Reprinted from La Trinacria newsletter of 2003, that was gleaned from Primo Magazine.
Cherubs, hearts and roses have no place in the dark side tale of a man whose life (and grisly death) proved what experience anyone ever left behind without including the date of February 14’, already knows that.. ..the essence of love is suffering.
The real story of Saint Valentine (known to his friends as Valentinius) is short and bitter-sweet. He was a healer and a Christian before Christianity was “cool”, living and dying during the pagan reign of the Roman Claudius II (known then as Claudius the Cruel). Claudius opposed Christianity and particularly, Christian marriage. The truth is that he was not keen on matrimony, period. Claudius had an Empire to run and married soldiers were not happy about leaving their home and hearth. Thus when Valentine performed a secret Christian marriage in defiance of a Claudian edict, he was arrested. He continued his Ministry in prison to the consternation of Roman officials. On February 14th in the year 270 AD, Valentine was beheaded.
The life and death of Valentine became a magnet for myths. The prevailing myth holds that the connection between the chaste holy man and the celebration of AMORE was forged when, as Valentine awaited his executioner, he slipped an affectionate note to an admiring young girl who’s sight, Valentine had restored. Valentine signed it, “LOVE, FROM YOUR VALENTINE”. No one could attest that this really happened for sure but had been legend.
In any case, love was in the air even as Valentine faced his doom. During Roman times, February 15th marked the pagan holiday of Lupercalia, an errotic festival in honor of the godess FEBRIS. Each year the on the “ides” of February, men and women wrote love notes and then drew them like lots; partners then teamed up for feasting and sexual games. Another legend claims that the Romans identified February 1 5th with romance because that was the day on which the birds chose their mates.
As the Catholic Church ascended and eclipsed the Roman Empire, it transformed many pagan holidays into religious occasions that honored Saints. Not surprisingly the Church frowned upon Lupercalia’s sexual shenagans and encouraged Christians to substitute the names of Saints for the names of desired sex partners in the “annual love lottery”, they were then expected to emulate the Saint they had picked, for the next 12 months. Lusty Romans however, were not easily weaned from Lupercalia’s sensual rites and the Churches pick of a Saint instead of a lover scheme, eventually flopped. The tale of Valentine’s unconditional love, however, eventually helped bridge the gap between the pagan and the sacred, and in the 5th century, in an attempt to substitute romance for eroticism, Pope Gelasius designated February 14th as SAINT VALENTINES DAY.
Charles the French Duke of Orleans, is generally credited with sending the first modern “Valentine’s Day Poems”, that he penned to his wife while he was imprisoned in the early 1400’s. Evidence of these poems are preserved in the Royal archives of the Palazzo d’Orleans in Palermo. The practice of writing love notes on February l4” quickly caught on.. It spread and by the 1600’s, manufactured printed cards of love in poetry appeared in London.
With the fall of Postal rates in the late 19th century, the custom of sending Valentine cards became a phenomenon and with the boom of greeting cards in the 20th century, Saint Valentine’s fame would be sealed forevermore.