by Donna Henes, Urban Shaman
The Romans celebrated the sacred sexual frenzy
(Febris, in Latin) of the Goddess of amorous love,
Juno Februa, on February 14, coinciding with the
time when the birds in Italy were thought to mate.
These orgiastic rites of the Patroness of Passionate Love,
merged with Lupercalia, the festivities in honor of the
pagan god, Pan which were observed on the following
day, February 15. On Lupercalia, men and women
inscribed their names on love notes or billets and then
drew lots to determine who their sex partner would be
during this festival of erotic games.
At last love has come. I would be more
ashamed to hide it in cloth than leave it
naked. I prayed to the Muse and won. Venus
dropped him in my arms, doing for me what
she had promised. Let my joy be told, let
those who have none tell it in a story.
Personally, I would never send off words
in sealed tablets for none to read.
I delight in sinning and hate to compose a
mask for gossip. We met. We are both worthy.
–Sulpicia, First Century BC Roman
Lupercalia, which combined elements of worship of Juno
Februa and Her Northern equivalent, the Norse goddess
Sjofn, was the original Valentine’s Day. Naturally, the fathers
of the early Christian Church outlawed its observance as lewd
and heathenish. However, they were quite unable to halt the
practice. Eventually it was necessary to create a sainted
martyr whose feast day would be observed on February 14th.
In this way, the Church could sanction a celebration that it
simply could not suppress. There are, depending on the source,
anywhere from three to eight Saint Valentines. Each has a
conflicting biography concocted by a different author. But in
every version he emerges as the patron of lovers, bowing to the
original intention of the occasion.
The first St. Valentine’s Day was celebrated in 468 AD In the
beginning, the Church attempted to institute the practice of
exchanging billets printed with pious sermons and scripture to
encourage a holy attitude — what a dry substitute for a direct
experience of divine ecstasy, which the people craved. Needless
to say, the experiment failed on a grand scale. By the fourteenth
century, the celebration of Valentine’s Day had lost all Christian
content and had reverted back to the love feasts of
old, albeit, tempered by more than a thousand years of church-
imposed morality built on the separation and opposition of body
and soul. One now strove for perfection of the spirit through the
repression of the body. Courtly love, which was chaste and pure,
was the ideal in the Middle Ages. The monks of the Middle Ages
identified fifteen classes of kisses, only one of which was unchaste:
1. The decorous or modest kiss
2. The diplomatic kiss, or kiss of policy
3. The spying kiss, to ascertain if a woman had drunk wine
4. The slave kiss
5. The kiss infamous (a church penance)
6. The slipper kiss (practiced toward tyrants
7. The judicial kiss
8. The feudal kiss
9. The religious kiss (kissing the cross)
10. The academic kiss (on joining a solemn brotherhood)
11. The hand kiss
12. The Judas kiss
13. The medical kiss (for the purpose of healing some ailment)
14. The kiss of etiquette
15. The kiss of love
The symbols of Lupercalia come down to us intact, but
thoroughly cleansed, completely abstracted from their original
flesh and blood intensity. The cute little chubby Valentine angel
so familiar to us, is an insipid and impoverished characterization
of Cupid, the Roman equivalent of the Greek god Eros, the Hindu
Kama. He was the son of the Roman, Venus and Mercury, The
Greek, Aphrodite and Hermes. S/he was thus an Herm-Aphrodite,
an embodiment of the duality and opposition of the sexual union.
The arrows that Cupid shoots are the phallus, the lingham. These
projectiles of passion are often depicted as piercing the heart. The
heart, the center of the soul. A bittersweet image which intimates
that love hurts. A graphic image of penetration, which is reminiscent
of the arrows that Hopi’s shoot into rounded bundles
of corn as a ceremonial gesture of fertility.
But just what is this heart-shaped symbol supposed to signify,
anyway? Certainly it bears no resemblance whatsoever to an
anatomically correct actual heart. The zoologist, Desmond Morris
speculates that the heart symbol represents a bending over buttocks.
A form that is reminiscent of the sexual habits of our ancestor kissing
cousins, the apes, who do it from behind. PLEASE! Spare me.
The horizontal-double-dip-cone-of-a-shape that we call a heart has to
be two round breasts riding proudly above the magical fertile triangle
of love. A full-figured female torso just like that of the Venus of
Willendorf. The tits, hips, and lips of the late Great Mother Earth, Herself.
The venerated love of our lives.
Let Her never be out of our hearts.
My heart, my mother;
My heart, my mother!
My heart of transformations.
–The Egyptian Book of the Dead
To read my in-depth articles about the cross-culture myths
and rituals of Valentine’s Day and other holy days and holidays,
order my book:
Celestially Auspicious Occasions: Seasons, Cycles and Celebrations.
For inspiration and encouragement to love your Self,
order my book, The Queen of My Self
For amulets and charms for love and peace,
visit my Cyber Spirit Shop.
Donna Henes is an internationally renowned urban shaman,
eco-ceremonialist, award-winning author, popular speaker
and workshop leader whose joyful celebrations of celestial
events have introduced ancient traditional rituals and
contemporary ceremonies to millions of people in more than
100 cities since 1972. She has published four books, a CD,
an acclaimed quarterly journal and writes a column for UPI
(United Press International) Religion and Spirituality Forum.
Mama Donna, as she is affectionately called, maintains a
ceremonial center, spirit shop, ritual practice and consultancy
in Exotic Brooklyn, NY where she works with individuals, groups,
institutions, municipalities and corporations to create meaningful
ceremonies for every imaginable occasion.
For information about upcoming events and services contact:
Mama Donna’s Tea Garden & Healing Haven
PO Box 380403
Exotic Brooklyn, New York, NY 11238-0403
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