, is the root from which we get our word fever. Isn’t it fitting that the holiday we associate with passion and romance, Valentine’s Day, falls in this “feverish” month of the year?
Valentine’s Day has a gruesome history originating in the Roman fertility festival of Lupercalia, which was observed on February 15. The ritual took place in the very same cave where the she-wolf is said to have suckled Romulus and Remus, the twin founders of Rome and involved the sacrifice of a dog and two goats. The goatskin was cut into whips called februare, which were used to strike young women. A woman so struck was considered to be especially fertile and could anticipate ease in childbirth. It was all done in the name of a meet and greet to court prospective mates. Names of young women were placed in an urn to be selected by the young men. Through this lottery, companion for pleasure were chosen for a year. Often this could lead to marriage.
Believing that married men made poor soldiers, Emperor Claudius issued an edict forbidding marriage in 270AD. At that time, there was a bishop named Valentine who did not agree with the Emperor and continued to perform marriages in secret. Ultimately, on February 14, 270, Bishop Valentine was clubbed, stoned, and beheaded for his civil disobedience. Legend holds that while in prison Valentine corresponded with members of his congregation with letters signed “from your Valentine,” of course, a phrase that lives on in contemporary time.
In 496 AD, Pope Gelasius outlawed the celebration of Lupercalia, but kept the lottery. The names of lovers, however, were replaced with the names of saints whose lives were to be emulated during the year. This tradition eventually yielded to the custom of exchanging hand-written professions of love, which developed into the modern custom of Valentine’s cards.
Somewhere along the line, the mischievous Cupid, also known as Eros, became the symbol for this holiday. The son of Mars and Venus, Eros would send his golden arrows of passion into the hearts of gods and men alike.
The Church of Light visits our pagan history frequently in its publications and every third Sunday of the month during Astrological Sunday Service (streamed LIVE at http://www.churchoflight.tv). If you are interested in this type of information, visit http://www.light.org.