Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Is Valentines Day the Lupercalia?

Back in 2010 we found that the Adventist/Armstrongist teachings on Christmas are in error and the teachings on Easter couldn’t possibly be more wrong. While I was doing the recent series on Christmas, I began to wonder about other holidays. If we were taught so incorrectly on Easter and Christmas, what about the other holidays? Could I find one more where the church teachings were incorrect? You know, just to prove that this isn’t some fluke. So, Valentine’s Day sounded like a good choice.

A close friend of mine mentioned the word "Lerpercalia", and that’s what jarred my long-dormant synapses. Now I remember! 
During my time in the old Worldwide Church of God, we were told that Valentine's Day (Feb. 14) came from the Lupercalia (Feb. 15). The game was afoot. I checked in to it and I have found something that I thought was incredibly interesting.
So, whadda ya say? Care to find out if this is true?

Here is the
actual cave of the Lupercal, rediscovered recently, and brought to us by Bad Archaeology. Read the whole description; I'll quote the bits relevant to this study:
From literary sources, we know the Lupercalia was celebrated on February 15. Priests, known as Luperci, would sacrifice two male goats and a dog, and two young patrician youths would be smeared with the blood, after which it would be wiped off with wool dipped in milk. Leather thongs would be cut from the skins of the sacrifices, and the priests would run around the Palatine, striking everybody they came upon. Girls who were struck were thought to become extra fertile. The ceremony lasted until the end of the 5th century, when it was outlawed by Pope Gelasius.
Does sacrificing two goats and a dog, smearing a priest with the blood, cleaning him off with wool and milk, making sandals and running around the town slapping people sound like Valentine's Day to you?
I have read article after article that claims unequivocally that since young men would pair off with young women in Rome, then Valentine’s Day is certainly a pagan co-opt. I’m sorry, but these pairings were determined by lottery, lasted a year, and often resulted in marriage. Not what I would expect from a Valentine. 
Oh, wait. What's this? "The ceremony ... was outlawed by Pope Gelasius"?? Now, isn't that interesting!

Pope Gelasius I sent a letter to Senator Andromechus, mocking him for wanting to legalize the pagan celebration. This letter was spared being lost to history, and was recorded for us in Dr. Andreas Thiel’s book “Epistolae Romanorum pontificum genuinae et quae ad eos scriptae sunt A.S. Hilaro usque ad.” Did you get all that? Say that five times, fast. Have fun finding that fat little pumpkin in English, though. So to give us a better idea of what this letter contained, I will quote from Thomas Hodgkin’s book Italy and Her Invaders” Volume 3, pages 443-445 instead:
Happily, however, we may now turn from this monotonous controversy to behold the Pope trampling out the dying, but not quite dead, embers of Paganism. There was still a party at Rome, with the Senator Andromechus at their head, who wished to keep up the old heathen orgies of the Lupercalia, that strange rite made memorable by Mark Antony’s share in it, on the day when, after running naked through the Forum, he knelt down and offered the diadem to Caesar. This custom had not been suppressed along with the other heathen observances, and now Andromachus and his party wished to perpetuate it. They pleaded that none of the earlier Popes had objected to the rite. It used to be thought that the touch of the Lupercalian’s thong [sandal] falling on the shoulders of the Roman matrons brought with it a peculiar good fortune [fertility]. It could, at any rate, do no harm to keep alive so ancient a custom. Gelasius replied, with bitter scorn, that though earlier pontiffs might not have been strong enough to suppress the heathen observance, he was, and would exercise his power. If Andromachus and his party really believed the Lupercalis to be a religious act, let them take the shame of it on themselves, themselves rush about like naked madmen through the streets, and not, as was now the custom, put off the shame of it on others, their inferiors in rank. The observance of the Lupercalia had not brought luck to Rome in past times, had not saved her from the sword of Aleric or the ships of Gaiseric. Nay, even in later days, the terrible scenes which marked the strife between Anthemius and Ricimer had not been averted by this silly and licentious rite. He could not lay down the law for pagans, but to Christians he spoke in a voice to which they must hearken. No baptized person, no Christian, should dare to take part in the impious orgy: if he did, he should be without hesitation cut off from the communion of the faithful.
We know not the result, but it cannot be doubted that such a mandate, coming from such lips, was sufficient to destroy the Lupercalian festival.
So - the Roman Empire officially outlawed the Lupercalia. The pagans still keeping it were outlaws. Senator Andromechus was begging for it to be legal again - and was denied by Pope Gelasius. The Catholic Church threatened excommunication for anyone taking part in it. They destroyed it. They did not absorb it. And anyone out there who says they did has only a broken leg to stand on.

