Valentine’s Day …. The Day Cupid Comes Calling.
|Spring in Paris|
Night or day, Paris lives. It's a city for lovers and a city to fall in love with and the aura acts as a kind of elixir to the soul. It is truly the most romantic place in the world.
But this time of the year the ‘Romance’ is in the air and euphoria of love spreads its wings wide, creating a global mania. Smart marketers have further optimized the opportunity to fan ‘The Valentine fever. You don’t believe me…then just step out into the City Malls and markets to see the hubbub of Valentine’s Day.
Cupid is the most famous of Valentine symbols and everybody knows that little cherub, a playful, winged child armed with bow and arrows…..They say his arrows are a sign of desires and emotions of love.
Now, what does the playful Cupid do?
He aims those unseen arrows at both Gods and Humans, nudges them to fall deeply in love.
In ancient Greece, he was known as Eros, the young son of Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty.
But To the Roman's he was Cupid, and his mother was Venus.
There is a very interesting story I was told many years ago about Cupid and His mortal bride Psyche in Roman mythology. Venus was jealous of the beauty of Psyche and ordered Cupid to punish the mortal. But instead, Cupid fell deeply in love with her. He took her as his wife, but as a mortal, she was forbidden to look at him.
|Cupid with Psyche|
All the same, Psyche was happy even with this … then comes…. but….But then her sister persuaded her to look at Cupid and as soon as Psyche looked at Cupid….He left her. Their lovely castle and gardens vanished too. Psyche found that was she alone in an open field with no signs of other beings or Cupid.
|Venus with Cupid|
As she wandered trying to find her love, she came upon the temple of Venus. Wishing to destroy her, the goddess of love Venus, gave Psyche a series of tasks, each harder and more dangerous than the last. …She did them all but she failed the last one and slipped into deadly slumber.
Cupid brought Psyche back to life and ‘The Gods, moved by Psyche's love for Cupid made her a goddess.
Cupid thus represents the heart and Psyche the human soul… rather the struggles of the human soul.
Come to think of it, we can see that Cupid is still quite busy as the symbol of Valentine.
|Duke of Orleans|
History tells us the first modern Valentines were chronicled from the early years of the fifteenth century. There once was a young handsome French Duke of Orleans Louis Phillipe who was deeply in love with his lovely wife but he had to leave her and go to the battlefront fighting the Anglo-French wars.
As fate would have it, it was his misfortune that he was captured at the battle of Agincourt, and was kept a prisoner in the Tower of London for many many years. Imprisoned and desolate he wrote poem after poem to his wife filled with love and pathos. Now, these were what I would call them… ‘True’ Valentines.
About sixty of them still remain and are kept in the British Museum among the royal papers. I have seen them displayed and so can you if you happen to be a museum enthusiast. You can also see the oldest known Valentine card on display at the British Museum….
Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the ‘Middle Ages’ …Though written Valentine's didn't begin to appear until after 1400.
- In the Middle Ages, young men and women drew names from an urn to see who their Valentines would be. They would wear these names on their sleeves for one week….We have all heard the aphorism… ‘To wear your heart on your sleeve’ now this gives us insight as to what it means.
- In some countries, a young woman may receive a gift of clothing from a young man. If she keeps the gift, it means she will marry him.
- Some people used to believe that if a woman saw birds flying overhead on Valentine's Day it had different meanings….
If she saw a Robin … She would marry a sailor.
If she saw a sparrow…She would marry a poor man and be very happy.
If she saw a goldfinch, she would marry a millionaire.
- Apples figure in traditions as well….The young people would think of five or six names of boys or girls they might want to marry…. Now the quaint bit….They would start twisting the stem and as they twist the stem of an apple, so they recite the names until the stem comes off….. The person on whose name the stem comes off…..indicated the love of their life.
- Apples again if you cut an apple in half and count how many seeds are inside; you will also know how many children you will have.
- Now let not the Dandelions be left behind ….Pick a dandelion that has gone to seed. The young couple took a deep breath and blew the seeds into the wind. Count the seeds that remain on the stem….. That is the number of children you will have.
- In Wales, wooden love spoons were carved and given as gifts on February 14th. Hearts, keys and keyholes were favourite decorations on the spoons. The decoration meant, "You unlock my heart!"
Talking of ‘Love’ in Victorian times…….There was a ‘Love seat’ …..A wide chair. It was first made to seat one woman and her wide dress and, often in an S-shape. In this way, a couple could sit together -- but not too closely!
Flowers as valentines appear nearly two hundred years later. Henriette-Marie a daughter of Henry IV of France gave a party in honour of St Valentine. Each lady received a beautiful bouquet of flowers from the man chosen as her valentine.
|Henri le Grand|
Henry was popularly called ‘ Henry the Great’ (Henri le Grand) in France ….he was also called le bon roi Henri ("the good king Henry") or le Vert gallant ("the Green gallant"), a reference to both his dashing character and his attractiveness to women.
So differing customs from different countries …. Italy, France and England, Ireland US came together to celebrate ‘The Valentine’s Day.Then came the global acceptable and appealing custom of sending friends and relatives loving messages on this day……
Thus with flowers, with heart-shaped candies, and with Valentine cards we honour the good priest who disobeyed Claudius the Cruel.
Now, who was Claudius the Cruel?
What does he have to do with Valentine’s Day?