Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Decorative handmade ceramic Celtic heart tile

6x6 relief carved ceramic Celtic heart tile
It is said by some that the very ancient festival of lupercalia, February 13-15 in honor of Lupercus, god of shepherds and Lupa, the she wolf that suckled the orphan founders of Rome, Remus & Romulus is the origin of Valentines day. In Roman tradition the festival began with the Luperci (brothers of the wolf) priests. With foreheads smeared in sacrificial blood wiped from the knife with milk soaked wool, wearing only a bit of goat skin on their back, the Luperci priests would circle the city of Rome whipping the women that lined the route with shaggy goat thong whips.  This was believed to ensure the barren fertility and the pregnant easy deliveries. Other Roman men of high rank would later get naked and run about town whipping any women they could get near.  Another of the festivities during Lupercalia included eligible men drawing maiden's names from an urn, the couple would then pair up for the remainder of the festival, sometimes longer. Around 496 AD Pope Gelasias, feeling that this running around in nothing but sacrificial blood, worshiping a human suckling wolf goddess and most of all the pairing of un married couples was not in keeping with the Christian teachings, ended the festival and replaced it with St. Valentines day whom he declared the patron saint of lovers (that being a whole other story) February 14 then became the day for men to draw the names of saints from the urn and spend the following year emulating their drawn saint. This practice proved to be much less popular than the Lupercalia festivities and quickly fizzled out. By the 15th century Valentines day had returned to coupling eligible singles and attempts to revive the saint pairing later never caught on. During medieval chivalry days the Valentines custom was to draw names in pairs, the man then wearing the name of his chosen woman on his sleeve, honor bound to attend and protect her. The 17th century saw the custom of exchanging elaborate hand made cards with flowery verse. Pre fabricated cards and a reduction in postal rates in 1797 ushered in the practice of mailing Valentine cards. Suddenly, most likely due to the anonymity of the mail, great numbers of racy and sexually suggestive cards began to appear. A great stir was caused amongst the prudish Victorians and several countries actually banned the exchange of cards due to the large number of obscene Valentines circulating. In the late 19th century the Chicago post office rejected tens of thousands of cards as not being fit to be carried through the US mail. But those Valentine cards were just not to be stopped and today February 14, jokingly referred to as a 'hallmark' holiday has the highest sale of cards than any other day of the year and I'm sure one can find a good smattering of sexually suggestive ones among them, especially by Victorian standards. So Happy Lupercalia!

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