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Lupercalia: the pagan origins of Valentine's Day
Lupercalia: the pagan origins of Valentine's Day
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The celebration of February 14 as Valentine's Day was established at the end of the 5th century by Pope Gelasius I. According to one version, in this way the Catholic Church wanted to "legalize" the tradition of the Lupercalia, a pagan festival held in mid-February.

From the spring festival to the Catholic holiday and back

Presumably, the first Lupercalia date back to the 6th century BC. e. The festival began in a cave near the Palatine Hill, where, according to legend, the she-wolf nursed the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus. The priests sacrificed goats and dogs. This was followed by a kind of initiation ceremony: with blades dipped in the blood of sacrificial animals, the priests applied marks on the foreheads of several youths, and then washed off these marks with wool.

The next part of the holiday is a ritual meal, after which men, dressed in goat skins, ran out into the streets of Rome and lashed at the oncoming. The blow he received augured fertility. At the festival, couples were formed for entertainment and even comic weddings were celebrated.

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At the end of the 5th century, when Christianity was already a religion that was not threatened with reprisals, the pagan holiday of spring and fertility was replaced by the celebration of St. Valentine, who was beheaded, it is believed, in the 3rd century.

According to legend, Valentine was a priest who secretly tied lovers in marriage against the will of the Roman emperor Claudius II, who forbade men to marry (the ruler believed that married men were worthless warriors). One day, fate pushed the priest against a Roman judge, who, after listening to a sermon, wished to test Valentine. To prove the truth of the faith, the judge demanded that his blind daughter be healed, which Valentine did. Impressed, the judge abandoned idols and converted to Christianity.

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Soon the secret of the weddings conducted by the priest was revealed. For preaching, helping Christians and violating the ban, Emperor Valentine was sentenced to death. The execution took place on February 14.

On the same day, shortly before the execution, Valentine sent a message to the girl healed of blindness, which he signed "From your Valentine." Actually, therefore, the phrases "From your Valentine" and "Be my Valentine" are the most frequent phrases in modern love letters.

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Around the 14th century, the Catholic holiday acquired courtly features, as evidenced by works of literature and miniatures about love. The English poet Jeffrey Chaucer was probably the first to give Valentine's Day a mood of love. (He often allowed himself to place characters in fictional historical contexts presented as real.)

In the poem "Bird Parliament", he repeatedly mentions the saint and accompanies the holiday in his honor with romantic rituals. There are also lines in the text that can be translated something like this: "… it was sent on Valentine's Day, / When every sinner comes here to choose a mate."

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You have a post card

The first written valentines - love letters - began to appear after 1400. In 1669, a book of poems, A Valentine Writer, was even published for those who could not express their feelings on their own.

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At the end of the 18th century it was already possible to buy engravings with confessions. The classic design contained the image of the god of love, Cupid, shooting arrows of passion at unsuspecting people. The birds, which were thought to begin their breeding season in mid-February, symbolized love and were therefore also used on valentines.

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From love to hate - one valentine

The valentine did not always convey good news to the addressee. Sometimes the message was sent not to attract attention, but, on the contrary, to inform about the dislike or impossibility of the union.The first kind of vinegar valentines appeared in England in the 1830s and 1840s. During the Victorian era, Valentine's Day became so popular that postmen even received rework bonuses on the eve of February 14th. Alas, of the millions of postcards sent, almost half were anti-valentines.

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At first, anti-valentines were harmless, playful messages. But gradually their tone became more and more angry and aggressive. Such a postcard could be sent not only to an annoying boyfriend or former lover, but also to any other who annoyed something: the seller, homeowner, boss, etc.

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Basically, anti-valentines were sent anonymously and at the expense of the recipient. That is, the unfortunate person also had to pay a penny for reading unpleasant confessions. The same messages that were signed often led to fights, trials, suicide and crime.

For example, in 1885, the London Pall Mall Gazette reported that a man who received an anti-valentine from his ex-wife shot a woman in response. To save the nerves of the British, postmen sometimes confiscated those anti-valentines that they found too vulgar and offensive.

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Today, about 145 million postcards are sent annually, making Valentine's Day the second highest number of greetings sent. Postal activity is higher only at Christmas.

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Valentine and his team

The saint, whose day is considered February 14, patronizes not only lovers, but also beekeepers and patients with epilepsy. Officially he is called Valentine of Rome. This is how he is distinguished from the dozen other namesakes found on the official list of saints in the Roman Catholic Church. For example, on November 3, Valentine is honored from Viterbo, on January 7 - from Rhetia. According to Orthodox tradition, Valentine's Day is celebrated on July 6 and July 30.

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The last on the list was Valentin Berrio-Ochoa, who served as bishop in Vietnam. He was beheaded in 1861 and canonized in 1988. There was even Pope Valentine, he was a pontiff in the 9th century, however, he held this post for a little more than a month, and therefore little is known about him.

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Whoever Saint Valentine was, he was still a real person, at least in Rome, in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, his skull is kept. The remains were discovered at the beginning of the 19th century during excavations of the catacombs near Rome. Traditionally, the relics were subsequently distributed to reliquaries around the world, particularly in Ireland, the Czech Republic, France, Scotland and England.

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