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The Backyard Ramble - Down With Valentine's Day (And Up With Lupercalia) Edition

February 15, 2014

Once again, Valentine’s Day has reared its ugly head, draining the wallets of those who are lucky in love and reminding those who are unlucky in love of their sheer and utter worthlessness. Does the suicide rate rise on Valentine’s Day? Probably…am I too lazy to do the proper research to confirm that suspicion? Definitely. What possible purpose does this holiday serve? While I can rattle off a centuries-spanning explanation involving the several different people named “St. Valentine,” Geoffrey Chaucer, the 15th century Parisian High Court of Love, and the appearance of “The Young Man’s Valentine Writer” in 1797, I won't, because I’d rather go old-school on this one and examine the occasion's Pagan roots in order to better understand what it's all about. Before there was a St. Valentine or a Christianity to celebrate his martyrdom,  there was a three-day festival that took place on the ides of February each year called Lupercalia, or "Wolf Festival." More Burning Man than Hallmark Holiday, its traditions were infinitely more awesome than the traditions we currently celebrate, and it just may hold the key to the true meaning of Valentine's Day.  (Disclaimer: there is considerable scholarly debate about the connection between Lupercalia and Valentine’s Day, so I am officially ending that debate today, in this blog, on a bar’s website: there is a connection. You’re welcome, society)


Lupercalia honored the Roman deity Faunus, who was sometimes known as Lupercus and was the Roman equivalent of the Greek god Pan. In a remarkable two-for-one-holiday-bonanza, it also honored Lupa, the she-wolf who, according to legend, nursed Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, because a little she-wolf appreciation now and then is a good thing for everyone. Lupercalia began each year in the cave of Lupercal (imagine that) near the Palatine Hill, the mythical birthplace of Rome; it celebrated purification and fertility, which is ancient world code for “gigantic, societal-sanctioned orgy.” It kicked things off on February 13th with a blood sacrifice of two goats and a dog (which only sounds fun if there is something very, very wrong with you) and then went a little crazy when the young men in attendance ran drunk and naked through the streets, whipping women with leather thongs they constructed from the skins of the very animals they had just sacrificed. Why did the women allow the men to do this? Because any woman whipped by these men would, according to legend, immediately become pregnant, and any woman already pregnant would carry a healthy child to full term. (I’m pretty sure that’s still how babies are made) Afterward, a matchmaking lottery was held in which the same dudes who had run naked through the streets would pick the names of the women who had been hoping to get pregnant from a jar, and the ensuing “couple” would pair up together for a good, old-fashioned three day bang session. (If they happened to like each other after the fact, I suppose they had the option of staying together…it was probably at least as effective as match.com is today)


Why am I bringing this up? I’m bringing it up because the holiday we celebrate today is a pale imitation of Lupercalia, and I think it's high time that we, as a society, turn back the clock and revisit our roots. Should we decide to bring Lupercalia back, nearly everyone would benefit in some way: instead of indulging in an evening of Doritos, cheap bourbon, and self-loathing (as I was known to do on far too many Valentine's Days), the drunk and the lonely would be paired together each Lupercalia by the matchmaking  "Jar of Love" (as I am sure we would call it), which would provide these two underserved demographics with a much-needed boost in the dead of winter. Also, anyone stuck in a relationship that has grown a little stale will be treated to the sight of a few hundred naked people whipping each other in a frenzy of foreplay endorsed by no less an authority than god himself, which should be enough to get the old engine running for even the most sexually frustrated of couples.


The true purpose of Lupercalia was to get everyone drunk and laid, and there are far too many people missing out on that experience today because of what the holiday has become. So, this year, instead of the same old same old, shake things up a bit by getting shit-hammered and running naked through the streets with a homemade whip; when the local constabulary inevitably picks you up, remind them that you’re just trying to honor your god, Faunus, and the she-wolf, Lupa, by getting a young girl pregnant, because it’s Lupercalia, and that’s what you’re supposed to do. (If you start babbling about your first amendment rights, they just might be amused enough to let you go with a stern warning) To send you on your way, try drinking a Hi-Res Imperial IPA or two from Sixpoint Brewery in Brooklyn…at 11.1% ABV,  it will get you to the state of mind you will need to be in to execute a proper whip-and-run. On second thought, hold off on that ‘til next year, when my grass-roots campaign to bring Lupercalia back from the dead will have had enough time to penetrate the public consciousness and prompt everyone to get a little weird in the name of love...there is safety in numbers, after all. I’ll see you on the courthouse lawn on February 13th, 2015…I’ll be the drunk, naked guy holding the whip.


See you on the flip side.



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