Love, Birds and Lovers.
Finally, the day has come when the Latin-themed blog page seems less of a nuisance. On this day, Amor takes precedence over Spero (particularly without any Spem) and Mori, unless it’s la petite mort, if you get my drift. Happy Valentine’s Day!
And it all has its roots in ancient Rome, where people spoke unbroken Latin.
In pagan Rome, they loved good erotics, honoring Juno Februata the goddess of the fever of love in earnest. The festival of Lupercalla was a delightful tradition.
Every year on the Ides of February, love notes or billets would be drawn to partner men and women for 12 months filled with feverish fun and sex and mischief.
Juno Februata wasn’t anyone Jesus would’ve approved of, and he was a forgiving man, at least we’d like to think he was. But it’s easier to abolish a truckload of pagan gods than it is to take away good entertainment and curb sensual delights. The early Christians waren’t all that keen on abolishing Lupercalla and kept it going for quite some time, turning the feast of the flesh into a ritual of romance. The new patron saint was badly needed.
Valentinus, a priest in A.D. 269, fit the bill perfectly. When Emperor Claudius II banned marriage because he believed that single men made better soldiers, Valentinus disobeyed orders and kept on performing his priestly duties, marrying couples in secret — the sin for which he was imprisoned by the Emperor and condemned to die.
The legend says, Valentinus didn’t take advantage of the girl. He was a chaste man. Either this or, perhaps, his mind was occupied by more pressing matters – such as Spero (Hope) and Mori (Death). On the eve of his death, he scribbled a note for the lovelorn girl. “From your Valentine,” the note said. It is believed to be the first Valentine card.
And the trend took off. Through Middle Ages to the ornate (where Valentine cards go) 18th century, to the contemporary times, where chocolates and flowers are often ordered on the Internet, but chocolates are better be edible and real, and the flower — in full bloom.
How birds fly into this set up? Mid-February is the beginning of bird mating season.
It was Geoffrey Chaucer (c.1343-1400) who made this accidental connection:
For this was on St. Valentine’s Day,
When every fowl cometh there to choose his mate.
But then again, don’t we all learn of birds and bees in opaque reference to carnal love?