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The Real Origin Of Valentine’s Day

Catholic Mythology has it that Valentine’s Day started with St. Valentine, a Roman who is purported to have lived one thousand, seven hundred years ago.

juno fructifierThat’s a load of poppycock. For one thing, no one really knows who St. Valentine was, or if he really existed.

There is less known about St. Valentine than what is known about King Arthur and Robin Hood. The name Valentinus was taken from a list of Christian martyrs that was written down over a hundred years after their supposed martyrdom. It is, therefore, likely that the list was at least partially contrived for political reasons. That’s all the basis there is for the legends of St. Valentine. Geoffrey Chaucer invented much of the rest out of whole cloth, about a thousand years after St. Valentine is supposed to have lived.

The association of February 14 with romantic love in fact has ancient roots going all the way back to the pre-Christian Roman empire, in a two-day festival of Juno Fructifier and Lupercalia. This festival was devoted to fertility, and included an ancient equivalent of the key parties of the 1970s. Young women would put slips of paper with their names into a box, and young men would then reach in and take one slip each. The pairs would become then become sexual partners for a day, or perhaps longer, if the chemistry was right. Juno was also celebrated during the festival in her incarnation as Lupa, the wolf who suckled Romulus and Remus, the twins who founded Rome.

It is said that Pope Gelasius tried to replace this ancient festival with a new ritual in which young people drew the name of a Christian saint on February 14, and attempted to emulate the virtues of that saint for a year, though this may be legend as well. Whatever the twists and turns in the threads of historical connection between then and now, it’s clear that the association of February 14 with love and sex predates anyone carrying the name of Valentine.

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