Saint Valentine, the men, the myths, the legends
and the incessant pagan festival of Lupercalia
This day, of course, has developed into just another "corporate marketing scheme." More than anything else, it's a day celebrating the inordinate sales tallies of flowers, jewelry, teddy bears, perfumes, lingerie, greeting cards, and candies. And while you're buying the gifts, mister, don't you dare forget to make reservations for the obligatory romantic Valentine's Day dinner. These rituals all prove beyond a doubt, that especially in the Western Christian world, where this silly holiday enjoys such popularity, mankind is overflowing with gullible idiots.
Well, there's nothing new about that. When it comes to the ladies, men have always been gullible idiots, and commercial interests have always found ways to take advantage of the fact. However, the church should be in the business of telling truth, rather than hatching, embracing, and embellishing myths and legends for the benefit of profit-making corporations. Of what benefit is there to the Lord's congregation in lending the credibility of church teaching to commercial marketeers. Should the church be working hand in hand with the
History records that indeed there was a Catholic priest named Valentine, or in Latin, Valentinus. In fact, there was apparently more than one such fellow, and there is more than one story ascribed to their names. You're probably familiar with the legends and myths invented by the Roman Catholic church, but in fact, the twisted and tangled legend we celebrate as "Saint Valentine's Day," recognized as the universal day of 'love', has a history much older than the church. A history as old as Rome itself. How do you suppose the date of February 14 came to be chosen as the special day celebrating the beloved Saint Valentine, the courageous champion of love?
interests of profitmaking merchandisers to promote annual sales gimmicks. Worse, should the church be twisting pagan traditions into some form of sugar-coated Christian context.
Lupercalia was an ancient, annual festival, observed in the city of Rome from the 13th to the 15th of February to fend off evil spirits and purify the city, releasing health and fertility. Lupercalia was also called dies Februatus, after the instruments of purification called februa, which gave the month of February its name.
The Lupercalia had its own priesthood, the Luperci, "brothers of the wolf," whose institution and rites were said to date as far back as the time of Romulus and Remus, the legendary founders of Rome. Romulus and Remus were the twins, abandoned in the wild by order of King Amulius. They were said to have been discovered by a she-wolf who cared for the infants, including nursing them in her den, a cave known as the Lupercal, until they were discovered by a shepherd.
The rites of the festival were confined to the Lupercal cave, the Palatine Hill, and the Forum, all of which were central locations in Rome's foundational legend. Near the cave stood the sanctuary of Rumina, the goddess of breastfeeding, and the wild fig-tree to which Romulus and Remus were said to have been brought by the divine intervention of the river-god Tiberinus.
The day of the annual festival would begin with a sacrifice at the Lupercal altar where a male goat (or goats) and a dog would be sacrificed by one or another of the Luperci, under the supervision of senior priests. An offering would also be made of salted meal cakes, prepared by the Vestal Virgins. After the blood sacrifice, two Luperci would approach the altar. Their foreheads would be anointed with blood from the sacrificial knife, then wiped clean with wool soaked in milk.
The sacrificial feast followed, after which the Luperci cut thongs (known as februa) from the flayed skin of the animals, and ran with these, naked or near-naked, along the old Palatine boundary, in a counter-clockwise direction
ruins of the Roman Forum and Palentine Hill
would purposely push their way into advantageous positions, holding out their arms to be struck. It was the tradition that in this manner, the pregnant would be eased in delivery, and the barren would be helped to conceive.
The Luperci would thus complete their circuit of the hill in boisterous fun and return to the cave. In this manner evil spirits were driven out, and Rome would be annually purified, delivering good health and fertility to the population.
around the hill. According to accounts, the Luperci were young men of the nobles and magistrates who would run naked up and down through the city, for sport and laughter, striking any they would meet along the way with the shaggy thongs. Many well-borne women of rank
Valentine, or Valentinus in Latin, was a popular name in the early Middle Ages, derived from 'valens,' meaning worthy, strong, or powerful. Historical church records provide a number of names which could be the fellow "sainted" by the church. Cross-referencing the date with the names doesn't clear up the questions.
The Catholic Encyclopedia and other biographical sources speak of three Saints Valentine that appear in connection with February 14. One was a Roman priest, another the bishop of Interamna (modern Terni, Italy) both buried along the Via Flaminia a highway that runs north outside of Rome, but at different distances from the city. The third was said to be a saint who suffered on the same day with a number of companions in the Roman province of Africa, of whom nothing else is known.
About eleven other saints having the name Valentine are commemorated by the Roman Catholic Church. Some Eastern Churches of the Western rite provide still other, different lists of Saints Valentine. The Roman martyrology lists only seven, but they all died on days other than February 14, though they were named Valentine and they died as martyrs.
