Are the origins of Valentine’s day clearly pagan?
The old World Book Encyclopedia (Valentine’s Day. Volume 19. 1966, pp.205-206) states,
…the customs of the day have nothing to do with the lives of the saints. They probably come from an ancient Roman festival called Lupercalia which took place every February 15. The festival honored Juno, the Roman goddess of women and marriage, and Pan, the god of nature…The Romans celebrated their feast of Lupercalia as a lovers’ festival for young people. Young men and women chose partners for the festival by drawing names from a box…After the spread of Christianity, churchmen tried to give Christian meaning to the pagan festival. In 496, Pope Gelasius changed the Lupercalia festival of February 15 to Saint Valentine’s Day February 14. But the sentimental meaning of the old festival has remained to the present time. Historians disagree about the identity of St. Valentine”.
Furthermore it also states,
“LUPERCALIA…was celebrated on February 15 in honor of Faunus, a rural Italian god. Faunus was later identified with Pan, the god of herds and fertility…Priests…ran around striking all the women the met (Lupercalia. Volume 12. 1966, p.456).
The pagan being named Cupid (a supposed son of Venus) was also involved. According to pagan mythology, anyone being hit by Cupid’s arrow falls in love with the first person he/she sees. One source was bold enough to state,
The church replaced elements of various love-gods (Juno Februata, Eros, Cupid, Kama, Priapus) with St. Valentine, an imaginary Christian. A number of contradictory biographies were created for him…By taking over some of the features of the Pagan gods and goddesses, St. Valentine became the patron saint of lovers…St. Valentine’s Day can be traced back to Lupercalia, the Roman “festival of sexual license” (ST. VALENTINE AND VALENTINE’S DAY, http://www.religioustolerance.org/valentine1.htm, February 6, 2004).
Does Valentine’s Day sound like a holy festival of love or a pagan holiday of lust?
More on the Origins of Lubercus, Now Known as St. Valentine’s Day
The Feast of Lubercus The first interpretation has this celebration originating as a pagan tradition in the third century. During this time hordes of hungry wolves roamed outside of Rome where shepherds kept their flocks. The God Lupercus, was said to watch over the shepherds and their flocks and keep them from the wolves. Every February the Romans celebrated a feast called Lupercalia to honor Lupercus so that no harm would come to the shepherds and their flocks. Also during Lupercalia, but in honor of the goddess Juno Februata, the names of young women were put into a box and names were drawn by lot. The boys and girls who were matched would be considered partners for the year, which began in March. This celebration continued long after wolves were a problem to Rome. — St. Valentine’s Day As Christianity became prevalent, priests attempted to replace old heathen practices. To Christianize the ancient pagan celebration of the Feast of Lubercus, the church officials changed the name to St. Valentine’s Day. To give the celebration further meaning and eliminate pagan traditions, priests substituted the drawing of Saints names for the names of the girls. On St. Valentine’s Day the priest placed saint’s names into an urn or box. The young people then drew a name from the container. In the following year, the youth was supposed to emulate the life of the saint whose name he had drawn. By the fourteenth century they reverted back to the use of girl’s names. In the sixteenth century they once again tried to have saintly valentines but it was as unsuccessful as the first attempt. While it can’t be proved historically, there were seven men named Valentine who were honored with feasts on February 14th. Of these men, two stories link incidents that could have given our present day meaning to St. Valentine’s Day…—-February 14th – The Day the Birds Began to Mate The Europeans also believed that on February 14th the birds began to choose their mates. In fact Chaucer, in his “Parlement of Foules,” wrote: “For this was Seynt Valentine’s Day when every foul cometh ther to choose his mate”…The tradition of birds choosing their mates on St. Valentine’s Day led to the idea that boys and girls would do the same. Now when a youth drew a girl’s name, he wore it on his sleeve, and attended and protected her during the following year. This made the girl his valentine and they exchanged love tokens throughout the year. Later this was changed to only men giving love tokens to females, usually without names but signed “with St. Valentine’s Love.” Later, in France, both sexes drew from the valentine box. A booked called Travels in England, written in 1698, gives an account of the way it was done: On St. Valentine’s Eve an equal number of Maids and Bachelors get together, each writes their true or some feigned name upon separate billets, which they roll up and draw by way of lots, the Maids taking the Men’s billets, and the Men the Maids’; so that each of the young Men lights upon a Girl that he calls his Valentine, and each of the Girls upon a young Man which she calls hers. By this means each has two Valentines–but the Man sticks faster to the Valentine that is fallen to him than to the Valentine to whom he is fallen. Fortune having thus divided the company into so many couples, the valentines give balls and treats to their mistresses, wear their billets several days upon their bosoms or sleeves, and this little sport ofen ends in Love. This ceremony is practised differently in different Countries, and according to the freedom or severity of Madame Valentine. This is another kind of Valentine, which is the first young Man or Woman chance throws in your way in the street, or elsewhere . . . (The Origins of Valentine’s Day. http://www.techdirect.com/valentine/origin.html, January 31, 2004).
