Thursday, February 14, 2013

VD! Not That Kind

Credit: TARDIS Coloring Page by VioletSuccubus on DeviantArt - For time travel use only.
I have nothing insightful or particularly profound to offer up on this Saint Valentine's Day, but I thought I'd try to bring together all my passing knowledge of the holiday. I have decided to work backward, as I could not quite come up with a way to work from a point of origin to the present day... so, let's take a ride backward through time, linearly.

There was more than one Saint Valentine. I think there were seven, or eleven (open 24 hours a day?). Of course, this holiday is said to be named for a particular Saint, martyred for performing forbidden marriages. Notably, marriages for Roman Soldiers who were not allowed to wed while engaged with their soldiering duty. I don't recollect that I ever knew a time frame for this story.

What I do know is that it became associated with Courtly Love. This is no ordinary love, but a distant and chivalrous courting affair. ...Courtly love is a little weird and, I think, largely misunderstood by people who romanticize the notion.

To take us further back in time; the Valentine for whom the holiday appears to be named lived during the rule of the Roman Emperor Claudius. The Christian church was fledgling, and Claudius was not a Christian. (I've never been happier to be a humanities student who studied 3 years of Latin. I can finally tie all this together. Of course, I have a lot more information to which all this is tied that I couldn't hope to dump into a post - nor would I torture you in that fashion, my gentle reader.)

Overall, most people are at least passingly aware that many of our modern holidays, particularly tied to the Christian faith (or inspired by its influence), were created and placed in such a way as to overwrite older, pagan celebrations. Valentine's Day seems to be no exception. Mind you, this was not a uniquely Christian practice. Within pantheons, one deity's festivals could be subsumed by the rise of another, similar deity's worship...

Lupercalia was a festival held from February 13th-15th and while it probably had a lot of nuances I am forgetting, it was a kind of 'rebirth' festival. It's difficult to think of expecting spring while it's snowing out side where I am... and I'm pretty sure even Rome is at the same or a very similar latitude... but, it is what it is. Daffodils and some other plants bloom this early, despite the cold... so who am I to say nay to the ancients that wanted to party in the name of Spring as soon as possible?

At the same time, but temporally earlier in history than Lupercalia, was the "Februa" festival. This was a festival of cleansing and/or purification. "Spring Cleaning," if you will. (Februa. Roman month Februarius... February. (That word gets weirder the more you type it.).) It was celebrated on the same days during which Lupercalia was celebrated.

These sorts of events have always interested me. Somewhere in there came the chocolates and the love letters and then the candy hearts and witty cards. Somewhere in there it became highly commercialized, to the point that flower commercials sound more like invitations for men to compete with one another through showings of status and public gift-giving (there's been a commercial locally for a flower delivery company that shows snippets of interviews with women talking about how their husbands/boyfriends made all the other women jealous, and put all the other men to shame by purchasing superior arrangements). Then came the bitterness and a little spite. And somewhere in that we've lost the cleansing festivals, the celebrations of spring-to-come, and even the notions of distant, courtly, transcendent love. I want to take it a touch further than that.

As frustrated as I may be with humanity, as curmudgeonly as I tend to feel toward my fellow people...

I love you all. I can't (and won't) give you flowers or chocolates or jewelry, but I can give you my respect and consideration and courtesy. Sometimes, I can give you fruits of my brain. This is a low-hanging fruit, and for that I apologize. (I keep trying to give you British s's ("apologise") but spell-check doesn't like them.) Those are things you have until you lose them, and sometimes you can gain them back. It may not seem as nice as flowers, but I hope it is all esteemed a little higher. Just a little?

Plus, I give you random information that you can probably fact-check against Wikipedia and tell me
where I screwed up if you need to feel better today.

Happy Love Day.
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