Capitoline Wolf, Lupercalia, Rhea Silvia, Rome, Saint Valentine, Valentine, Valentine's Day, Vestal Virgin
This is an older post, I am posting again, while I finish my new post on Candlemas.
The above image shows Romulus and Remus, born to Vestal Virgin Rhea Silvia and the god Mars or the demi-God Hercules. Amulius had seized power from his brother Numitor and had forced Rhea Silvia, Numitor’s daughter, to become a Vestal Virgin so she would not bear children.
After the birth of Romulus and Remus, Amulius threw the babies into the river Tiber and sent their mother to jail. However, Romulus and Remus were saved by shepherds and fed by a she-wolf, Lupa, in a cave called Lupercal, perhaps located at the foot of Palatine Hill. They were then discovered by Faustulus, a shepherd.
The feral twins killed Amulius when they learned about their mother, but Romulus killed Remus who wanted Rome founded on Aventile Hill rather than Palatine Hill. Whence, the existence of Lupercus (from lupus: wolf), the Roman god of shepherds, and that of the Lupercalia, a yearly Roman festival honoring Lupa.
Lupercalia & Candlemas
In ancient Rome, the Lupercalia (Lupercus) took place between February 13th and 15th. This “pagan” feast is sometimes associated with Candlemas, celebrated on February 2nd, using the Gregorian calendar as opposed to the Julian calendar, called O.S., old style. In the Gregorian calendar, feasts were celebrated about 12 days earlier, than in the Julian calendar. The Eastern Church reflects this discrepancy.
As we will see, there was a motivation to transform the Lupercalia into a Christian feast. However, the Lupercalia endured until the 5th century CE and was celebrated beginning on the Ides of February, i.e. the 13th, ending two days later, on the 15th.
At the start of the Lupercalia, two goats and a dog were sacrificed. Next, two young Luperci, members of a corporation of priests, were led to the altar and anointed with the blood of the sacrificed animals. Luperci then dressed themselves in thongs, called februa, taken from skin of the of the sacrificed goats and dog and ran around the walls of the old Palatine city carrying thongs and striking the crowd.
Pancake Day or La fête des crêpes
Later, salt mealcakes prepared by the Vestal Virgins were burnt, which is interesting because in France, Candlemas, celebrated on 2nd February, is “la fête des crêpes” or Pancake Day and today, 12th February is International Pancake Day. It would be my opinion that pan of pancakes is the pan of pots and pans, but would that it were the Pan of the “Greek god of the wild, shepherds and flocks, nature, of mountain wilds, hunting and rustic music, and companion of the nymphs” (Pan, Wikipedia).
Pan’s Roman counterpart was Faunus. But Pan protected the flocks from wolves, which would suggest that he was also the counterpart of Lupercus, the above-mentioned Roman god of shepherds who replaced an earlier god named Februus (see Lupercalia, Wikipedia).
However, for our purposes, the ancient and “pagan” Lupercalia was a raucous event which Pope Saint Gelasius I (494–96) wanted to abolish. Senators opposed him so he invited them to run nude themselves. After a long dispute, Gelasius replaced the Lupercalia with a “Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” to be observed on Candlemas. It was a noble thought, but eventually the “pagan” feast became Saint Valentine’s Day or Valentine’s Day, celebrated on the 14th of February, near the Ides of February. According to Britannica, “[i]t came to be celebrated as a day of romance from about the 14th century.”[i] That would be in Chaucer’s (born c. 1342/43, London?, England—died 25 October 1400, London) lifetime.
The many Saints called Valentine
There was a St Valentine a convert and a physician, who may have restored the sight of his gaoler’s blind daughter. According to Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, this Valentine was clubbed to death c. 270. His feast day is the 14th of February. However, there could be other beatified Valentines. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia there are three saints named Valentine, one of whom would the bishop of Terni, formerly Interamna. However, Roman Martyrology recognizes only one St Valentine, a martyr who died on the Via Flaminia and whose feast day is the 14th of February. (See Saint Valentine, Wikipedia.)
I will break here. We have gone from the Lupercalia to Valentine’s Day and stumbled upon la fête des crêpes (2nd February) or Pancake Day, which is quite a journey. Let us return to the Lupercalia. Pope Saint Gelasius I did abolish disorderly “pagan” festival. However, though there is at least one saint named Valentine, Valentine’s Day is very much as escribed in Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. It is a “relic” of the Lupercalia. It is no longer the Lupercalia of old, but it remains a celebration of love and friendship and a bit of a carnival. In fact, not only is today, 12th February 2013, International Pancake Day, but it is also Mardi Gras (Shrove Tuesday), which is the end of the carnival season.______________________________ [i] “Valentine’s Day”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2013. Web. 14 Feb. 2013
—ooo—composer: Jacques Offenbach (20 June 1819 – 5 October 1880) piece: Barcarolle performers: Philippe Jaroussky (born 13 February 1978 in Maisons-Laffitte, France) countertenor Natalie Dessay (19 April 1965, in Lyon) coloratura soprano
© Micheline Walker
12 February 2013
Did you enjoy some pancakes?
No, I did not, by I will next year. Besides, Sunday is pancake day in this household.
The pan of pancakes is not the god Pan, that would be too beautiful, but would that he were!
Thank you for your note and best regards,
I agree. It would be good if Pan were the Pan of Pancakes.
Gallivanta, the world needs a little poetry. He’s the Pan of panic. The history of words is fascinating.
Take care Gallivanta,
Thank you very much, dear Micheline for this very interesting post! The story of Romulus and Remus incredible. Impressive!
Philippe Jarroussky, Natalie Dessay have exceptional voices! Sing along great! I love it!
Have a wonderful evening, dear Micheline!
Big hugs, much love, Your friend, Stefania! 🙂
There are so many stories. People usually know about Romulus and Remus, but in a vague way. Isn’t Jaroussky extraordinary? He turned 35 yesterday and is taking an eight-month sabbatical. I hope he returns to singing. He says he needs to stop a little. Fame came too quickly. I like the way he interacts with his musicians and the women he sings with. His grandfather or great-grandfather escaped the Bolchevik Revolution.
There are so many stories associated with Saint Valentine’s Day.
Your blogs are, as always, very beautiful. I love them.
Big hugs and love,
Regardless of all things, Micheline; I hope your ‘Valentines Day’ is a pleasant one…!
From one friend to another….
By the way Micheline; this is the second time within a week that a blogger has showcased the extraordinary talents of Phillipe Jarroussky.
Thank You, I thoroughly enjoyed it and shall listen once again before I leave….!
Thank you Carolyn,
I appreciate your kind wishes and hope Valentine’s Day also brings you a little happiness.
Jaroussky is extraordinary. I have now listened to everything he sings for years.
Today, he turned 35 and has begun an eight-month sabbatical. Fame took him by surprise. Jaroussky’s grandfather fled the Bolchevik Revolution, arrived in France, said I’m Russian: “Jaroussky,” and it became his name. Philippe is such a kind person.
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The story of Valentine’s Day is very complex. Thank you for sending me your article.
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