Anyway, the preceding article mentions those three as the possible origins of Valentine’s day. Actually all three of those are to some degree correct (and World Book Online, in its article Valentine’s Day–which I checked on February 6, 2004–says that some believe that all three played a role in the origins)–Valentine’s day was a pagan holiday that the Catholic Church modified and that most Protestants embrace, which is probably why some Europeans also declared that to be the day the birds mated (birds mate pretty much every day in some part of Europe, so its seems disingenuous to coincidentally declare it on February 14).
Thus, much of Christianity Today‘s version of the “History of Valentine’s Day” appears to be a selective Protestant fantasy.
But the most likely beginning of the “holiday” seems to have to do with the beginning of the Roman Empire, and probably is prior to the third century:
Archaeologists say they have unearthed Lupercale-the sacred cave where, according to legend, a she-wolf nursed the twin founders of Rome and where the city itself was born.
The long-lost underground chamber was found beneath the remains of Emperor Augustus’ palace on the Palatine, a 230-foot-tall (70-meter-tall) hill in the center of the city…
According to myth, Lupercale is where a she-wolf suckled Romulus and Remus, the twin sons of the war god Mars and mortal priestess Rhea Silvia, who had been abandoned in a cradle on the bank of the Tiber River…
Every year on February 15 ancient priests killed a dog and two goats and smeared the foreheads of two boys from noble families with the sacrificial blood as part of the Lupercalia celebration. (Valsecchi, Maria Cristina. Sacred Cave of Rome’s Founders Discovered, Archaeologists Say. National Geographic News. January 26, 2007. January 26, 2007. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/01/070126-rome-palatine.html)
Of course, the story of Romulus and Remus is really the fable about the beginning of the Roman Empire–now that Europe is once again trying to revive this empire, I am sure that its leaders are pleased to have located “the sacred cave”.
Is Valentine’s Day A Holiday in Honor of “The Queen of Heaven”?
Another source adds,
The roots of Valentine’s Day can be traced back to pagan festivals of third century Rome. February 14th was set aside as a day to honor the goddess Juno, who was the queen of the Roman gods and goddesses and was the goddess of women and marriage. This day was also the eve of the Feast of Lupercalia. This festival was in honor of the god Lubercus (The History of Valentine’s. http://www.christinescyberuniverse.com/VDay/VdayHistory.html, January 31, 2004).
And who was Juno?
JUNO was the queen of heaven and wife of Jupiter (Zeus)…The ancient Greeks called her HERA (Juno. World Book Encyclopedia, Volume 11. 1966, pp.162-163).
A holiday for the queen of heaven!
What does God say about that?
…the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven; and they pour out drink offerings to other gods, that they may provoke Me to anger. Do they provoke Me to anger?” says the LORD. “Do they not provoke themselves, to the shame of their own faces?” (Jeremiah 7:18-20, NKJV)
Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, saying: ‘You and your wives have spoken with your mouths and fulfilled with your hands, saying, “We will surely keep our vows that we have made, to burn incense to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offerings to her.” You will surely keep your vows and perform your vows!’ “Therefore hear the word of the LORD, all Judah who dwell in the land of Egypt: ‘Behold, I have sworn by My great name,’ says the LORD, ‘that My name shall no more be named in the mouth of any man of Judah in all the land of Egypt, saying, “The Lord GOD lives.”‘Behold, I will watch over them for adversity and not for good. And all the men of Judah who are in the land of Egypt shall be consumed by the sword and by famine, until there is an end to them” (Jeremiah 44:25-28, NKJV).
