Kate Belew Kate Belew
3 minute read

Valentine’s Day may indeed have more ancient origins than the feast of Saint Valentine, a martyred saint who so many of us associate with the history of this holiday. Some historians believe today's holiday developed from a Pre-Roman and Roman festival of fertility and celebration called Lupercalia. 

Though no one knows when Lupercalia began, fragments have been found in the history books as far back as the 6th century B.C. Historians note that the roots of this wild festival took hold when the ancient and cruel King Amuliuis ordered his twin nephews to be thrown into the Tiber river to drown. The price of their mother’s broken promise of celibacy, a Vestal Virgin, was the lives of her two infants. In some stories, their father was the God Mars himself. 

At the last second, a servant, feeling merciful and unable to murder these two young sons, instead placed Romulus and Remus into a woven basket and sent them off down a river. The great river God saw what had happened and carried the two boys to safety downriver, captured by the branches of a wild fig tree. 

A she-wolf found the boys, rescued them from the basket, and kept them as her own in her den at the base of the hill where Rome would be founded one day. After staying with the she-wolf and being nursed back to health, Romulus and Remus were discovered by a kind shepherd and his wife, where they grew into their manhood, learning the trade of their adopted father. 

When they were old enough, they returned to the palace of King Amuliuis and killed him for ordering their death and punishing their mother. And after the deed had been done, as they co-founded Rome, they returned to the den of the she-wolf who saved them and cared for them and gave it the name of Lupercal. Legend has it that Romulus and Remus created the festival of Lupercalia to honor the she-wolf and the Roman fertility god Lupercus. 

The festival was raucous, sometimes violent, highly sexual, and sacrificial and took place during the month of February. 

It included ritual sacrifices, random coupling (which may have led to love matches), nakedness, and street drinking. This was done in the name of purification. These rites intended to banish any bad luck in Rome and call for prosperity and fertility in the year ahead. 

During February, wolves in the wild begin to mate, and the year's energy moves toward fertility and spring. To connect with this ancient ritual, consider your sexual energy, how you connect with your wildness, and what rites of initiation you might modernize and tend to as the wheel turns toward spring. The symbol of the wolf is a potent talisman to carry with you through the last and lingering winter days, step outside and let out a howl. 

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