Valentine’s Day: Origins and Consumerism

A themed entry this time round:

What do you think Valentine’s Day is all about?

Cuddly toys? Boxes of chocolate? Cards? Getting some nookie? Finding someone to have a relationship with? Spending disproportionate amounts of money on a meal out in some over-the-top restaurant? Celebrating a Saint?
Wrong! Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.

Let me describe as much as I know about the origins of this “festival”.

It originates from a Roman feast called Lupercalia which occured between February 13th  and 15th. Scholars still aren’t sure about all the details, like which god it was dedicated to (saying that, the most likely god of this feast is Pan/Faunus and is also the one named by Ovid, through whom we know the most about Lupercalia), but we can be fairly sure that it was a feast of fertility and purification.

A special order of priests, called Luperci, would run around the Palatine Settlement in Rome completely naked and hit anyone they came across with a goatskin thong so as to ward off evil intentions and influences (also associated with the Paternalia which occured around the same time) and to promote fertility. The act of hitting a woman with this thong is thought to have represented sexual penetration. Of course the husband would have objected to his wife being really penetrated by a priest in the streets, so braking the skin with a symbol of fetility, like part of a goat, was considered just as effective. It is also thought that women were sometimes encouraged to be hit by “showing some skin”. (These days something like this would be thought of as indecent exposure, porn or maybe even prostitution – more on this in a bit.)

So let’s pick up the pieces: It was a fun event, with bodies freely and voluntarily exposed. There was food from the sacrificed goats. There was a component of fertility revolving around where the god Mars was said to have impregnated the mother of Romulus and Remus. There was another component about the origins of Rome and where the she-wolf suckled the twins.

So what’s interesting about this picture? It’s effectively a feast about sexuality, prostitution and getting offspring by any means possible. She-wolf is a latin term for prostitute (so next time you sing Shakira’s song, please think about what you’re singing…). The god Mars effectively raped the mother of Romulus and Remus. Women would get (symbolically) penetrated in the streets as if they were as good as prostitutes, all in the name of increased likelihood of getting pregnant.

So where did it go horribly “wrong”?

The Church got involved. It was no longer about purification of the city since plagues and evil doers were still around all through the festival. Celebrating sexuality?! NO! The body is a thing to be ashamed of because of all it’s faults and so should be whipped in penitence not for penetration. The woman is no longer the object of desire and the key to your progeny, but evil incarnate!

How could this get any worse?

By making it into a feast of showing affection and care, love and attention. By going out and buying stuff for someone special. By putting as much effort into making Valentine’s Day as consumer-oriented as Christmas or the end of season sales.

Showing someone that you care about them isn’t about buying stuff. It’s about you and them. It’s about spending time together. Sure, you can still give them presents, but for once put some creativity into it – make it yourself. Do something PERSONAL and do it PERSONALLY. Don’t have some poor, over-worked, under-paid child in China make something for you and millions of others around the world.

Oh, sure. Feel free to have sex, get into a relationship or show yourself some love by either pleasuring yourself or by respecting your body and accepting yourself for who you are on every level (and to this effect I recommend the video on the right).

Just remember, if you want to see your significant other smile sincerely it’s worth doing something yourself or just being you without trying to be pretentious or excessive. A single flower (not necessarily a rose, maybe their favourite flower is better *hint*) will probably do! Sitting down to watch a film your other half wants to watch with you but you’ve never really wanted to watch will also do since it’s not about the film but the spending time together!

Make it worth your time. Not worth £20.

PW )O(

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