Tuesday, 12 February 2013

CELEBRATIONS ~ On Valentine's Day

True love is like ghosts, which everyone talks about and few have seen.

- Francois de la Rochefoucauld
 
 
 

The Legacy of St. Valentine

 
 
True love is rare, and yet many of us experience it. If you have been one of the lucky ones, hold close and treasure your love. And do not forget to show gratitude on Valentine's Day!

It is easy to accept events and celebrations such as Valentine's Day without giving them a second thought, or knowing why we do celebrate them. It is impossible to recount the history of how Valentine's Day came to be but it is believed that it derives from one of three patron saints, or perhaps even an amalgamation of them.  Like most successfully long lived celebrations it has both christian and pagan elements.
 
The following definition on the pagan celebration of Lupercalia, which may well be related to our current Valentine's day, is from From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


    
Lupercalia
Lupercalia
Lupercalia most likely derives from lupus, "wolf," though both the etymology and its significance are obscure (bronze wolf's head, 1st century AD)
Observed byRoman Kingdom, Roman Republic, Roman Empire
TypeClassical Roman religion
DateFebruary 13—15
Celebrationsfeasting
Observancessacrifices of goats and a dog by the Luperci; offering of cakes by the Vestals; fertility rite in which the goatskin-clad Luperci strike women who wish to conceive
Lupercalia was a very ancient, possibly pre-Roman pastoral festival, observed on February 13 through 15 to avert evil spirits and purify the city, releasing health and fertility. Lupercalia subsumed Februa, an earlier-origin spring cleansing ritual held on the same date, which gives the month of February (Februarius) its name.
 
The name Lupercalia was believed in antiquity to evince some connection with the Ancient Greek festival of the Arcadian Lykaia (from Ancient Greek: λύκοςlukos, "wolf", Latin lupus) and the worship of Lycaean Pan, assumed to be a Greek equivalent to Faunus, as instituted by Evander.
 
In Roman mythology, Lupercus is a god sometimes identified with the Roman god Faunus, who is the Roman equivalent of the Greek god Pan. Lupercus is the god of shepherds. His festival, celebrated on the anniversary of the founding of his temple on February 15, was called the Lupercalia. His priests wore goatskins. The historian Justin mentions an image of "the Lycaean god, whom the Greeks call Pan and the Romans Lupercus," nude save for the girdle of goatskin, which stood in the Lupercal, the cave where Romulus and Remus were suckled by a she-wolf. There, on the Ides of February (in February the ides is the 13th), a goat and a dog were sacrificed, and salt mealcakes prepared by the Vestal Virgins were burnt.
 

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In the history of the Catholic Church the various saints named Valentine or Valentinus were all martyred but their stories are lost to history and have passed into legend. One theory is that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine's actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.

Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons, where they were often beaten and tortured. According to one legend, an imprisoned Valentine actually sent the first "valentine" greeting himself after he fell in love with a young girl--possibly his jailor's daughter--who visited him during his confinement, and whose sight he is said to have restored. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter signed "From your Valentine," an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories all emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic and, most importantly, a romantic figure.
By the time of the Middle Ages, perhaps thanks to this reputation, Valentine would become one of the most popular saints in England and France.

Vintage Valentine Day cards



I especially love this little fold out Red Riding Hood card!


Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages, though written Valentine's didn't begin to appear until after 1400. The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. (The greeting is now part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England.) This is the translation from the French and I am certain it would lose some of the romance in translation.

I am already sick of love, My very gentle Valentine,
Since for me you were born too soon, And I for you was born too late.
God forgives he who has estranged/Me from you for the whole year.
I am already sick of love, My very gentle Valentine,
Well might I have suspected, That such a destiny,
Thus would have happened this day, How much that Love would have commanded.
I am already sick of love, My very gentle Valentine.

Several years later, it is believed that King Henry V hired a writer named John Lydgate to compose a valentine note to Catherine of Valois.


Much of this text and research is from Here:

You can read more about The Duke of Orleans Here:


The early tradition of Valentine's Day was that it was the date that birds began to choose their mates, only later did the romance extend to the human population. The first reference in print to Valentine's Day is found in Geoffrey Chaucer's The parlement of foules [The Parliament of Fowls], circa 1381:
For this was on seynt Volantynys day Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.
[For this was Saint Valentine's day, when every bird of every kind comes to this place to choose his mate.]
How the date of 14th February was selected isn't known. It may relate to the approximate date first anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia, which Chaucer's poem was written to honour. The couple were both 14 at the time of the engagement, which took place on 2nd May 1381, not on 14th February. The betrothal of young lovers sounds promising as a romantic story bit, in fact it wasn't. The marriage was purely a political contract between Anne's brother, King Wenceslas IV of Bohemia and the English government - the partners were unlikely to have met prior to the marriage.
 
