The Romance Reviews

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Friday, February 11, 2011

Happy Lupercalia! Wolf Valentine’s Day!



How an ancient Roman holiday inspired my werewolf universe.
My readers know I use this ancient Roman festival in my paranormal romance werewolf novels. In my universe it is the time when lycans are most fertile, find their mates or play naughty werewolf games.  I use some of the rituals below, with the exception of sacrificing the dog in my lycan festival. The Lupercal, the cave where Romulus and Remus were suckled by the she-wolf is what I call the ruling governing party run by 12 female alpha lycans. Below are some facts about Lupercalia from several sources on the web.
“The Origins of the Lupercalia
The Lupercalia was started to honor a forgotten fertility god, but the during the Augustan period, the god Lupercus had been invented to explain the festival, according to the Dictionary of Roman Religion. Adkins and Adkins, authors of the book, state that Faunus might have been the god the Lupercalia.
 The Lupercalia Festival Itself
The festival was held on February 15th, the day after the modern Valentine's Day Celebration. The month of February occurred later in the Roman calendar. Celebrants would gather at the Lupercal cave on the Palatine Hill in Rome, where Romulus and Remus were suckled by their adoptive wolf mother, according to Roman legend.
Luperci Priests made sacrifices of goats and dogs as part of the festival, and two young people were smeared by the blood of the sacrifice and then wiped away by wool dipped in milk. As part of the Lupercalia celebration, young men would go through the streets whipping people with goat skins to encourage fertility. 
The youths then donned loincloths made from the skin of the goat and led groups of priests around the pomarium, the sacred boundary of the ancient city, and around the base of the hills of Rome. The occasion was happy and festive. As they ran about the city, the young men lightly struck women along the way with strips of the goat hide. It is from these implements of purification, or februa, that the month of February gets its name. This act supposedly provided purification from curses, bad luck, and infertility.
Long after Palentine HIll became the seat of the powerful city, state and empire of Rome, the Lupercalia festival lived on. Roman armies took the Lupercalia customs with them as they invaded France and Britain. One of these was a lottery where the names of available maidens were placed in a box and drawn out by the young men. Each man accepted the girl whose name he drew as his love - for the duration of the festival, or sometimes longer.
As Christianity began to slowly and systematically dismantle the pagan pantheons, it frequently replaced the festivals of the pagan gods with more ecumenical celebrations. It was easier to convert the local population if they could continue to celebrate on the same days... they would just be instructed to celebrate different people and ideologies..
Lupercalia, with its lover lottery, had no place in the new Christian order. In the year 496 AD, Pope Gelasius did away with the festival of Lupercalia, citing that it was pagan and immoral. He chose Valentine as the patron saint of lovers, who would be honored at the new festival on the fourteenth of every February. The church decided to come up with its own lottery and so the feast of St. Valentine featured a lottery of Saints. One would pull the name of a saint out of a box, and for the following year, study and attempt to emulate that saint.
In a sense I think we have gone back to a weird form of Lupercalia lovers lottery I call it computer dating. True, you do still get to learn about the person, but do you really? It really is like drawing a date out of a lottery.



2 comments:

Savanna Kougar said...

Happy Wolf Valentine's Day!

Rainy said...

Interesting information. Thank you for sharing!

//R