So...Valentine's Day, huh? Flowers, romantic suppers, heart boxes of chocolates and candy kisses...time tested traditions, Right? Well...not for everyone. Some extremist Christians think it is rather diabolical. Peace, Light, and Love, all rolled up in the story of an imprisoned saint, to conceal the corrupting influence of... hum, let me see...SATAN!?!
That's not quite right, either. It isn't infernal, but neither is it “sacred” history.
Lupercalia was a Roman (and possible pre-Roman) pastoral celebration to drive out evil spirits, and welcome in health and fertility. Later on, the festival was held to honor Lupa, the she-wolf who nursed Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome. Two goats and a dog were sacrificed, the pelts later made into strips with which the priests would strike the citizens. Women and girls especially tried to be lashed, as it was thought to increase fertility, reverse sterility, and ease childbirth. Not exactly wine and roses, but definitely a celebration of sex.
And that heart candy? The heart shaped cards, etc.? Now, you all know that this..
So, when did this...
There are several theories. One is based on the idea that early healers were discouraged from viewing actual body organs, so they symbolized them. In this example of early French art, a young suitor offers his “heart” to his lady love. It bears a striking resemblance to today's stylized heart.
Anciently, the heart was the seat of the soul, the organ that controlled Love, Life, and Vitality. The heart of the reborn Osiris was a powerful touchstone in Egyptian religion and magic. In Mesoamerica, the beating heart of a human sacrifice guaranteed renewal between the gods and humankind.
The stylized heart bears resemblance to the ivy leaf, another symbol of emotion. It is also shaped like the silphium seed. This plant, now extinct, was an effective contraceptive. It was even depicted on currency.
(One site mentioned it would be like printing the image of a condom on a $1 bill.)
Then there is the theory that the “heart”, when inverted, looks like a human scrotum. Hum. Interesting. Let's not go there.
Here's a great little film about the development of the “heart” symbol. Give it a look-see!
However you celebrate...beating each other with “wolf whips”, getting mushy over a meal, or sitting home watching “Sherlock” with a cuppa and a Whitman sampler, enjoy yourselves, me “hearties”!