In other words, God was not happy that people wanted to worship the queen of heaven and He would punish them for it.
Another source mentioned,
The Feast of Lupercalia was celebrated in honor of the God Lupercus, who was said to watch over shepherds and their flocks and kept them safe, since during this time hordes of hungry wolves roamed outside Rome. The festival was celebrated on February 15 at the cave of the Lupercal on the Palatine Hill, where the legendary founders of Rome, the twins Romulus and Remus, were supposed to have been nursed by a wolf. However, other scholars, while not dismissing the celebration of Lupercalia, prefer to explain the celebration which took place in the middle of February as a celebration to the Goddess Juno Februato. It is to their thinking linked to Valentine’s Day. While all scholars agree to the time when the practice of men drawing the names of women took place, there do exist slight differences in whose honor the celebrations took place. As time marched on, Christianity steadily gained converts and it became an officially supported religion in the Roman state under Constantine I, who ruled as emperor from AD 324 to 337. All pagan cults were prohibited in AD 392 by an edict of emperor Theodosius I. At this time, priests attempted to replace old heathen practices. The ancient pagan celebration of the Feast of Lubercus was renamed St. Valentine’s Day . The priests replaced the practice of having men draw names of girls with having young people draw names of saints. The youths were supposed to emulate the life of the saint whose name they had drawn. The practice of this custom was unsuccessful at first and reverted back to the use of having men draw names of girls (The Myth of the Origin of Valentine’s Day. http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/9300/stp.html, January 31, 2004).
No matter if Valentine’s is the Feast of Lupercus/Lubercus or Queen of Heaven Juno or both (which it probably is) it is NOT listed as a Feast of the LORD (see Leviticus 23).
Christians who may be tempted to compromise need to ask themselves if the origins of Valentine’s Day are biblical or pagan.
It is of interest to note that the same Catholic source states,
The Catholic Church no longer officially honors St. Valentine, but the holiday has both Roman and Catholic roots.
It is good that the Church of Rome no longer officially honors Valentine or the holiday.
None who profess Christ should observe this February “holiday”–it simply is not a Christian holiday. It began as a pagan sexual lottery and still has sexual ramifications, even in the 21st century.
For more information, please consider studying the following articles:
Valentine’s Day: Its Real Origins Christianity Today suggests that Valentine’s Day is good for Christians to observe. Is this true?
Is There “An Annual Worship Calendar” In the Bible? This paper provides a biblical and historical critique of several articles, including one by WCG which states that this should be a local decision. What do the Holy Days mean? Also you can click here for the calendar of Holy Days.
Are the Ten Commandment Still in Effect? This article quotes the ten commandments and combines some of the previous articles into one article about the ten commandments. The commandments are shown at Mount Sinai, before Mount Sinai, in the teachings of Jesus, after the crucifixion, and in the teachings of Paul. It addresses the most common “traditions of men” regarding them as well.
Were the Pharisees Condemned for Keeping the Law or Reasoning Around it? Many believe that the Pharisees were condemned for keeping the law, but what does your Bible say? If they were not condemned for that, what were they condemned for?
The Ten Commandments Reflect Love, Breaking them is Evil Some feel that the ten commandments are a burden. Is that what Jesus, Paul, Peter, James, and John taught?
Was the Commandment to Love the Only Command? Some have stated that John’s writings teach this, but is that what the Bible really says?
The Ten Commandments and the Early Church Did Jesus and the Early Church keep the ten commandments? What order were they in? Here are quotes from the Bible and early writings.
The History of Early Christianity Are you aware that what most people believe is not what truly happened to the true Christian church? Do you know where the early church was based? Do you know what were the doctrines of the early church? Is your faith really based upon the truth or compromise?