Hearts and Flowers: Reclaiming Valentine's Day
Article ID: 8286
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 3,093
Times Read: 17,388
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Author: Sia@FullCircle [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: February 12th. 2006
Times Viewed: 17,388
This story is for those among us who hate Valentine's Day because they find it meaningless, commercial and depressing. It doesn't have to be that way...
It's February 14th, 1987 - Somewhere in Los Angeles, nine women are dining in an elegant restaurant. The group is a mixed circle of ages, sizes, colors, and lifestyles. They have three things in common: they have been friends for years, they are all single, and they are dressed to kill.
"Why should we sit home on Valentine's Night feeling lonely and full of self pity?" they said. "Let's get out there and celebrate." And so they did.
They have a marvelous time. The restaurant is lovely, the service perfect, and the food superb. The women tell stories and jokes and toast one another frequently. Nearby diners sneak curious glances at their table. "Why are they staring at us?" the women ask. "They are wondering", the waiter says, "which of you is the bride-to-be."
During the meal, the women read poems and limericks.(1) Some of the women read their own work, some recite old favorites. Earthy female laugher erupts from the table as the friends read aloud from works by Dorothy Parker and Edna Saint Vincent Millay .
The ladies at this table are not looking for a lover to "rescue" them from their lives and they do not think that loving another person will somehow solve all their problems. They are grown-ups, after all. Still, this is a fairy story so something magical is bound to occur. What happens is this: each woman celebrates her best Self this night, a unique creation she sees mirrored back to her in the loving faces of her friends. Some of these women will choose to love again and they will remember what is due that Self and choose their partners more wisely then they have before. Some in that Circle will choose to live alone and give their love(2) to the things that matter to them the most. All these women will have lives that are equally rich; filled with laughter, inspiration, and grace. It's all in how you play it.
But, I digress.
The ladies finish the main course and the dessert cart arrives to much rejoicing. One small ritual remains to close the Circle, and that involves the giving of gifts. Names were chosen by lot beforehand and the rule was this: presents had to cost less than $15.00 and each gift must be a token; something that represents what each woman likes most about that particular friend. The best part of the evening is now spent in a haze of chocolate decadence as the women open their presents and share the meaning of these gifts with one another.
It is late when their celebration ends. The women go their separate ways and each carries her special gift home with her.
I still have mine.
Fast forward now to late January 2004 - I am standing in the aisle of our local superstore, talking into the cell phone with my friend Molly and laughing so hard my sides hurt. Anyone walking by will see a crazy lady surrounded on all sides by pink and red hearts. She appears to be talking to herself and tears of mirth are running down her cheeks.
I'm laughing because everywhere I look I see hearts in the shape of candles, dishes, decorations, and gifts. I see hearts on hundreds of cards, hearts on t-shirts, hearts on purses, on mirrors (which sends me into more gales of laughter) and on pillows. I'm standing in the center of six solid aisles of hearts and thinking, "Thank you, thank you, thank you!" It's at that moment that I have to call my gal-pal. I need to share this with another woman who understands...
Bear with me, all ye who hate this holiday for I will reveal a mystery. For years, we've been told that the heart symbol is an ideogram(3) for romantic love. It doesn't stop there, of course. There is the idea of Courtly Love and then there is sex. Speaking of sex, let's consider that arrow which is sometimes represented as penetrating the heart and the other decorations we find where two hearts are paired...."Dr. Freud, please call your office."
Ideograms are scattered throughout our past, ("Professor Campbell, your class is waiting") and they serve a very valuable function. Nevertheless, I'm going to ask you to see the heart symbol in a different, yet connected way, because I believe it to be a sacred shape .
For many in the Earthwise community that heart symbol is our version of Sheila-Na-Gig. This concept has been discussed by feminists for many years, and was recently re-stated by Gloria Steinem in her wonderful forward to The Vagina Monologues. She writes:
"...the shape we call a heart -- whose symmetry resembles the vulva far more than the asymmetry of the organ that shares its name -- is probably a residual female genital symbol. ...I thought of this while watching little girls drawing hearts in their notebooks, even dotting their i's with hearts, and I wondered: Were they magnetized by this primordial shape because it was so like their own bodies?" The heart symbol comes in shades from blushing rose, to blood red, as is proper for the colors of passion and romance. Is this heart's blood, we ask, or does it belong to some other organ? You decide.
Here is another question: Why is it that western culture prefers to have only its females associated with the heart shape? Males rarely wear or receive this symbol (except when they are given a pair of boxer shorts with hearts on the front as a joke). Is this segregation due to the belief that love is a woman's main concern, or is it because some part of us recognizes that this symbol is, in fact, uniquely female?(4)
And now you see why I was laughing. Here I was standing in (dare I say it?) the commercial heart of Western culture, and I was surrounded by thousands of silly-sacred, woman-shaped, sex-positive symbols. (Really, when you think about it, those greeting card folks are a lot of filthy minded old so-and-so's... Gods love 'em.)
As for the giving of flowers, well, that's a longer story for another time. I will simply remark that flowers have always been a symbol of love, fertility, and romance and point you to the evocative flower paintings of Georgia O'Keefe.
Sometime in the future - All over the world, those who wish to reclaim this holiday for their own (both men and women) visit a website called V-Day. V-Day is a global movement to stop violence against women and girls. There are V-Day events happening near you - check it out.
We have a chance this month to look in the mirror and to see our own unique gifts. From that vision comes empowerment and from the rich soil of empowerment blossom creativity and change. We can do that magic alone, among our friends or through community action. What matters most is that we celebrate the heart in ways that truly honor our Selves and one another.
Here's to the sacred and sexual beauty of women all over the world!
(1) Bawdy limericks are an art form. You'd be amazed at what can be done with clean language by a dirty mind.
(2) The ancient Greeks believed that there is more then one kind of love. For a discussion of Eros, Philia and Agape, visit the Philosophy of Love page.
(3) An ideogram is a sign or symbol that directly represents a concept, idea, or thing.
(4) Why not fly in the face of tradition and buy a heart-shaped present for a man? Real men (whether they be straight, gay or bisexual) appreciate the Goddess. If he's got a sense of humor, let him in on the joke.
Location: Portland, Oregon
Author's Profile: To learn more about Sia@FullCircle - Click HERE
Bio: Sia is the Council Leader for Full Circle Events, a non-profit Neo-Pagan group which hosts the annual Beltane Ball and The Witches Ball. They also offer a California Community Events Calendar. Sia lives in Northern California with her husband. Also living with them are four cats, a three-legged dog and any number of wild things which inhabit their native garden. She can be reached for comment at email@example.com.
Image: This heart wreath comes from the Smithsonian Museum gift store and was inspired by their collection of Victorian Era postcards. The Smithsonian gift store is a great place to shop for Americana and unique gifts. The Smithsonian Institute oversees the American Indian Museum, the Air and Space Museum, the African Art Museum, the Natural History Museum, the National Zoo and other national treasures. Pagan Parents, nature lovers and history buffs will find a lot to love on their website(s).
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Other Articles: Sia@FullCircle has posted 23 additional articles- View them?
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