Wednesday, February 16, 2011

....'Love From your Valentine'





















From Pagan Rome to Today...... 

The mysteries of the origins of Valentine’s Day are steeped in the ancient Roman pagan celebration of Lupercalia. Held on February 15, Lupercalia honored the Gods Lupercus and Faunus, as well as the legendary founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus.

Let me digress a little and tell you the tale of the twin brothers, Romulus and Remus. They were the sons of the God Mars. When they were very little they were abandoned by the banks of the River Tiber …...As luck would have it they were found by a she-wolf who adopted them and fed them with her milk.
 Later a shepherd found the boys and took them home. He looked after them and raised them as his own children. The boys grew up to be strong and clever .One day they decided that they would build a town on the spot where the Shepherd had found them. And a town they did build…..but soon the brothers had a big clash on who will be the king…. Romulus routed his brother Remus , who died in the fight. Thus Romulus became the first king of the town which he called Rome, after himself….



This is how Rome came to be.
During those days Rome was surrounded by wilderness and packs of wolves roamed all over the countryside, shepherds were constantly under threat by them. Lupercus, one of the many Roman Gods, watched over the shepherds and their flocks. In Latin, the word lupus is the word for wolf. 
In his honour the Romans held a grand big feast in February of each year and called it the Lupercalia……So they say…But the origin of Lupercalia is so ancient that even scholars of the last century before Christ were never sure.

Soon some strange rituals were part of the festivities…youth of noble birth used to run through the streets with goatskin thongs. Young women would crowd the street in the hope of being lashed with the sacred thongs as it was believed to make them better able to bear children.

The goatskin thongs were known as the februa and the lashing ….the februatio, both coming from a Latin word meaning to purify. The name of the month February comes from this meaning.

Long after Rome became a powerful empire, the Lupercalia still lived on and when Roman armies invaded France and Britain, they took the Lupercalia and its customs there.
In addition to a bountiful feast, Lupercalia festivities included the pairing of young women and men. Men would draw women's names from an urn, and each couple would be paired until next year's celebration.

Though the love angle was evident in this pairing of couples, it still wasn't called "Valentine's Day".
If we take a peek into  life in Rome of the third century …..What do we see ?

Rome ruled by Emperor Claudius He is known in history as Claudius the Cruel. 

Wars broke out in the Roman Empire. Claudius ordained that the citizens go to battle and year after year as  the fighting continued. Claudius wanted to have a big and powerful army. …..For this he needed soldiers .



He expected men to volunteer to join. But many of the young men just did not want to fight in wars….. They did not want to leave their wives and families. As you might have guessed, not many men signed up.
 So do you know what happened?

This made Emperor Claudius furious and he had a crazy outrageous idea…… By decree he banned marriage.He thought that if men were not married, they would not mind joining the army. So Claudius decided not to allow any more marriages in his empire. By any standards this was preposterous ….Young citizens thought his new law was cruel and draconian …And Valentine the young Priest at the temple was certainly not going to support that law!



He loved the marriage ceremonials and was joyous to see young couples in love.

Just imagine the drama. It must have been really quite exciting.  Let me help you visualize the scene ….a small candlelit room with only the bride and groom and the brave priest in robe…  With vows being whispered and the bride and groom repeating them softly under their breath ….. All the while, acutely aware that the steps of soldiers that might come anytime.

Being an incurable romantic at heart he continued performing marriages even after Emperor Claudius passed his law…… secretly, of course. But, such secrets could not be kept for long in Rome . At last word of Valentine's acts reached the palace and Claudius the Cruel was angry, exceedingly angry.

One night the footsteps came  to the Temple ,Valentine heard the footsteps. It must have been scary! But God be blessed, he helped the young bride and groom escape in time.
But Claudius had sent his soldiers to "Go! Take that priest in the temple! Cast him into a dungeon! No man in Rome, priest or not, shall disobey my commands!"
Valentine was dragged from the temple and the soldiers took him off to prison and death was his punishment. Somehow the word spread about his execution like wild fire and Wonderful things happened. He tried not to be desolate and keep merry .Many young people came to the jail to visit him. They threw flowers and notes up to his window. They all genuinely expressed that they too, believed in love.

One of these young people was the daughter of the prison guard. Her father allowed her to visit Valentine in the cell. Sometimes they would sit and talk for hours. She agreed that I did the right thing by ignoring the Emperor and going ahead with the secret marriages. On the day he was to die, he wrote  a little note for her thanking her for her friendship and loyalty......And do you know how he signed it signed it, ........"Love, from your Valentine."


Perhaps that note started the custom of exchanging love messages on Valentine's Day. It was written on the day Valentine died  February 14, 269 A.D.

The history of Valentine's Day — and its patron saint, you will agree is still shrouded in mystery. But we do know that February has long been a month of romance. St. Valentine's Day, as we know it today, contains what's left of both Christian and ancient Roman Pagan tradition.

In an effort to do away with the pagan festival, Pope Gelasius ordered a slight tweaking of customs …. instead of the pagan God ‘Lupercus’, the Church looked for a suitable patron saint of love to take his place.
They found an appropriate choice in Valentine, who, in AD 270 had been beheaded by Emperor Claudius.

This was how Saint Valentine became associated with this ancient rite!!!


Now, every year on this day, people remember. …Rather they think about love and friendship. And when they think of Emperor Claudius, they remember how he tried to stand in the way of love, and they laugh -- because they know that love can't be beaten!...It shall always overcome.

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