The Lupercalia was celebrated on the fifteenth day before the kalends of March (February 15th).  One unusual aspect of this festival was that it was not associated with a temple of a god.   The focal point of this festival was a site on the Palatine hill: the Lupercal, the cave in which, according to legend, the wolf suckled Romulus and Remus.
 Lupercalia recalled the primitive days of Rome’s existence, when, according to Roman tradition, a small community of shepherds lived in thatched huts on the Palatine hill, ruled by the founder of Rome, Romulus.  Dionysius of Halicarnassus tells us that in his day (first century BC), one of these huts, made out of sticks and reeds, stood on the slope of the Palatine toward the Circus Maximus.   This hut was honored as a sacred place. 
This primitive settlement, however,  was more than just a popular tradition; modern archaeology has discovered the post holes of huts dating to the eighth century BC (the traditional date of Rome’s foundation was 753 BC).  It seems probable that the name of the festival was derived from lupus ("wolf").  This derivation makes sense for a festival that was connected with a settlement of shepherds, whose most feared predator was the wolf.

In general, the ancients viewed the Lupercalia as a purification and fertility rite.  The ritual involved the sacrifice of goats and a dog in the Lupercal by priests called Luperci, who smeared the foreheads of two noble young men with the blood of the sacrificed animals and then wiped it off.  At this point, the youths were required to laugh.  Then the luperci, clothed in loincloths, ran about the area, lashing everyone they met with strips of skin from the sacrificed goats.  Young wives were particularly eager to receive these blows, because it was believed that the ritual promoted fertility and easy childbirth.  These ceremonies were accompanied by much revelry and drinking.

The Lupercalia was so popular that it survived the onset of Christianity until Pope Gelasius I outlawed them in 494 . The Church instituted the Purification of the Blessed Virgin. The feast day of St Valentine was added to the calendar two years later. Yet another example of the of the roman church’s attempt to destroy paganism. Some accounts suggest that in Roman-occupied Gaul and Albion, at Lupercalia, single women wrote their names on clay tablets and placed them in an earthen jar. Unmarried young men then picked out a name at random, and the two were paired off. Depending on which account you accept, this lasted a few hours, a day, or even a year. The habit of sending love tokens on this date goes back to at least the 14th century



5 thoughts on “LUPERCALIA

  1. Ok … I could get into the \’much revelry and drinking\’ part but being lashed with the skin of a sacrified goat … YIKES!!

    Have a wonderful day
    hugs you
    Eth 🙂 xxx

  3. tch!  tch!  tch!…"Peach Rose? Cheap!" a bit grumpy today my London correspondent?
    I wish you a warm and wonderful day

  4. Yes, It is all a bit trite and smacks of the herding instinct, and of course commercialism…….
    Take care, have a fun weekend. May it be a warm one.

Comments are closed.