Here is the essence of what I thought was incredibly interesting about this study.
Gelasius I was Pope from 492 to 496 AD. That is well past the time when the Armstrongist groups claim the Catholic Church had compromised with paganism. It was 110+ years after Emperor Theodosius I "the Great" declared Christianity the official religion of Rome and basically outlawed paganism. But here is Gelasius I, Bishop in Rome, telling the Roman Senate that had the Popes before him been influential enough they would have ended pagan practices themselves. As it turns out, Gelasius I was the first to be powerful enough to do such a thing. Did he compromise and absorb paganism? No. He fought against it; exactly like his predecessors did for 4 centuries.
Interesting, no? 
Now, allow your mind to wander a while and contemplate the many implications of this.

It is no secret that the Catholic Church institutes feasts for individual Saints on most days throughout the year, and all Saints on November 1st. It is believed that Valentine is the name of more than just one martyr. Perhaps there is only one St. Valentine, but more likely there could be as many as three. In the Catholic tradition, should this name not have a feast? Of course it should. Well, in 496 AD, this same Pope Gelasius who crushed Lupercalia also chose February 14th (not 15th) as the feast of the saint(s) named Valentine.

So, if I propose that this wasn’t another case of absorbing paganism, then one would ask - how did they get the pagan symbolism then?

Geoffrey Chaucer.

According to the Virtual Museum, Chaucer is “
the Architecht of Valantine's Day". According to their article, Chaucer:
brought together the imagery of blooming spring and the tradition that birds choose their mates in spring to describe the courtship of Richard II and Anne of Bohemia. In The Parliament of Fowles Chaucer also chose Saint Valentine as a patron for that marriage, which is the first mention of Saint Valentine in a love poem. Also in the poem are other symbols of love which came to be associated with Saint Valentine's Day: Cupid and Venus. Chaucer thus began a tradition of composing love poetry on Saint Valentine's Day.

Once I was able to track this little factoid down, I began finding it confirmed in several other places.
For instance, Jack B Oruch in his book “St. Valentine, Chaucer, and Spring in February” p. 534, says:
Although many critics speak of these two works as belonging to a “Valentine tradition,” and some even discuss ways in which Chaucer makes innovations in the “Valentine convention,” no evidence has been discovered of such a tradition, either literary or in social customs, before Chaucer.
So, Chaucer really was the first to come up with this stuff.

For another perspective, read “Chaucer and the Cult of Saint Valentine” by Henry Ansgar Kelly. Or read the, in their article “Valentine’s Day History”. I obviously don’t agree with everything in that article, but there is some good info there.

So, a lot of people say the Catholic Church co-opted Valentine’s Day from Lupercalia. Are they right? Here’s what I think happened --

In 392-393 AD, Emperor Theodosius I of Rome made the pagan rites and sacrifices illegal throughout the empire. This didn't utterly stamp out the practices, however. In 492-496 AD, Pope Gelasisus I effectively ended the practice of Lupercalia in Rome. He didn't absorb it. He didn't co-opt it. He instituted Valentine’s Day as a feast day for the saint(s) by that name. This feast had nothing at all to do with the practices of Lupercalia. It was nothing like we know it today, either. For one thousand years this day has been solely about the Saints’ feast. Along comes the English poet, Chauser, and now, for the first time, Valentine’s Day has romantic overtones and some pagan symbolism (Cupid, etc). That caught on, and here we are. From what I’m seeing, the Armstrongists are simply not in the right on this one.

There are a lot of ministers within Armstrongism who teach that history cannot be trusted. They claim all of the records were changed by the Catholics. They accuse the Catholics – without evidence, mind you - of being deceitful. They say it is a massive conspiracy by Satan to bury “the truth.” How does one prove this? If the entire historical record is so uselessly unreliable, how does anyone prove anything from history? It can’t be done!
And their solution to this dilemma is… to make up history. Yes, they turn right around and do the very thing they accuse the Catholics of doing! They make up another history, a history favorable to them, a history fabricated from nothing but ideology and imagination. Meanwhile they can neither prove the Catholics wrong nor themselves right.

Any reasonable person would have to disagree with this whole fiasco. Baseless claims on top of baseless claims. It’s patently ridiculous. I don’t accept, “We say they are wrong, and since they’re wrong, what we want to be true must be true.” I reject that.
They have never proven that history is unreliable. Meanwhile, we’ve shown here on this blog time after time that it is Herbert Armstrong and his ministers who have routinely changed history and distorted the record. That's not just an empty claim, or my opinion. We have proven this. One way we prove this is to go to their source material – if they have any. What have we found time and time and time again? They have misquoted, distorted, omitted, and lied. They say the source material says one thing, and we show you how that simply is not the case. There is no way to blame that on the Catholics!

