Happy Valentine’s Day, or should I say Lupercalia or bird watching day. Don’t worry, I’ll explain myself in a minute. Although Valentine’s Day has never been a very popular holiday with me it is very important to many. I happily embrace the love that people share together and am in no way against this but it has just never appealed to me as the essence of a holiday. Regardless I will keep others in mind while laying down the creepy, dark, and eerie side of this romantic holiday for those in love.
Many of us know the story of Valentine’s Day being named for the Saint Valentine who was martyred. Although there are several Saints with the name Valentine that this holiday is believed to be named after the one that is most commonly associated with the holiday is the one who performed the secret marriages against the wills of the politically parties and parts of the churches.
It is believed that after he was beaten, humiliated in public and suffering in his cell awaiting execution her wrote on letter. That letter was a forbidden letter of love to a woman who was supposedly his secret love. Perhaps this was the first Valentine Card in the sense of the method it was carried out.
Yet the other tales carry similarities in a bishop or priest or some other form of religious figure being martyred for carrying out fulfillments of love against the will of the ruling parties. The date, February 14th, is however the date of the execution.
Lupercalia is a more Pagan festival that was celebrated on or around the same time of year as Valentine’s Day. This festival coincided with the natural time of year when many of the animals in the world were mating or starting to. Also it was the time of year when many of the aspects of spring start coming in to focus and the new beginning of the year is upon us.
Many people forget that January was not always the first month of the year in many cultures.
During this festival that usually lasted from the 13th to 15th the people would gather and party. Pretty much drink wine and other spirits, dance and feast in the nude. The part of this that many might consider dark is the fact that the men would slap the women with skins soaked in goat blood.
This was not and insult but actually encouraged because to be smacked in the face with one of these bloody skins was believed to increase fertility. The church in the 5th century abolished this holiday because they felt that the nakedness of the people and open fornication was not in the best interest of the church or religion.
They instead morphed the three day festival into one date and declared it a day in recognition of the Saints Valentine.
Chaucer, a poet from the 1300s, wrote poem that is believed to be the first association of romanticism with the holiday. It is believed that this poem was associated with Valentine’s Day and the time of year when birds begin mating in England. But this is not there time of year to do these deeds in England.
The poem in some way or another talks about what bird comes to you is your chosen. Kind of meaning that whatever bird you see first on Valentine’s Day, determines what kind of man, or person, you will marry.
I have read through a few of them and think that some of them are particularly interesting;
Woodpecker = no one
Goldfinch = wealthy
Blackbird (does not signify) = priest
I don’t know how accurate this is or what the percentage or this carries true but I think it will be interesting to see what bird I see first this year. Even though the original aspect of this was what bird a woman saw I think it will still be a fun little thing. Similar to doing the horoscopes or “what this year” brings type of links that Facebook has to offer.
The Eerie Part:
I wouldn’t put it in this segment if there wasn’t something I found eerie about it. It really relates back to Valentine in the prison cell after being beaten so bloody red that he resembled the hearts we often associate with the day. The colors manifested from those blood colors of the festivals.
The pain that this or these, depending on what history you feel carries more weight, was what pushed this day into motion. Not until the 1700s did cards become popular. It wasn’t until Richard Cadbury in the 1800s invented the first box of chocolates and put them in the form of the picturesque heart that we followed that tradition. And yes, he gave this to his Love.
Still, the eerie part for me is the depression that is associated with this day. Those who lost loves and the capability to love have this day to really be reminded of that aspect. This occurred all the way back to earlier in times in a custom known as, une loterie d’amour.
Supposedly men would yell across the way to the women on the other side, whether this was a river, channel, or alley. They would then meet with one another. If the man was not happy with the women he would leave them in search of another. The women’s tradition was to stay behind and burn pictures or other items of the men who ditched them at bonfire parties.
For obvious reasons this was dismantled. A large group of upset and emotionally rejected people, regardless of who they are, has never proven to have good consequences.
Other traditions would use borderline highly narcotic hallucinogens to induce dreams of peoples’ future loves. Often time’s overdoses or empty promises from those dreams were the actual results when reality kicked in to gear.
So, if today I see a woodpecker that already promises me no love. Then I yell at some woman across the street, she most likely runs away in our current era. Then I try to smack someone with a bloody skin, get arrested. Then I eat some “magic bars” to dream about the love of my future and hope to wake up with all of it magically happening.
I guess that’s the real and ladies and gentlemen. The Eerie original beginnings of Valentine’s Day.
I know some of you might not really find that eerie but I do. I don’t think anything is more eerie than a yearning, broken heart. Think about the tales of old. Think about half of Poe’s work.
Once again, I don’t want to take anything away from anyone’s lovely celebrations today. It is just the other side of Valentine’s Day.
Happy Valentine’s Day,
Joshua Crane Dowidat