Perhaps in a throwback to the ancient tradition that birds chose their mates on this day it became the first day that thoroughbred stallions covered mares to produce the frisky foals as soon as possible in the New Year which would grow into strong racehorses whose pedigrees would be duly recorded on the pages of the General Stud Book started in 1791 by James Weatherby and still kept today at Weatherby's.
 

The Godolphin Arabian  (c. 1724 – 1753) one of 3 founding fathers of the throughbred racehorse.
painted by George Stubbs, here with his cat Grimalkin.

A stunning sight. Mares and Foals Disturbed by an Approaching Storm, George Stubbs

 
Footnote: The vintage Valentine Day cards were taken from those available to purchase on Ebay.
 

28 comments:

  1. Hello:
    Gosh, what a Valentine feast you offer to us here! As you say, why we have come to celebrate this day of the year can be due to any number of reasons, but we have been fascinated to read of these, some of which we knew and others which are completely new.

    Whatever, at this cold and bleak time of year, it is rather good to have something cheery to lift the spirits.

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    1. Thank you Jane + Lance, lovely indeed to have warm thoughts when it is so cold. x

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  2. The early Christians were terribly good at borrowing festivals from more ancient traditions. Quite sensibly really. Interestingly the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin Mary falls on Febrary 2nd and relates to what you have said about Lupercalia and early spring rites. Very interesting post. Thank you.

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    1. Marianne, Glad you enjoyed this, history is fascinating, we love studying the origins of things. As you mention, The Feast of Purification is another very interesting celebration. x

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  3. Wonderful post. So nice to learn something new everyday. Stubbs really knew his horses!

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    1. Glad you liked this Snap. Stubbs remains the master equine painter. x

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  4. Interesting reading. I didn't know that.

    Hugs

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  5. Most intriguing post Mrs. Black! Thank you for sharing,
    (love that very first photo and quote!)
    Blessings,

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  6. What an interesting post. I've always loved the thought that the birds choose their mates on this day- Jane xx

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    1. Jane, Birds give us such insight into the seasons. x

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  7. I thought you were being super topical with a picture of the Pope... really must get my specs on ! I love the Red Riding Hood card. But oh dear, how sad to be betrothed at fourteen. I suppose people had to get married young because life expectancy was so short.

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    1. Hee hee, did smile at this. ; ~ )

      Marriages were done much earlier in the past, probably, as you say, due to old age not being a prospect for most. I think people grew up very young also, enchanted childhood did not really come into being until Victorian times. x

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  8. Dear Minerva,
    I love La Rochefoucault, though this quote is not bursting with optimism... Interesting lines about Valentine, thank you! In Germany it is - like Halloween - a very young feast, mostly favoured by flower shops, cosmetic shops and confectionary shops - ah, forgot the paper shops (come to think of it: the same which all are so eager on Mother's Day). So: there are attempts to make it a ritual, but still with not that effective results as in America. A girl doesn't burst in tears if she doesn't get a Valentine card.

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    1. Brigitta, Indeed this is not the most optimistic quote from La Rochefoucault, and yet what he says is often true. Love is fleeting, either due to our fickleness or to the match not being equal. But, just knowing it does exist gives hope. Valentine's day in Britian is not a huge event either, more of a personal choice and private showing. It was more important in Victorian times when communication was by letter and card. x

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  9. That is an amazing collection of information! Love Little Red Riding Hood Valentine!

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    1. Susan, Glad you enjoyed this, and thank you for stopping by. x

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  10. Always fascinates me this melding of the Christian & the pagan. Great post x

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    1. Ruthie, I can see this melding inspires artists such as yourself too, fascinating how nature runs through it all like a strong constant. x

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  11. Perfect post! And i learned a lot. :) Happy Valentine's Day to you.

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  12. Here is an animated video version on history of valentine: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGx7q4O6w2w
    It tells exactly how Valentine was captured by Claudius, and was executed, right after he wrote the eternally remembered 'from your Valentine' letter.

    Feel free to embed the video, it is using CC attribution.

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    1. Russell, Thank you very much for this information. Most useful. Minerva ~

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  13. Very interesting post indeed and quite informative.
    Never have I been a huge fan of the current commercial Valentine hoopla.
    When I was in elementary school I did like collecting cards we all gave one another in class.
    Perhaps now I tend to agree with Francois de la Rochefoucauld ~
    and yet when true love IS seen ~ it is undoubtably mesmerizing to behold.
    A treat to see the George Stubs paintings. ~ since horses and the beauty of art are two of my true hearts desires !

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    1. Willow, Thank you for stopping by. The old Valentine cards are lovely, the new ones not so much. Agree about Stubbs, his horses live on long after they have left this world because he captured them all so well. A delight! x

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  14. I read this post and found it fascinating, and have long admired George Stubbs and his horse paintings. Then I read the older post and then the one before that. I enjoy English history and that of medieval Europe too, so I must follow your blog. Nice to meet you here. Terra from California

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    1. Hello Terra, Thank you for stopping by. I am orginally from California, so nice to have a follower from there. Minerva ~

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