Are you going to celebrate Lupercalia this February?Local cartoonist and writer Simon Ellinas explores the surprising pagan origins of Valentine’s Day
Every year, 14th February comes around to remind everyone of how much High Street greetings cards shops love them. Although thousands of people across the globe indulge in sending messages to their “Bunnykins” or their “SmudgeBall”, very few are aware of the origins of the day itself.
It is said that there were three St. Valentines, all of whom were martyred although it is not known if this was because they got caught by their wives sending cards to other women. Still, it wasn’t a good start for a supposedly joyous festival.
One legend has it that an imprisoned Valentine fell in love with his jailer’s daughter and sent her a letter containing the words, “I weally wuv my liddle Squidgy-Bunny-Poos, from your Hunky Spunky Valentine.” Of course, he was executed very soon after the jailer saw this message.
But some historians argue the celebration of St Valentine’s was a Christianisation of the pagan celebration of Lupercalia. This Roman festival celebrated fertility and involved the sacrifice of goats and dogs followed by slapping women and crop fields with the bloody dripping hides stripped from the goats. Makes a trip to Clinton’s seem like a piece of cake. No wonder the Christian church established a St Valentine’s Day and encouraged people to place soppy personal ads and send heart-encrusted cards instead.
Simon Ellinas is a cartoonist and writer living in Barnet. Visit his website, Simon Illustrations.