Old Teen Essays
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Article ID: 4548
Age Group: Adult
Posted: February 11th. 2002
Take A She-Wolf To Lunch Day
It ain't all hearts and flowers and chocolate, you know. Valentine's Day, semi-truth be told, has a history ribald enough to set any respectable Christian saint into tsk-tsking from his grave or sepulcher or ossuary or wherever it is that good old saints go to retire from this earthly realm. Well, that's a pretty depressing way to start an article about a day dedicated to romance! And if you happen to be a dog owner or a goat herder, the 'truth' gets even worse from this point on. Yep, we're talkin' animal sacrifice here. You just might want to ask your beloved pups to leave the room while you read this. Even man's best friends have their limits. And if your favorite goat also happens to be in the room with you right now, I'm just going to assume that you do not have any big romantic plans for the 14th anyway due to some sort of scheduling conflict with your therapist. Please do keep that appointment. We are all very worried about you.
In the days before there was a St. Valentine- if there ever was a Saint Valentine- the 'any excuse for a party' Romans celebrated a festival known as Lupercalia. For 800 hundred years or so, this was one of those mysterious 'guy things'. Like ice fishing and sex. My ex-husband never could understand how I made that connection even after I recounted in great detail all of the obvious sexual symbolisms involved in the concept of a bunch of grizzled men and boys with poles sitting around a hole waiting for something to happen. He said that I just had a dirty mind. And that was one of the few things that he actually liked about me, by the way. But it must be one of my more endearing qualities because Fritz says that he rather likes that, too. Fritz does not, however, go ice fishing. And that is one of the things that I actually like the most about him. But let's get back to those toga guys...
Those of you who didn't sleep through your junior high school Ancient History course may recall the story of the founding of Rome by the twins, Romulus and Remus. Abandoned as infants, the boys were raised and suckled in a cave by a kindly she-wolf. (We have to assume that she was indeed a kindly she-wolf since she didn't seem to opt to have twins-on-a-stick for lunch in this story.) To celebrate the non-consumption of R&R by the she-wolf, every year on February 15th, young men and boys would gather at the same cave and perform the rite of passage. Goats and dogs were sacrificed to Faunus (or, in alternate versions, to Lupercus or the Greek Pan) and the blood from the sacrifice was then smeared on their foreheads to be wiped away immediately with a piece of wool soaked with milk. (This has obvious connections to a 'birthing rite' and there is some speculation that the ritual originally involved a Goddess rather than a God.) The men and boys then had to laugh loudly -undoubtedly the sight of one another helped to get that going- before gorging themselves on a large feast. Then they did what any guy in this situation would do: They got good and stinking drunk. The hide from the dog or goat sacrifice was cut into little loincloths for the naughty bits and little strips for the flailing of young women and girls in the town below. Ah, for the good old days, eh gals? We just don't see those hoards of blood-soaked drunken guys in loincloths come howling down from the hills and carrying whips often enough in these modern times. Perhaps that is why we truly were forced to embrace the solace of chocolate. The emotional loss of hide-bound, tipsy, and smelling vaguely of burnt dog whip-wielders probably led to the invention of other comfort foods like ice cream and potato chips, too.
The pre-modern good ladies of the town would assemble below the hill and wait for the guys to make their move. If this sounds rather pathetically like waiting by the phone, it probably was. I mean these guys were already drunk and smelly and having a fine old time in the Luper Clubhouse seeing who could belch the loudest or something. Eventually though, tradition won out and the men would do their duty. The women got their ritual whipping. The flailing was supposed to bestow good fortune and fertility upon the whipped. And you always wondered why the Roman Empire really collapsed? The whip was also a purification device. In fact the word for this whip is februa and that is, of course, where the name of this second month of our year came from. I don't remember learning about that part in junior high, do you? Maybe I slept through that chapter. No matter; luckily it wasn't on the final.
Another little nicety practiced by the Romans involved a sort of lottery. The names of young women were placed into some sort of container and the bachelors drew out a name and were then paired with this woman for a few months. There are various realms of thought on just what this actual 'pairing' may have entailed- the most lurid possible scenario, of course, is depicted by Hollywood and the more likely innocent symbolic gesture theory does not hold much interest for anyone with a healthy libido. Sex sells.
When the big bad monotheist religions came along, they decided that all these Pagan fun and games just had to go. Too much fun and too much sex were.. well...just too much fun and sex. So the Church took the lottery suggestion and substituted Christian saints. Great. So now one got to live the life of a saint for a year instead of getting drunk and running with the wolves. Did I mention that most saints were depicted as being celibate? The Church did keep the purification ritual of the whip however. Self-mortification was a big fad in all of the best priories. They even took the loincloth idea, but turned that into the always popular and oh-so-stylish hair shirt. And this is all supposed to be less kinky than Lupercalian rites somehow? Needless to say, the saint lotto system was never that bitchin', so the Church and romantic poets thought up the 'true love' scam. Love meant never having sex with the one you yearned for. It was all holy and cerebral and chaste. And if that brilliant idea had really worked out at all well we wouldn't be looking at rusty old chastity belts in the museums today.
Some of the lore of the Lupes was still practiced right up to modern times. Divination always being a popular pastime, in the 1800's, girls would place the names of all of their most preferable suitors into a bowl. The name drawn was supposed to foretell the perfect match to come. In other areas, the first eligible man or woman seen on Valentines' Day was deemed to be 'it'. One was also supposed to give this person a gift. If it was a really good gift, one could suppose that one would increase the odds of this person liking you a whole lot better than if you had simply said, "Nice day, huh?" That still works with some women, I hear. Super Bowl tickets or a new sports car for the guys might get you into his heart as well. Since there once was a tradition known as 'Valentining'- rather like trick-or-treating without the pumpkins- begging for heart related gifts has some considerable history behind it. One of the rhymes associated with 'Valentining' goes like this: "Good morrow, Valentine. First 'tis your and then 'tis mine. So please give me a Valentine." Mercenary, but honest.
It was somewhere in the 1860's or so that Valentine's Day went commercial. As the cost of printing materials went down, it became quite fashionable to send out printed cards on all of the holidays. From those humble beginnings arose the mega-complex of obligatory holiday gifts and salutations that keep Hallmark, Godiva and Bob's House of Shrimp in business today. And many folks probably still check out their mailboxes during the week of the hearts to see if someone special has sent them a Valentine's Day card. Or a whip.
Lest you think that I have a jaded view of love and romance, let me assure you that nothing could be further from the truth. The day that I met Fritz was one of the best days of my life. And each day with him is precious and special and totally wonderful. He is the love of my life and not just on Valentine's Day but also on every other day. My wish for each of you is that you find your own true love and live happily after together. Just don't put too much pressure on one little day, that's all. If your love brings you coffee in the morning or rubs your back when you're tired or can listen to you rant and rave about the toilet seat thing without cracking up, then I'd say chocolates or flowers or a romantic candlelit dinner for two are just some extra perks. Celebrate your love every day. It's good for the skin, improves the disposition and makes everyone around you wonder just what it is that keeps that smile on your face.
Of course, if he shows up at Bob's House of Shrimp wearing nothing but a loincloth, celebrating Lupercalia might not be such a bad idea either.
Walk in Love and Light,
Co-Founder - The Witches' Voice
Monday, February 11th, 2002
Image credit: The beautiful shot that anchors this piece was taken by Jeffrey Carl Jung (Fritz's brother) back in the 70's and seemed a wonderful choice. Fritz had been eye-balling this beautiful wine decanter since he was a child, but sadly mom auctioned it off for 4 grand a few years back.
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