I believe that history is plenty reliable. So long as we go in search of what actually is true, as opposed to going in search of what we wanted to find in the first place. Also, we need to use several of the best, most authoritative sources available. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that all sources are not equal.

I sincerely hope you have enjoyed our walks through the history of the holidays. I hope they have been beneficial and educational to you. This is going to be my last walk with you like this. I’ve seen enough, so far as it goes, and the truth has truly set me free.

I hope you are inspired to prove all things, just as the Bereans Did. I hope you are set free to walk with our Lord Jesus Christ unencumbered. May you be emboldened and empowered by the truth. I pray for you all to find joy and peace in this life and the next. For all of you who are still in the COG groups, loved by God and sought after, may our Lord Jesus Christ lead you into the New Covenant in His blood. Step into the New Covenant!

It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; ) Acts 17:11


Redfox712 said...

Excellent articles, both this and the last one are very good and every Armstrongite should read these.

I have highlighted them on my blog.

Thank you for your hard work and research.

xHWA said...

Thank you for your kindness and support, RF!

I blame my success on God.

Richard said...

I'll be trying a different sort of provocative logic in my COG group over the next few days.

God is love - yet on February 14, love is wrong. Why?

xHWA said...

I would be interested in hearing their response to that, Richard.

xHWA said...

Some people might wonder what I would say in response to Gary Petty's recent UCG article on "St. Valentine, Cupid, and Jesus Christ".

First, I would say it seems Mr. Petty has been reading our material. I don't mind; it's free to use. (I just wish he would let it sink in is all.)

Second, I would say it should come as no surprise that the author insists the Lupercalia has pagan origins. It goes without saying that the UCG would lose out if they actually printed an article that was anything other than negative towards a mainstream holiday. To expect that they would be impartial, or even positive, is to completely misunderstand the game.

Thirdly, Mr. Petty ties Lupercalia to St. Valentine's Day mainly through the writing of one Robert J. Myers. The UCG article could very well have been a review of Myers' book.
Myers' book is widely read and cited fairly often enough, but it still (somewhat understandably because of when it was written) contains some very erroneous claims.
But if we are completely honest with the material, Myers does not definitively tie Valentine's Day to the Lupercalia as Mr. Petty has done. Myers says this, "The most plausible theory for St. Valentine's Day traces its customs back to the Roman Lupercalia." This is a statement of Myers' opinion and bears emphasis that other theories exist and were never mentioned by Mr. Petty (refer back to my second point).

Fourthly, Mr. Petty make some hefty and unsupported claims. Take this for instance, "Pope Gelasius is said to have eradicated Lupercalia from Christian observance in the last decade of the fifth century. But in reality, the intermingling of paganism and Christianity had become inseparable in much of the Western world."
From what source is this conclusion taken? It doesn't say. Not from Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, that's for sure!
So, something has been said, but that can't be right apparently because Mr. Petty doesn't want it to be right. And that should be good enough for you. Gelasius tried to eradicate the Lupercalia but it has survived, and that is why we kill goats and make thongs and slap girls with them even to this day.

--Remember, this is the very office of Pope who supposedly has the power to change Saturday and Holy Days and hide it all from history by destroying all the evidence... but can't undo the Lupercalia? Not buying it.

[to be continued in the next comment]

xHWA said...

[continued from previous comment]

Fifth, Petty contradicts himself on at least two different occasions.
First, in glossing over what Gelasius said regarding the Lupercalia. Having just read my article, you know what Gelasius said, and you know the attitude the Roman Bishops of that time had towards this paganism. Mr. Petty recognized that Gelasius tried to eradicate paganism, and that paganism was outlawed in Rome around 391 AD, but Mr. Petty would then also have us believe it was common Catholic practice to simply adopt all pagan holidays and change their names. They both cannot be true.
Second, Mr. Petty weaves a fine tale about the Roman gods, claiming the Catholics just renamed pagan holidays after saints and that was that for that, but Mr. Petty also recognized that churches regularly set memorials on the anniversaries of martyrs' deaths. If Valentine's Day is a memorial of a martyr, and we know it was, then it cannot be just another case of renaming a pagan holiday. They cannot both be true.

