Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Wolves, Arrows and an Important 30th

It’s a very busy week for festivals.  While you are busy practising your pancake making in preparation for Shrove Tuesday, and now you have finished posting your ‘Be My Valentine’ cards you can buck the trend and catch the tail end of the Festival of Lupercalia.


Celebrated from February 13 to 15, this ancient pastoral festival is thought to have originated in Ancient Greece and was meant to avert evil spirits and purify the city, releasing health and fertility. The name comes from the Greek word Lukos and the Latin Lupus meaning wolf.   It superseded the festival of Februa, an even more ancient spring cleansing ritual held on the same date, which gave the month of February its name.  It was celebrated up to the 5th century although less and less until the Christian Pope Gelasius finally abolished it as a pagan abomination.  Wikipedia credits  Plutarch with describing it thus:

Lupercalia, of which many write that it was anciently celebrated by shepherds, and has also some connection with the Arcadian Lycaea. At this time many of the noble youths and magistrates run up and down through the city naked, for sport and laughter striking those they meet with shaggy thongs. And many women of rank also purposely get in their way, and like children at school present their hands to be struck, believing that the pregnant will thus be helped in delivery, and the barren to pregnancy.
In Ancient Rome the festival started outside the cave where the legendary founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus lived with the she-wolf who suckled them until they could fend for themselves – hence the wolf connection.

Some believe that Valentine’s day was turned into a festival to replace the Lupercalia but others dismiss this idea totally.  Originally known as St Valentine’s Day, it was a religious festival with various contenders for the saint until the 14th century poet Chaucer published his poems about courtly love and by the 15th century it was well established in its present form.  Then in 1969  the Catholic church removed it as a saint’s day from the church calendar because there was no clear contender for the honour.  

...actually I wonder whether it would be such a good idea to resurrect the tradition  of Lupercalia around our uni campus after all.  The rugby club does not need any more ideas for rowdy behaviour!

...and to end this blog I have to say Happy Birthday to my son Jack who turned 30 on Valentine’s day.  It was bad enough when my youngest sister turned 30 but it is completely outrageous when my son does it!  It seems only yesterday he was a tiny 3lb bundle who arrived ten weeks early.  He was in a rush to be an Aquarian rather than a bullish Taurean.  He rang me saying how none of his friends were interested in his birthday as they were all too busy being romantic and that it was very inconvenient that I had arranged things in this way.  I had to remind him that he has disrupted my Valentine Days for the last thirty years!

*...and to those sharp eyed readers – yes I did make a mistake and think it was this Tuesday but – heh - it does mean that you have an extra week to practise your tossing!

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