The Untold Story of Valentine's Day
03/02/11 09:36 Filed in: Social
Eros and Anteros, Ephesus Museum.
Everyone knows that Valentine's Day on February 14th is a day of celebration for St. Valentine. However, it isn't widely known that he was just one of a group of Christian martyrs referred to collectively as the Valentine. Far from the ideals of love and Cupid's arrow, this is intended as a memorial to religious persecution and murder. So, what then is it exactly that we are celebrating on Valentines Day?
What few realize is that the Christian St. Valentine celebration was timed to coincide with the pagan Roman celebration of Lupercalia (a fertility rite and feast) in order to Christianize it.* This holiday originated with the Greeks, who celebrated February 14th as the sacred marriage between Zeus and Hera. But while this would seem to be the celebration of love and fidelity we honor today, even this is a cover for another story.
The real meaning can be found in the mythical love affair between Zeus and Aphrodite, the goddess of love associated with the planet Venus. It seems their little cosmic tryst resulted in Aphrodite getting pregnant and giving birth to a multitude of male Cherubs, also called "putti" or "erotes". The firstborn and leader of Aphrodite's Cherubs was Eros, the god of love from which we get the word "erotic."
As Eros and other Greek gods were later adopted by the Romans, Eros became Cupid, Zeus became Jupiter and Aphrodite became Venus. So, when we celebrate Valentine's Day today, we are unknowingly celebrating the adulterous affair of Jupiter and Venus that consummated in the birth of their lovechild Cupid out of wedlock. Valentines Day is more of a fertility rite than a celebration of fidelity and Cupid is proof of this.
But there's one more thing. Cupid didn't actually carry a bow and arrow. This was the property of his half-brother and boyfriend Anteros, considered by many Greeks and Romans as the defender of gay rights. Now, this is the untold story of Valentine's Day.
*Note: Lupercalia was a Roman celebration where young men would run naked through the streets pelting women with their lambskin loincloth to help make them fertile.