Of Flayed Goats and Nudie Races, or: A Lesson in Love and Roman History

At this time of year, I generally write a blog in defense of Valentine's Day. But this year, I really can't. It's not because I am embittered, because I'm not. I'm actually quite in love, which makes my breakfasts taste better, the wind smell sweeter, and trite holidays just a little more bearable. Something to be smirked and winked at.

And I won't use the excuse that the day isn't a real holiday. Because it IS! My problem is just that we're all celebrating the WRONG holiday! And unlike most people, I can't find it in me to blame the greeting card companies. Who, then, do I blame?


That's right. St. Valentine's Day is yet another bastardization of a glorious ancient Roman festival, the Festival of Lupercalia, and I say we take this holiday right the flip back!!! Who's with me?


Little is known of the origins of the Lupercalia. Since "lupus" is Latin for "wolf", historians tend to believe that perhaps the festival originated to honor the She-Wolf who suckled the twins Romulus and Remus. The festival was held every year at the Lupercal, the cave in Rome in which the twins supposedly did their suckling. The festivities were overseen by the Luperci, special priests who sacrificed goats and dogs to the gods. Apparently, dogs and goats were believed by the ancients to have remarkably strong sexual instincts.

At this point, all of these wealthy Roman noblemen would strip down butt naked. They would take the bloody sacrificial knife and wipe goat/dog blood all over their faces until the blood dripped in their eyes. They would also laugh maniacally. I'm not making this up. It was an integral part of the ceremony.

Covered in goat blood and butt naked, the men would then feast and drink entirely too much wine. And here's where it gets REALLY romantic.

The men would then tie the bloody sacrificed goatskin, or februum, about their naked bodies. Their wives would line up along the road.

And then the men would run laughing maniacally through the streets, naked but for a bloody goatskin, hitting all of the ladies of Rome with their bloody goatskin capes as they ran. I'm not making this up! The women clambored after the men hoping to be hit by bloody goatskins because it was believed that being hit by the bloody goatskin would cause them to be more fertile. It was a rite and a tradition believed to purify both the land and the people of Rome.

And for my money, it is WAY more exciting than this so called "Valentine's Day" garbage!!! I'm not really even sure why Pope Gelasius did away with it. There was also a celebration in honor of Juno Februata, the goddess of febris (Latin for "fever"... rawr!) which required boys and girls to draw lots and be "partners" for the rest of the year. But nothing so interesting as goatskin floggings!

So put away that crappy milk chocolate! Burn that red gorilla toy that sings "Wild Thing"! Grab that special lady in your life, light a few candles, and flog her with a bloody goat skin.

Because that's how babies are made.


jlc1400 13 years, 3 months ago

Thats was a fantastic read. Thanks for the history lesson, although it wasn't that different from my valentines day this year...

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