Saint Valentine’s Day may remain a historical mystery for eternity. It seems to have originated from both ancient Roman and Christian traditions.
The earliest is an ancient Greek holiday, Arcadian Lykaia in recognition of their god, Pan. Half goat, Pan ruled over mountain wilds, flocks, shepherds and goats. He is associated with fertility and spring. Mating season ironically fits in categorically speaking. And then, there was Rome. In Roman mythology Pan’s parallel was named Faunus.
Shakespeare’s work identifies that Marc Antony ran with the wolves in the Lupercalia parade in 44 B.C. This Roman festival honored fertility and health. Romans believed that a mythological she-wolf nourished two infant orphans who became the founders of Rome. That was celebrated on Feb. 13-Feb. 15. During the same month, the sacred, Greek marriage between Zeus and his beloved, Hera transpired, symbolically adding an air of love to the Lupercalia celebration.
Men would get naked and run through the streets with whips, while the women would line up attempting to get whipped. The women believed they would be fertile and have easy child birth that year if they did. The festival was outlawed in 496 A.D. when Pope Gelasius transformed the holiday into a Christian feast honoring Saint Valentine.
There were several St. Valentines according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the first of primary honor, a Roman martyr who is believed to have died in 270 A.D. St. Valentine achieved fame while ruler, Claudius II abolished marriage. When the soldiers had families, they yearned to return home. Cladius believed outlawing marriage would make better soldiers who were more willing to remain at war for longer periods of time. St. Valentine disobeyed the ruler’s orders and married couples in secrecy. Eventually, Valentine was caught and taken to prison.
Legends tell combined stories, the most famous is that while in prison, the jailer asks Valentine to heal his blind daughter. It is said that Valentine succeeds and they fall in love. When ordered to death without time to notify his beloved (or student in some versions), Valentine wrote a fairwell to the daughter that read, “from your Valentine.” This is thought to be the first valentine card, as Valentine was executed on Feb. 14, 270 A.D., but this story remains a legend. It is true that a St. Valentine married couples in secrecy, which is why Pope Gelasius chose to honor him.
For a saint, the unconditional love and faith in God would lead him to refuse to denounce his religion in exchange for his life. Then, a saint prefered execution before he would betray his true love, the eternal bond he shared with God. If the legend depicted this type of love in Valentine’s tale, scholars would deem it more plausible compared to the tale that describes the passionate love, as described by the Greek god, Eros. Eros in Rome is Cupid and we have all seen him either in his original form or as a cheeky Cherub, floating with the angels.
Nearly one thousand years have wilted ancient evidence that would have weaved a truthful tale of the dawning of our lover’s holiday, but one thing is certain, humans love to celebrate love. Today in America, 25 percent of all card sales are Valentines. People found without a lover this year should define the word love. There are several meanings attached to it. Instead of sulking, people should celebrate any love they have, whether it be for religion, friends, or family. The more love expressed, the more love possessed.
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