The pagan origins of Valentine's Day, the feast of lovers, were wild and uninhibited. The highlight of the feast was when the matrons let themselves be whipped by a group of naked young men. Then came a pope who christianized the feast with the saint, or rather with 3 saints.
Valentine Day origin, feast of lovers, is older than we think. The tradition, in fact, dates back to Roman times, in 496 A.D. It all started when pope Gelasio I wanted to put an end to lupercalia, the ancient pagan rites dedicated to the god of fertility Luperco.
These rites took place on 15 February and included wild festivities. As a result, they were openly at odds with the morality and the idea of love of Christians.
A Strange Ritual
The highlight of the feast was when the matrons let themselves be whipped by a group of naked young men.
By doing so, they paid homage and thanked Luperco. Even the pregnant women willingly submitted themselves to the ritual. This is because they believed that it would be good for the birth of the child.
To ease the pain, it was enough to admire the bodies of the young men. In fact, they made their way completely naked or, at most, with a skirt of skin tight around their hips. To “baptize” the feast of love, Pope Gelasio I decided to move it to the previous day, dedicated to Saint Valentine. Consequently, he became in a way the protector of lovers.
Valentine Day Origin: How Many Saints Are There?
There are, however, many saints named Valentine. Aside from the fact that they were all martyrs, we don’t know much about them. In any case, two are the most famous.
The first, born in Interamna in 176, protected lovers, guided them towards marriage and encouraged them to bring children into the world. Religious literature describes the saint as a healer of epileptics and defender of love stories. This is especially true for unhappy love stories. According to tradition, in fact, he made peace between two lovers who were fighting, offering them a rose.
The second, instead, died in Rome on February 14, 274, beheaded. According to some sources it would be the bishop of Terni himself. For others he would be another Christian martyr. For others, he would never have existed.
In any case, according to legend, Valentine would have been executed because he had celebrated the marriage between the Christian Serapia and the Roman legionary Sabinus, who was instead pagan. The ceremony took place quickly, because the young woman was ill. And the couple died, together, just as Valentine blessed them.
Valentine Day Origin in Literature
Actually the merit of having consecrated Valentine as the saint of love is by Geoffrey Chaucer, the author of the Canterbury Tales. At the end of the 14th century he wrote – in honor of the wedding between Richard II and Anne of Bohemia – The Parliament of Fowls. In this poem in 700 verses he associated Cupid with Valentine‘s Day.