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St Valentines Day

A Celebration of Love.

It’s Valentine’s Day once again. As soon as shops had cleared their Christmas shelves they were busy restocking them with romantic cards, fluffy toys, red roses and pink champagne.

We put messages in the paper letting the world know our pet names for our partners, not caring what other people think. We plan romantic dinners using the special ingredients we have been assured will enhance the occasion! We buy those expensive red roses – and certainly expect to receive them. We have such expectations, will he propose, will she stay the night, he loves me, he loves me not.

But why do we do it? Where did it start? And why has it become such a big deal that we are happy to spend so much to make it special?

Well, since Roman times, February has been associated with love and sexuality. The month takes it’s name from the Roman Goddess of love – Juno Februata. The festival of Lupercalia fell on the ides of February. One tradition associated with Lupercalia was the exchanging of small papers, or ‘billets’, and was a way of coosing partners for erotic games. Here is the forerunner of today’s Valentine cards.

Of course the Church frowned on the practise, and tried to replace the billets with short sermons. Unsurprisingly the love notes survived! However, the Church succeeded in changing the meaning, and they became a declaration of romantic love, rather than an invitation to eroticism!Juno Februata was also replaced – by the St Valentine we acknowledge today. St Valentine was a mythical martyr. It is said that at the very moment he received his billet of love from his sweetheart, he was executed – so Cupid and his bow and arrow make an entrance.

Although the Church made strenuous efforts to eradicate the festival, it remains, still dedicated to lovers. In pre-christian times sexuality was worshipped as a primary life-force and the names of their Gods of erotic love are well-known – Cupid, Pan and Eros are all familiar and well-loved today.

During the Renaissance, artists depicted Cupid as a small winged baby, but ancient talismans were formed in bone, wood and bronze and shaped as winged phalli! Cupid was the son of Venus and Mercury. Venus was the Goddess of Love and Mercury the God of communication. They are also recognisable from Greek mythology as the Gods Aphrodite and Hermes. Venus and Mercury had a child – Eros, the God of erotic love. Eros was an hermaphrodite, thus combining both qualities in sexual union.

So enjoy your Valentine celebrations in the knowledge that you are taking part in an ancient festival, steeped deep in early worship and ritual. May you receive all you wish for.