Sixth, keep your eye on the bouncing ball. If you haven't noticed the anachronisms thus far, then I'll spell them out.
Mr. Petty uses evidence from hundreds of years in the future to sully something in the past. This is called "anachronism" and it is improper. Mr. Petty says, and I paraphrase, that Gelasius tried to eradicate Lupercalia, but after the fact in the 14th century perhaps we find the effort was unsuccessful, therefore before the fact the origin of Valentine's Day is the Lupercalia. Post hoc ergo propter hoc.

Seventh, we are to believe that since the Catholic Church supposedly spread out and adopted pagan holidays therefore all holidays are pagan? I don't buy that. Where are all of these days? ABD has many articles on the origins of Christmas and Easter, so I can think of only one possible example - Halloween. ONE example does not a shut-case make. In fact, it's downright pathetic.
We know the origin of St. Valentine's Day, we know Gelasius started it in honor of St. Valentine the martyr, we know he hated and wanted to eradicate the Lupercalia, to claim anything else is simply grossly dishonest no matter how badly you may want to believe such a thing.

Eighth, some of Mr. Petty's claims about history are just not right. Notice how Mr. Petty drags Mithra into this. If I had a nickle for every time I had to sit through an error-filled waxing-on about Mithra I wouldn't need a day job. If you haven't read our articles on the origins of Christmas, please do. The reality of Mr. Petty's claims regarding Saturnalia and Mithra will become obvious to you. Saturnalia has nothing to do with Mithra. Dies Natalis has nothing to do with Mithra. Sol is not Mithra. Mithra-worship was a secretive cult and not at all popular among the general popularion, so popular worship among Romans has little to do with Mithra.
Mithra is a buzz-phrase. A bogey man. It's a name Armstrongists recognize and are taught to have an instant negative reaction to, but Mithra is obviously not understood by Armstrongist authors such as Mr. Petty, and Mithra has no place here except to poison the well.
And his statement that, "Various spring fertility rites merged to form the basis of Easter celebrations" is utterly untrue! See our articles on the history of Easter for more.

Ninth, I remind you that Lupercalia's principle day was February 15th, not the 14th, and regardless of how much people want to say that Valentine's Day is simply a continuation of the Lupercalia, they aren't even on the same day, so there is no way possible that this is the Bishop of Rome simply slapping a new name on an old product. Yes, there were pagans in ancient Rome, but in almost every instance we can dig up, the Roman Bishop was ordering them to cease from their paganism. They were not capitulating. Whatever the church may or may not have done in Germania several centuries later has absolutely no bearing on this.

xHWA said...

In conclusion, the fact of the matter is that we have Gelasius' own words. Gelasius makes it clear his intent was to eradicate the Lupercalia. Gelasius also makes it clear that he set February 14th aside in honor of St. Valentine. We know how the day started. We know what Chaucer did to the traditions of the day. It is a herculean exercise of sheer ideological will to claim anything besides. It's intellectually dishonest IMHO.

Arthur and Teresa Beem said...

Thanks!! Great research.

Anonymous said...

Aaaaaaaahhhhhhh! Valentines Day is pagan because Cupid is included in it! As long as a pagan god is included, it becomes pagan and defiled! Yes it is wrong to romance on Valentines Day because Juno was honored on that day and since pagans romanced on that day, we also should not romance on that day because to do so would be to follow the way of the heathen Jer 10:2 and worshipping Yahweh in detestable ways Deut 12:29-31! Romancing on Valentines Day makes one ritually impure! Aaahhhhh! Hislop produced a symbol of Cupid holding a heart! Valentine comes from the Latin Valentinus, which derives from valens—“to be strong, powerful, mighty.” The Bible describes a man with a similar title: “And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord: wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord” (Gen. 10:8-9). He was said to have hunted with bow and arrow. Venus and her son Cupid, then, were none other than the Madonna and the child! See Cupid with heart symbol here as is the case with Valentines Day!

xHWA said...

Welcome Anon,

I disagree with your conclusion. I disagree that once a pagan god is introduced then it becomes defiled.

You say, "it is wrong to romance on Valentines Day because Juno was honored on that day and since pagans romanced on that day".
Proof, please?
Juno was not worshiped on that day. Juno was almost always worshiped on the first day of the month. So, your claim is untrue.
As additional proof of my claim, please do follow this link to view the Philocalian Calendar, which was written in 336 AD for the year 354 (this is prior to the institution of the Feast of St. Valentine:
Philocalian Calendar on
Notice how February 14th had no feast days at all.

I couldn't help but notice that your truth claims are based on the book by Alexander Hislop. I highly recommend you read the book "The Babylon Connection" by Ralph Woodrow.