Monday, February 9, 2009
Valentine's Day per Barbara Walker
I've been dipping back into Barbara Walker's "A Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets" tonight (see earlier post on Twin Peaks). I will also post her information under "Mountain" but it's 6 pages long - too much for me to type tonight. But I thought since Valentine's Day is this Saturday, and the significant day Friday the 13th this coming Friday, that I would see if she had anything to say about Valentine's Day. She did. Valentine, Saint The original Valentine's Day in the ides of February was Rome's Lupercalia, a festival of sexual license. young men chose partners for erotic games by drawing "billets" - small papers - with women's names on them. Christians denounced these prototyical valentines as "heathens' lewd customs."(1) Churchmen tried to substitute saints' names (!) and short sermons on the billets(!!), but people soon reverted to the old love-notes.(2) February was sacred to Juno Februata, Goddess of the "fever" (febris) of love. The church replaced her with a mythical martyr, St. Valentine, who was endowed with several contradictory biographies. One of them made him a handsome Roman youth, executed at the very moment when his sweetheart received his billet of love.(3) St. Valentine became a patron of lovers perforce, because the festival remained dedicated ot lovers despite all official efforts to change it. Even in its Christianized form, the valentinian festival involved secret sex worship, called "a rite of spiritual marriage with angels in a nuptial chamber."(4) Ordinary human beings engaged before witnesses in an act of sexual intercourse described as the marriage of Sophia and the Redeemer. A spoken formula said, in part, "Let the seed of light descend into they bridal chamber, receive the bridegroom...open thine arms to embrace him. Behold, grace has descended upon thee."(5) (A form of the hieros gamos?) During the Middle Ages, St. Valentine was much invoked in love charms and potions, since he was a sketchily Christianized version of such love-gods as Eros, Cupid, Kama, Priapus, or Pan.