When most think of Valentine’s Day they imagine sappy romantic comedies, cheesy Hallmark cards, chalky candy hearts and all of that other rubbish. But here at Werewolves.com, when we think of Valentine’s Day we picture wolves and bloodshed – we’re romantic like that. Well actually, according to an article written by werewolf expert Brad Steiger, author of The Werewolf Book, there is much more to Valentine’s Day than you may know. The holiday of love has historic roots in – you guessed it: wolves.
You may be wondering what on earth I am talking about, because we all know the sweet tale of St. Valentine. We were taught that in the year 271 Emperor Claudius of Rome issued a decree forbidding marriage. He did this after learning that married men didn’t make very good soldiers, because they wanted nothing more than to stay with their beloved wives and children. So Claudius issued his law that there should be no more marriages, and all single men should report for duty.
A kind priest named Valentine declared that such a decree was blasphemous, and he secretly continued to marry young lovers. When Claudius learned of this extreme act of defiance, he had Valentine executed on February 14. The priest was labeled a martyr and then a saint and Valentine’s Day, a day for lovers, was born.
Sound familiar? Well, what you may not know is that in the early days of Christianity it’s followers did everything they could to sway the populace to turn to their religion. Knowing how popular pagan gods and goddesses were, as well as the dates of pagan festivals, they set about replacing as many of the entities and the holidays as possible with ecclesiastical saints and feast days (which is why nearly every Christian holiday has ties to pagan ones).
Once upon an ancient time, mid-February was devoted to acts of love, acts much naughtier and lustier than the Church liked, so they claimed the days of February 14 through 17 as belonging to Saint Valentine, the holy martyr that bound couples in proper Christian love.
What happened before the Christians claimed these days? Well, some scholars found that the period of mid-February was a time for mating in multiple ancient cultures. Modern day lovers spend this time of year at an expensive restaurant, but in ancient times it was spent becoming a man and finding a mate.
Among the ancient Greeks and Romans, there was a Wolf Charmer known as the Lupicinus. The Lupicinus may have been an individual tribesman who had a particular gift for communicating with wolves. As the tribes developed agriculture and small villages, it was necessary to have a person skilled in howling with the wolves and convincing them not to attack their livestock. Some say that because he also wore the pelt of a wolf, the Lupicinus also had the ability to transform himself into a wolf.
Every year on February 15 the Romans held the Lupercali festival, a day of blooding rites. They would first sacrifice a goat and then a dog. The blood of the she-goat and the dog were mixed, and a bloodstained knife was dipped into the mixture and drawn slowly across the foreheads of two noble-born children. Once the children had been “blooded,” the gore was wiped off of their foreheads with wool that had been dipped in goat milk. As the children were being cleansed, they were expected to laugh. It was believed that laughing demonstrated their lack of fear of blood and their acknowledgment that they had received magical protection against wolves and wolfmen.
The god Lupercus, represented by a wolf, would then inspire the men to behave as wolves, to act much like werewolves during the festival.
That’s not all, there is more! Luperca, the she-wolf who suckled Romulus and Remus, may have given rise to secret groups known as the Luperci. According to some scholars, for centuries, the Luperci observed an annual ritual of chasing women through the streets of Roman cities and beating them with leather thongs. Once the wolfman had ensnared a woman with his whip or thong, he would take her away to be his wife or lover. Not very romantic is it? Well, as years passed, the Romans became less barbaric and the Lupercali was celebrated by a man binding the lady of his choice wrist to wrist, and later by suggesting to his woman a romantic meeting in some secluded place.
I’m sure you can see why the Church was quick to replace these bloodrites and lusty nights with a sweet day of wholesome love. Hence Valentine’s Day.
I’m sure many scholars will argue against this history of Valentine’s Day, however, there are also many who will fight for the truth of it. Personally, I love the fact that this day was once a day focused on wolves and sex. What do you think?
About the Author
Moonlight loves to write about, read about and learn about everything pertaining to werewolves and other supernatural beasties. She writes for top genre sites like Vampires.com and Werewolves.com. You will most likely find her huddled over a book of folklore with coffee in hand. Touch her coffee and you may lose a limb. You can stalk her via her Twitter.