Lupercalia is a Roman holiday that occurred on February 15th. It was celebrated to avert evil spirits, purify the city and release health and fertility upon its citizens. So how did the Roman’s go about this holiday? Well in the typical Roman way; sacrifice, nakedness and flogging.
Lupercalia rites were confined to the Lupercal Cave, the Palatine Hill and the Forum. The holiday started with a sacrificial male dog and male goat being led to the altar. There at the altar, the animals were sacrificed, though historians can not agree to which god these animals were sacrificed to. The animals were sacrificed by the Luperci, the brothers of the wolf, who were priests that were between the ages of 20 and 40.
The Luperci used instruments named the februa, this is in fact where we can the name February from. Once the sacrifices were made, the Luperci would anoint their foreheads with the blood of the animals and then wipe it clean with wool that had been soaked in milk. Then it was time for the feast! Leather thongs were cut from the animals and the Luperci would then run around the Palatine border near naked anticlockwise.
The priest would whip any woman that was in striking distance. Do not be alarmed! This was a very consensual affair. In fact, in early account, women would bare their breasts as they believed that the whipping would help with fertility. Also, during this time it is said that med would choose a woman’s name from a jar to be coupled with during the duration of the festival. Often the couple would stay together until the following Lupercalia and many even fell in love and married.
Over time the holiday became more chaste. There was less nudity and the women who were whipped, were only done so by the men. It was said the Lupercalia was still celebrated, much to the displeasure of the Popes, even after Christianity took a foothold in Rome. It is said that during the late 5th century Pope Gelasius I eliminated Lupercalia and declared it to be St. Valentines Day. Historians debate this rumor though stating that there is no proof that this happened. With the Christian church tendency to replace Pagan holidays with Christian ones it seems easy to accept the information that Pope Gelasius replaced Lupercalia with Valentines Day. It is up to you though, whether you decide to believe that one or not.
So this February 14, you can feel free to skip the Hallmark holiday of roses and chocolate and instead celebrate Lupercalia with some good old fashion flogging and sex, if that is your thing that is.
Until next time witches. May the brew in your cauldron never burn and your broom never splinter.