Saint Valentine does not occur in the earliest list of Roman martyrs, the Chronography of 354. However, it is found in the Martyrologium Hieronymianum, which was compiled between 460 and 544. The feast day of St. Valentine was established as February 14 in 496 by Pope Gelasius I, who merely borrowed the date of the Lupercalia, some 300 years after Valentine was said to have been martyred.
relic, said to be of Saint Valentine, church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome
A common legend describes Saint Valentine as a priest of Rome or as the former Bishop of Terni, an important town in central Italy. While under house arrest of Judge Asterius, and discussing his faith with him, Valentinus was discussing the validity of Jesus. The judge put Valentinus to the test and brought to him the judge's adopted daughter who happened to be blind. If Valentinus succeeded in restoring the girl's sight, Asterius would do whatever he asked. Valentinus, praying to God, laid his hands on her eyes and the child's vision was restored. Immediately humbled, the judge asked Valentinus what he should do. Valentinus replied that all of the idols around the judge's house should be broken, and that the judge should fast for three days and then undergo the Christian sacrament of baptism. The judge obeyed and, as a result of his fasting and prayer, freed all the Christian inmates under his authority. The judge, his family, and his forty-four- member household of adult family
members and servants were baptized. Valentinus was later arrested again for continuing to evangelize and was sent to the prefect of Rome, to the emperor Claudius Gothicus himself.
Claudius is said have taken a liking to him until Valentinus tried to convince him to embrace Christianity, whereupon Claudius refused and condemned Valentinus to death, commanding that Valentinus either renounce his faith or be beaten with clubs and beheaded. Valentinus refused and Claudius' command was executed outside the Flaminian Gate, February 14, 269. Saint Valentine is said to have ministered to the faithful amidst the persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire. An embellishment to this account states that before his execution, Saint Valentine wrote a note to Asterius' daughter signed "from your Valentine," which is said to have inspired today's romantic valentine card-giving.
There is another, simpler version of this account, where it states that Valentine had refused to sacrifice to pagan gods. Being imprisoned for this criminal offense, Valentine gave his testimony in prison and through his prayers healed the jailer's daughter who was suffering from blindness. On the day of his execution, he left her a note that was signed, "Your Valentine."
Another story appeared in the Nuremberg Chronicle of 1493 where the text states that Valentine was a Roman priest martyred during the reign of Claudius Gothicus. He was arrested and imprisoned upon being caught marrying Christian couples and otherwise aiding Christians who were at the time being persecuted by Claudius in Rome. Helping Christians at this time was considered a crime. Claudius is said to have taken a liking to this prisoner. However, when Valentinus tried to convert the Emperor, he was condemned to death. He was beaten with clubs and stones, but when that failed to kill him, he was beheaded outside the Flaminian Gate. Various dates are given for the martyrdom ranging from 269, 270, or 273.
At any rate, Valentinus is recognized as a martyr and a saint by the Roman Catholic church on February 14, and likewise commemorated by the Anglican church, and the Lutheran church. He is recognized as the patron saint of love. The Eastern Orthodox churches also recognize him as a saint, but on July 6, however, they also recognize the feast of Hieromartyr Valentine, Bishop of Interamna, on July 30.
That brings up another story altogether. The Eastern Orthodox version, which relates the account of Hieromartyr Bishop Valentine and his three disciples, Proculus, Ephebus and Apollonius, and the righteous Abundius who lived during the third century. Saint Valentine was a bishop in Umbria, in the city of Interamna (modern Terni, Italy). He received from God the gift of healing various maladies.
At this time three pagan youths, Proculus, Ephebus and Apollonius, came from Athens to Rome to study. They found a tutor named Craton and lived in his home. Craton’s son Cherimon fell grievously ill, and his spine was so contorted that his head was bent down to his knees. Craton asked Bishop Valentine to help his sick son. So, the holy bishop went into the sick child’s room and prayed fervently all night. When day came, the happy parents saw their son had been healed. They believed in Christ and were baptized along with all their household.
Craton’s students, Proculus, Ephebus and Apollonius were also baptized and became devoted disciples of Saint Valentine. The bishop’s fame quickly spread, and many were converted to Christ. Among them was the city prefect’s son, Abundius, who openly confessed himself a Christian. This was a bold thing to do, since paganism prevailed in the world at this time, and Christianity was persecuted.
The wrath of the prefect and other city leaders fell upon Bishop Valentine, the teacher of the youths. They demanded that he renounce Christ and worship the idols. After much torture they threw him into prison, where his followers visited him. Learning of this, the prefect gave orders to take Valentine out of the prison and behead him. Saint Valentine’s students Proculus, Ephebus, and Apollonius took the body of their teacher and carried it to the city of Interamnum, where they buried it. Both believers and pagans were drawn to them, and they converted many idolaters to the true Faith. When the authorities heard about this, they arrested the youths and threw them in prison. Fearing that people might break the sufferers out of prison, the executioners beheaded them by night.
What any of this has to do with flowers, jewelry, teddy bears, perfumes, lingerie, greeting cards, or candy isn't exactly clear. Still, we have to admit, nothing arouses the sense of romance in a gullible idiot quite like a good story of multiple beheadings.
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