If you let your eyes wander over this image you can experience love’s illusion. This and the rest of a series of Valentine’s Day illusions were featured in a nice story in Scientific American this week. And who was this Saint Valentine guy anyway? A lot of our love matching celebrations go back to ancient days (as usual) to the Roman feast of Lupercalia…..(details here from crewnest)
When Rome was first founded it was surrounded by a wilderness. Great packs of wolves roamed over the countryside. Among their many gods the Romans had one named Lupercus who watched over the shepherds and their flocks. In his honour they held a great feast in February of each year and called it the Lupercalia. The Lupercalia festival was an echo of the days when Rome consisted of a group of shepherd folk that lived on a hill now known as Palantine. On the calendar used back in those days, February came later than it does today, so Lupercalia was a spring festival.
Some believe the festival honored Faunus, who like the Greek Pan, was a god of herds and crops, But the origin of Lupercalia is so ancient that even scholars of the last century before Christ were never sure.
There is no question about its importance. Records show, for instance, that Mark Antony, an important Roman, was master of the Luperci College of Priests. He chose the Lupercalia festival of the year 44BC as the proper time for offering the crown to Julius Caesar.
Each year, on February 15, the Luperci priests gathered on the Palantine at the cave of Lupercal. Here, according to legend, Romulus and Remus, founders of Rome, had been nursed by a mother wolf. In Latin, the word lupus is the word for wolf.
Some of the rituals involved youths of noble birth running through the streets with goatskin thongs. Young women would crowd the street in the hope of being lashed with the sacred thongs as it was believed to make them better able to bear children. The goatskin thongs were known as the februa and the lashing the februatio, both coming from a Latin word meaning to purify. The name of the month February comes from this meaning.
Long after Rome became a walled city and the seat of a powerful empire, the Lupercalia lived on. When Roman armies invaded France and Britain, they took the Lupercalia customs there. One of these is believed to be a lottery where the names of Roman 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 a year or longer.
Wikipedia gives a few details of the translation into the present day myth…..
Alban Butler and Francis Douce, noting the obscurity of Saint Valentine’s identity, suggested that Valentine’s Day was created as an attempt to supersede the pagan holiday of Lupercalia. This idea has lately been contested by Professor Jack Oruch of the University of Kansas. Many of the current legends that characterise Saint Valentine were invented in the fourteenth century in England, notably by Geoffrey Chaucer and his circle, when the feast day of February 14 first became associated with romantic love.