Whipping women with the hides of the animals dipped in sacrificial blood? It's a no for me.
Ah yes, it's that time of year again, when Hallmark and chocolate companies see an inflation in their stocks. Then again, it's safe to assume we know nothing about how the stock market functions anymore. We can thank GameStop for that. Each year, on February 14th, the world celebrates a capitalist construct that inevitably forces uncoupled individuals to feel like crap. But you're more familiar with this tradition as Valentine's Day.
For those who have already purchased your box of chocolates and booked a reservation to a fancy restaurant amidst a global pandemic, I bet you didn't know the very tradition you're celebrating has misogynistic origins. Let's unpack this, shall we?
What we know as Valentine's Day was formally known as the ancient Roman feast of Lupercalia, which was celebrated on the 15th of February around A.D. 270, kicking off with the traditional sacrifice of a goat and dog. A group of priests, referred to as the Luperci, would soak the hides of both animals in sacrificial blood and go around whipping young women.
Gee, what fun.
Groups of women would line up to receive this inane form of torture, which they believed would make them more fertile. In addition to the sadistic ritual, a matchmaking lottery was included, where young men drew the names of women from an urn, coupling up for the duration of the festival. This practice would often end in matriomy.
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How did a spooky Celtic festival transition into the universal tradition we know today as Halloween?
The pagan festival was dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.
Pope Gelasius eventually replaced the ritual with Valentine's Day. Of course, this didn't stop it from being a day of fertility and love. During the same time, a priest named St. Valentine of Terni went against the emperor Claudius II Gothicus' orders and secretly married young couples in love. But Gothicus believed unmarried men made better soldiers and executed St. Valentine on February 14, around 269 AD.
Because St. Valentine was executed for arranging forbidden marriages, his death is associated as a day of love.
In addition to St. Valentine, the Normans celebrated Galatin's Day, which translates into "lover of women." It was possible the Normans confused it with St. Valentine's Day partially because they sound alike.
Today, Valentine's Day has transformed from a tradition celebrating love, to a billion-dollar industry profiting off the love of others. According to The National Retail Federation, U.S. consumers spend an average of $21.8 billion for the holiday. Red roses and boxes of chocolates have replaced sexist rituals that once promised fertility. It's safe to say our traditions have evolved over the years.
However, we can't exclude the fact Valentine's Day originated from the depths of sexism and misogyny, and the modern customs we associate with it feed into capitalism. That's great if people want to celebrate their love through purchasing commodities to gift to their loved ones. But wouldn't it be more practical to treat your partner with respect and appreciation instead?
Not a sermon, just a thought.
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