A goat, a dog and a vestal virgin

Ahhh Valentine’s Day. Flowers and cards and teddy bears and jewelry and candlelit dinners and mushy heartfelt vows of love or reassurances of continued love. Yes, I could blog about the silliness of only acting like that once a year—if you manage to pull that off—rather than showing your love through words and actions the entire year, but the Hippie would just start his v-day vs. xmas, celebration vs. singled out argument again and I don’t want to do that.

I briefly thought about covering Presidents Day (today) instead, but the history of it was boring. So I dug around trying to find a great site I saw several years back regarding v-day history… I couldn’t find it. I did, however, find some interesting tidbits—my favorite was the following.

…some claim that the Christian church may have decided to celebrate Valentine’s feast day in the middle of February in an effort to ‘christianize’ celebrations of the pagan Lupercalia festival. In ancient Rome, February was the official beginning of spring and was considered a time for purification. Houses were ritually cleansed by sweeping them out and then sprinkling salt and a type of wheat called spelt throughout their interiors. Lupercalia, which began at the ides of February, February 15, was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.

Now, it’s with a grain of salt that I offer a wiki page on Lupercalia, but I do so, because this is far more interesting than greeting cards and chocolate. According to this page:

Lupercalia was a very ancient, possibly pre-Roman pastoral festival, observed on February 15 to avert evil spirits and purify the city, releasing health and fertility.

In Roman mythology, Lupercus is a god sometimes identified with the Roman god Faunus, who is the Roman equivalent of the Greek god Pan.[2] Lupercus is the god of shepherds. His festival, celebrated on the anniversary of the founding of his temple on February 15, was called the Lupercalia. His priests wore goatskins. The second-century Christian apologist Justin Martyr mentions an image of “the Lycaean god, whom the Greeks call Pan and the Romans Lupercus,”[3] nude save for the girdle of goatskin, which stood in the Lupercal, the cave where Romulus and Remus were suckled by a she-wolf. There, on the Ides of February, a goat and a dog were sacrificed, and salt mealcakes prepared by the Vestal Virgins were burnt.

The festival began with the sacrifice by the Luperci (or the flamen dialis) of two male goats and a dog.[7] Next two young patrician Luperci were led to the altar, to be anointed on their foreheads with the sacrificial blood, which was wiped off the bloody knife with wool soaked in milk, after which they were expected to smile and laugh.

Of course, because I’m me and me is warped, that last line made me bust a gut—as I imagined an ancient Greek stage director, robes and sandals, etc., on the side of the ceremony holding up a placard that said “smile and laugh.”

My sick humor aside, this is all quite fascinating and think it would be fun to play along. I fully get the idea of keeping away the evil spirits and cleansing the house. As diverse as we may be in this country, we still, occasionally, do that within our belief systems. Whether it’s your family priest/minister purifying a new home or a stick of sage and any of a variety of pagan mumblings—and I’m overdue on the sage burning. I’m not sure where to find vestal virgins, how to make their baked goods, and the logistics and legalities of sacrificing critters… but I’m thinking a muffin and nice steak should suffice, and I’ve got two virgins in the house that I can give the chore of burning the muffin—they like fire, they’ll be all over that!

So since I have never been much of a fan of Valentine’s—aka forced love once a year and standardized gifts decided on by the highest bidder and marketing gods—and I’m not a fan of winter, I think I’ll celebrate Lupercalia and the coming of spring with a lovely little purification of salt & flour around the house. The rest of you enjoy your chocolates.

0 Responses to A goat, a dog and a vestal virgin

  • wolfnoma says:

    you don’t even want to hear how my 10 year old daughter explained Valentines Day came about and the “KING CEASAR EVIL” guy that wanted to kill “SAINT VALENTINE” for performing marriage ceremonies. Oh, and the guards daughter who loved the priest and wanted to marry him too.

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