Valentine’s Day has an obscure history thats been lost by the hands of time. We’re taught to accept the story of an obscure Saint Valentinus who was martyred by the Roman Emperor Claudius in the Third Century. White-washing whatever celebration predicated this legend, by providing an avatar aligned with the virtues of the time period influenced by celibacy and sex for procreation only. The problem with this, is that history has shown there were three other Saint Valentines, which were all used to influence this holiday, centuries before the one we’ve been sold.
First we must explore the origin of the actual holiday from it’s Pagan roots…
The festival, Lupercalia, or ” wolf festival” , ran from February 13-15. This was a Roman festival of Pagan origin, dating back to the founding of Rome in 753 BC. It was originally inspired by honoring the Greek deity Pan. The festivals were a series of purity and fertility rituals that involved sacrificing animals, and sexual rites. There is a tradition we’ve come to modernize as well. During this festival, the Romans performed a “dating” lottery where young women would put their names in vase, and a young bachelor would select the name. The person selected would be the person they’d participate in sexual rituals with, while also maintaining this sexual relationship throughout the rest of the year. These rituals were not only meant for the purity and fertility of the individual, but of also the land. The holiday was intended to be an opportunity for all people to fall in love with creation.
It would make sense that the Christians would eventually tie our Saint Valentine of the third century to this mythology, since he is the antithesis of the origin. This points our attention to the most obvious candidate, the Gnostic Heretic Valentinus of Alexandria.
Valentinus was a Second Century religious leader from Rome. He was venerated by both Gnostics and Christians throughout his life. It was said he conceived the notion of the Holy Trinity, was famous for his poetic philosophy, and almost became Pope.
Unlike the other Saints, there is actual evidence that Valentinus promoted romance. He also had a great understanding of the mystery of love, and how it is the key to creation.
‘The Encyclopedia of Religion’ (Page 572) states that Valentinus “permitted intercourse only between men and women who were able to experience it as a mystery and sacrament.” It also explains that Valentinus was “the only early Christian on record who spoke lovingly about sexual intercourse and womanhood…”
Valentinus and his followers practiced the Bridal Chamber, a secret ritual of spiritual purification and Christ-consciousness. Some scholars have proposed that sacred sex might have been part of this ceremony.
While Christianity denounced women and the divine aspects of sex, Valentinus supported them. This is most evident in the Valentinian scripture, The Gospel of Philip:
“Indeed marriage in the world is a mystery for those who have taken a wife. If there is a hidden quality to the marriage of the world, how much more is the undefiled marriage a true mystery! It is not fleshly but pure. It belongs not to desire but to will. It belongs not to the darkness or the night but to the day and the light.”
In another passage, The Gospel of Philip states:
“Those who are separated will be united and will be filled. Everyone who will enter the Bridal Chamber will kindle the light, for it burns just as the marriages which are observed at night. That fire burns only at night and is put out. But the mysteries of this marriage are perfected rather in the day and the light.”
The Gospel of Philip has a great understanding of the transformative power of love, and goes on to declare “love is the wind through which we grow.”
However, Valentinus did not condone shallow encounters, nor casual sex. He stressed that love should be approached with both responsibility and reverence.
We tend to associate the concept of romantic love and Valentine’s day with the art of Renaissance period. Whereas, it was a time where art and music could adequately communicate the complexity of the sacred nature of love, being more than a feeling. It’s the time period where romance became the obvious muse of the period. We forget that these traditions have been celebrated longer than it’s namesake.
The Pagans understood the seasons, and our relationship with cosmology. The holidays from our Pagan past have an astrological relationship, bridging the movements of stars and planets to actions of humans and life. The moon, the sun, the stars, and planets, all have relationships that connect them/us to better understand the identity. The astrological nature of each holiday relates to why it is, and what its energies are surrounded by. Myth changes the form of the origin story and original intent, but the stars know the truth always.