Thursday, January 14, 2010

VALENTINES

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A SYMBOL OF LOVE OR PAGANISM?

Just a day or so after Christmas, go in the stores and look in the greeting card sections. Do you find sales on leftover Christmas cards? No! You find valentines already stocked in the shelves. Why? What do valentines mean? Where did they originate? Where did the holiday come from? Is it scriptural?

As with many of the holidays, the interest and observance have grown each year and are becoming more and more important in the lives of people. As a child, I exchanged valentines with my classmates and we had a small party with cookies, candy and punch. That was it. It was not commercialized as it is today. But now the adults are involved as well. Many a man has gotten in trouble with his sweetheart because he forgot. She always expects roses or candy or a nice gift – as proof of his love. Sounds rather self-centered and selfish, doesn’t it?

HISTORICAL SOURCES

The World Book Encyclopedia, 1975 –
From volume 12, page 457 – “Lupercalia was an ancient Roman festival. It was celebrated on February 15 in honor of Faunus a rural Italian god. Faunus was later identified with Pan, the god of herds and fertility. The rites centered at the Lupercal, a cave in the Palantine Hill. Priests sacrificed goats and cut their skins into strips for lashes. Then they ran around the Palantine Hill, striking at all the women they met. The ceremonies also involved purification through the sacrifice of a dog. They were often mentioned in literature.”

From volume 20, page 203-205 – “The custom of exchanging valentines on February 14 can be traced to the English poet, Geoffrey Chaucer.”

“Valentine’s Day is celebrated on February 14 as a festival of romance and affection. People send greeting cards called valentines to their sweethearts, their friends, and members of their families.”

“Valentine’s Day comes on the feast of two different Christian martyrs named Valentine. But the customs connected with the day have nothing to do with the lives of the saints. They probably come from an ancient Roman festival called Lupercalia which took place every February 15. The festival honored Juno, the Roman goddess of women and marriage, and Pan, the god of nature.”

“Years ago, people held many beliefs in connection with Valentine’s Day. One of the oldest beliefs said that birds chose their mates on February 14.”

“Most Valentine’s Day customs were concerned with romance or the choice of a mate.”

”The Romans celebrated their feast of Lupercalia as a lovers’ festival for young people. Young men and women chose partners for the festival by drawing names by chance from a box. Then the partners exchanged gifts as a sign of affection. They usually continued to enjoy one another’s company long after the festival. Many such courtships ended in marriage.”

“After the spread of Christianity, churchmen tried to give Christian meaning to the pagan festival. In 496, Pope Gelasius changed the Lupercalia festival of February 15 to Saint Valentine’s Day on February 14. But the sentimental meaning of the old festival has remained to the present time.”

From volume 20, page 208 – “Historians know little about early celebrations of Valentine’s Day. According to Popular Antiquities, a book by John Brand published in 1877, people in England observed the holiday as early as 1446. In early days, young people chose their valentines by writing names on slips of paper, then drawing them by chance from a vase. An account of the celebration of the holiday in the 1700’s describes how social groups met ‘in the homes of gentry’ on the eve of Valentine’s Day to carry out this custom. After drawing lots, each young man wore the paper with his lady’s name on his sleeve for several days. The expression, ‘He wears his heart on his sleeve,’ probably came from this custom.”

From volume 4, page 949 – “Cupid was the Roman god of love. He is called Eros in Greek mythology.”

“The earliest images of Cupid show him as a handsome, athletic young man. By the mid-300’s B.C., he was portrayed as a chubby, naked infant with wings, holding a bow and arrows. A person shot with one of Cupid’s arrows supposedly fell in love.”
The Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology, introduction by Robert Graves, pages 207-208
“Faunus was one of the first Roman rustic divinities and, above all, a fertility god. He also possessed the gift of prophecy and caused voices to be heard in the countryside. … Under the name Lupercus he had a temple on the Palantine, the Lupercal – the name of the grotto where the she-wolf suckled the twins, Romulus and Remus. The Lupercalia were celebrated on the fifteenth of February and were among the most important festivals on the Roman calendar. Their function was purificatory. Goats and he-goats were sacrificed, and perhaps dogs. After the animals were immolated two youths were led to the altar. The priests touched their brows with the bloody knife and wiped them with a wad of wool soaked in milk, after which the youths would burst out laughing. The priests of the college of the Luperci, half naked, draped only in the skins of the sacrificed goats, would then perform a ceremony during which women who wanted to become pregnant would hold out their hands and turn their backs to be struck with a whip of goat’s hide. Ovid gives a rather amusing explanation of the nudity of the Luperci. One day Faunus surprised Hercules and Omphale asleep in a grotto. Faunus wished to take advantage of the sleeping young woman, but the lovers had playfully exchanged garments. In the darkness Faunus did not notice this and, deceived by the softness of the robe Hercules was wearing, approached him instead of Omphale. He was, as can be imagined, rudely repulsed. To avoid such misadventures in the future, Faunus insisted that his priests should be naked when they celebrated his festivals. The Lupercalia were only suppressed in 494 A.D. by Pope Gelasius who replaced them by a festival in honour of the ritual Purification of the Virgin.”

Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, revised by Ivor H Evans
From page 1121 – “The ancient custom of choosing Valentines has only accidental relation to either saint, being essentially a relic of the old Roman Lupercalia (see Lupercal), or from association with the mating season of birds. It was marked by the giving of presents and nowadays by the sending of a card on which cupids, transfixed hearts, etc., are depicted.”

From page 665 – “Lupercal – In ancient Rome the spot where Romulus and Remus were suckled by the wolf (lupus). An annual festival, the Lupercalia was held there on 15 February, in honour of Lupercus the Lycaean Pan (so called because he protected the flocks from wolves). The name Lupercal is sometimes, inaccurately, used for the Lupercalia.”
The Folklore Calendar, George Long, pages 22-23 –
“…there is no connection whatever between any of the saints and martyrs named Valentine and the old customs associated with the day – save only the accident of date. The early Church, following its general policy of Christianising pagan customs rather than abolishing them, substituted the name of a saint for a pagan deity, prohibiting the more grossly sensual observances of paganism. As the festival of Lupercalia formerly commenced about the middle of February, it was very natural to rechristen this with the name of a saint who was martyred at the same period. The Lupercalia was dedicated to Pan and Juno, and one of the ceremonies consisted of placing the names of young women into a box from which they were drawn as chance directed. This seems clearly to indicate the origin of the mutual love missives which have become the main feature of the day.”
The World Holiday Book, Anneli Rufus –
From page “February 14” – “One thing is nearly certain: Valentine’s Day has nothing to do with either of the two third century martyrs who share the name Valentine and share this as their feast day.”

“The date is heavy with the scent of coupling. A medieval folk belief held that wild birds choose February 14 to begin their spring mating. The ancient Roman custom, enacted every year at February 15’s Lupercalia, of ‘lovers’ lots’ – drawing partners’ names at random from a box – enjoyed enduring popularity through the ages. In mid-sixteenth century France, Saint Francis de Sales struggled to abolish the custom. As a contemporary described it, Francis tried to interest his flock instead in the practice of ‘giving boys billets with the names of certain [female] saints for them to honor.’ One can imagine how well that went over.”

“Another old tradition held that the first person seen on the morning of the fourteenth (excepting blood relatives) would be that day’s ‘valentine’.”

From page “February 15” – “A wolf (lupa) according to legend nursed a pair of abandoned human twins in her cave (the Lupercal) on the Palantine Hill. These twins, Romulus and Remus, went on to found Rome…. At the Lupercalia, a band of priests called Luperci gathered at the Lupercal on the southwestern slope of the Palantine. Here they sacrificed goats and a puppy, and made offerings of a sacred grain mixture, the mola salsa.”

“One of Rome’s most important holidays, the Lupercalia began as an earthy fertility rite. Plutarch maintains that a slap from the februa” (goat-skin strips or thongs) granted the slappee many children and easy childbirth. The holiday lasted well into the Christian era, until Pope Gelasius I outlawed it in 494 C.E.”
Funk and Wagnall’s Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology, and Legend, 1950, page 654 –
Lupercalia – “The ceremony purified the land for the new year, February being the last month, and from this underlying concept (februare, to cleanse) the month took its name.”
COMMENTS

Here are some points to note and think about:
  • The beginning roots of this holiday come straight from mythology, not truth.
  • This day was originally in honor of gods and goddesses that Yahweh condemns.
  • The day’s celebrations included the sacrifice of a dog – something never done in Yahweh’s word.
  • The people continued this holiday, even as they came into the churches. The Pope couldn’t stop them so it was adopted and “Christianized.” Is it possible to “purify” a pagan custom?
  • Valentine’s Day is not found listed among Yahweh’s days.
  • Even if replaced with the “Purification of the Virgin,” it is still a celebration of man and not found in Scripture.
  • The “valentines” didn’t start with Chaucer – their idea goes back to the drawing of the names and exchanging of gifts in ancient Rome.
  • How many other pagan customs have been ‘re-christened’ with another name and given a new definition? Does it make it right?
SCRIPTURES

As you have probably already figured out, there are no Biblical references regarding this holiday. But there are some scriptures we can consider.
Leviticus 18:30 – “And you shall keep my charge, so as not to do any of the disgusting customs which were committed before you; and you shall not defile yourself with them; I am Yahweh your Elohim.”
Deuteronomy 12:29-32 – “29 – When Yahweh your Elohim shall cut off the nations before you, where you are going in to possess them, and you shall possess them, and shall live in their land, 30 – Take heed to yourself that you not be snared to follow them after they have been destroyed before you; and that you not inquire after their gods, saying, How did all these nations serve their gods? And I shall do so, even I. 31 – You shall not do so to Yahweh your Elohim; for everything hateful to Yahweh, which He detests, they have done to their gods. For they have even burned their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods. 32 – All the things that I command you, take heed to do them, and you shall not add to it, nor take away from it.”
Jeremiah 10:2 – “So says Yahweh, you shall not be goaded to the way of the nations…”
Yahweh gave us His high days in Leviticus 23. This holiday is not found there among them. He says we are not to add to what He gave us. So think about where that leaves this celebration.
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