Ah, Valentine’s Day. A day of kissy-faced fealty, bitter compatriotism of the solitary, and rampant emotional eating.
I took a lovely morning stroll along the Huntington River with Bubo and marveled at Mount Mansfield. I do believe Great Great Uncle O. Underhill knew a thing or two about serenity; this land does quiet the storms of the mind.
It also makes Bubo a good deal less cantankerous, which is miraculous and delightful. She’s still a curmudgeonly thing, but with a twinkle in her eyes.
Scholars have long bandied about the origins of the modern Valentine’s Day; clearly man has not been handing out chocolates and greeting cards since the beginnings of time. There is a good deal of debate about whether or not Valentine’s Day has anything to do with the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia; some scholars assert it is a natural explanation, and some argue that the only thing these two celebrations have in common is the date. Never-the-less, I find Lupercalia fascinating.
Celebrated during the Ides of February (the 13th through the 15th), Lupercalia was a pastoral festival to avert evil spirits, purify the city (Rome), and celebrate fertility and health. The Luperci (an order of Roman priests) would start the festival off by gathering at the Lupercal cave, where Romulus and Remus (the founders of Rome) were suckled by the She-Wolf. (Some claim the She-Wolf’s name was Lupa.) The Luperci would sacrifice goats and dogs, for fertility. Then, after rituals and a meal, the priests would make crude whips (thongs) out of the sacrificial animals’ hides and then run through the streets, striking anyone they met, especially women. And the women would line up to be touched or hit with these thongs, believing this act would increase their fertility and would make childbirth easier.
The goat-skin was called februum and the month during which this Lupercalia festival took place? Februarius. Have you connected the dots, m’dears?
This purification and fertility festival was important to a land full of shepherds, dependent on their flocks and their own fertility, as they were.
I’m sure things got rather raucous. I can’t imagine a gaggle of mostly naked men running pell-mell through the streets whipping people (mostly women) with februum being anything but raucous.
I am content to spend today quietly. I have just uncovered Uncle Underhill’s stash of field journals and I intend to spend the evening reading in front of the fire with a glass of port and my best owl.
Below is a photo of another field mouse. This one Bubo claims was too sweet and so she did not snatch it. There was some discussion of my wrapping the little thing in bacon. Bubo, wouldn’t you know, is on the hunt for umami.