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Lupercalia, Lupercal and Luperci

February is the month of love magic and ancient Pagan sex rituals, so why is it named after a Christian saint? Explore the following information to find out more about St Valentine's Day and its Pagan origins.

Lupercalia, the Real St Valentine's Day

By Dr Leo Ruickbie, Director of WICA.

The Ancient Pagan Festival of Lupercus, Roman God of Fertility

The Lupercalia was one of the most ancient Roman festivals, which was celebrated every year in honour of Lupercus, the god of fertility. The festival was held on the 15th of February in the Lupercal, where Romulus and Remus were said to have been nurtured by the she-wolf; the place contained an altar and a grove sacred to the god Lupercus. Here the Luperci assembled on the day of the Lupercalia, and sacrificed goats and dogs—animals remarkable for their strong sexual instinct, and thus most appropriate sacrifices to the god of fertility.

The Lupercal

Sacred Cave of the She-Wolf

The Lupercal was the cave or grotto at the foot of the Palatine, in which the she-wolf suckled Romulus and Remus, the legendary founders of Rome; from it issued a spring. It seems to have been a sanctuary of some sort, and at least had a monumental entrance. This sacred cave of the she-wolf gave its name to the priestly order of Luperci and the fertility festival of Lupercalia.

The Luperci

Pagan Priests of Fertility

The Luperci were the priests of the fertility god Lupercus. They formed a college (sodalitas), the members of which were originally youths of patrician families, and which was said to have been instituted by Romulus and Remus. The college was divided into two classes, the one called Fabii or Fabiani, and the other Quinctilii or Quinctiliani. These names, which are the same as those with which the followers of Romulus and Remus were designated in the early Roman legends, seem to show that the priesthood was originally confined to certain gentes.


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Valentines vs Lupercalia

Valentines LupercaliaValentine's Day has got nothing to do with a Christian saint, but everything to do with kinky Pagan sex rituals. Get the free history download: Valentine's Day origins in Lupercalia.
[Download (format: pdf, 763kb)]

Other Information on Lupercalia

Encyclopedia Britannica
LUPERCALIA, a very ancient, possibly pre-Roman, pastoral festival in honour of Lupercus. Its rites were under the superintendence of a corporation of priests called Luperci, whose institution is attributed either to the Arcadian Evander, or to Romulus and Remus. In front of the Porta Romana, on the western side of the Palatine hill, close to the Ficus Ruminalis and the Casa Romuli, was the cave of Lupercus; in it, according to the legend, the she-wolf had suckled the twins, and the bronze wolf, which is still preserved in the Capitol, was placed in it in 296 B.C. But the festival itself, which was held on February 15th, contains no reference to the Romulus legend, which is probably later in origin, though earlier than the grecizing Evander legend. The festival began with the sacrifice by the Luperci (or the flamen dialis) of goats and a dog; after which two of the Luperci were led to the altar, their foreheads were touched with a bloody knife, and the blood wiped off with wool dipped in milk; then the ritual required that the two young men should laugh. The smearing of the forehead with blood probably refers to human sacrifice originally practised at the festival. The sacrificial feast followed, after which the Luperci cut thongs from the skins of the victims and ran in two bands round the walls of the old Palatine city,. the line of which was marked with stones, striking the people who crowded near. A blow from the thong prevented sterility in women. These thongs were called februa, the festival Februatio, and the day dies febraiatus (februare = to purify); hence the name of the month February, the last of the old Roman year. The object of the festival was, by expiation and purification, to secure the fruitfulness of the land, the increase of the flocks and the prosperity of the whole people. The Lupercal (cave of Lupercus), which had fallen into a state of decay, was rebuilt by Augustus; the celebration of the festival had been maintained, as we know from the famous occurrence of it in 44 B.C. It survived until A.D. 494, when it was changed by Gelasius into the feast of the Purification. Lupercus, in whose honour the festival.was held, is identified with Faunus or Inuus, Evander (Eiiavnpos), in the Greek legend being a translation of Faunus (the "kindly"). The Luperci were divided into two collegia, called Quinctiliani (or Quinctiales) and Fabiani, from the gens Quinctilia (or Quinctia) 2 and Fabia; at the head of each of these colleges was a magister. In 44 B.C. a third college, Luperci Julii, was instituted in honour of Julius Caesar, the first magister of which was Mark Antony. In imperial times the members were usually of equestrian standing. See Marquardt, Romische Staatsverwaltung, iii. (1885) p. 438; W. Warde Fowler, Roman Festivals (1899), p. 390, and article in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (3rd ed. 1891).

Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th Edition, 1911

It was the festival of the Lupercalia, which, according to many writers, was originally celebrated by shepherds and also has some connection with the Arcadian Lycaea. At this time many of the young lads of the nobility and many of the magistrates run up and down through the city naked, in playfulness and laughter, striking those they meet with thongs of hide still shaggy. And many women of rank purposely get in their way and like children at school present their hands (or their backsides) to be struck, believing that this will help the pregnant to an easy delivery, and the barren to pregnancy.

Norman O. Brown, Luperalia, 1973

The God of the Lupercal
On 15 February, two days after the Ides, there took place at Rome the mysterious ritual called Lupercalia, which began when the Luperci sacrificed a goat at the Lupercal. There was evidently a close conceptual and entymological connection between the name of the festival, the title of the celebrants, and the name of the sacred place: as our best-informed literary source on Roman religion, M. Terentius Varro, succinctly put it, 'the Luperci [are so called] because at the Lupercalia they sacrifice at the Lupercal... the Lupercalia are so called because [that is when] the Luperci sacrifice at the Lupercal'.

T.P. Wiseman, 'The God of the Lupercal', Journal of Roman Studies, 1995

Lupercalia: She-Wolf
Lupercalia ia a Roman ritual of purification and fertility dating from such an ancient time that even the Romans of the first century B.C.E. had forgotten its origin and to which Gods it was dedicated and even the meaning of some of its symbolism. (Contrary to Z Budapest's statements, it was not known whether it was to Faunus and in fact I think it may have been sacred to the more ancient founding Goddess, Rumina, the She-Wolf of Rome.) Central to the ritual is the lustration (light flogging) with a goat skin scourge (see, Gardner didn't invent it). This was often accompanied by much rowdiness and horse-pla- y. The purpose was the purification of the people from curses, bad luck and infertility. The ritual is performed on February 15. The name of the month comes from the februa, anything used in purifying including wool (used for cleaning), brooms, pine boughs (which make the air sweet and pure), etc.

Internet Book of Shadows, c.1999

Crying Wolf: The Pope and the Lupercalia
This article examines the Contra Andromachum, the open letter in which Gelasius of Rome (A.D. 492-496) condemned the continued involvement of members of the now Christian élite in the Lupercalia. It is suggested that the Pope's argument is less straightforward than has been supposed: the current status and recent history of the festival are left unclear, and the Pope's allegations about the motives of its sponsors are of dubious credibility. Of more significance is the public aspect of the festival, and in particular the opportunities it provided for those who organized it to advertise a connection with the heritage of Rome.

Neil McLynn, 'Crying Wolf: The Pope and the Lupercalia', Journal of Roman Studies, 98.1, 2008, pp. 161-175.

Lupercalia in the News

Bring Back Lupercalia

From The Daily Review:

Imagine running around town in a goatskin tunic, whipping young women with a rawhide thong smeared in dog blood. Not even German porn is this perverted. But this is what people really did until 496 A.D. Happy Lupercalia!

Tim Hay, 'Bring Back Lupercalia', The Daily Review, 9 Feb, 2006.

Symbols of Love

From The Daily Review:

As early as the fourth century B.C., young men left their love to chance, drawing their partners by lot during the Lupercalia festival, a Roman celebration to celebrate spring and fertility. Through the love lottery, a man won a woman's companionship and sexual pleasuring until the next year's drawing.

Helena Oliviero, 'Symbols of Love', Cox News, 14 Feb, 2006.

Don't be Stupid, Learn Your Cupid

From The Sun:

It's the day of love but how much do you know about it? [...] No one knows the exact origins of St Valentine's Day, so you can claim any of the following: a) It comes from an ancient Roman festival called Lupercalia, b) It was the name of one or more saints of the early Christian church, or c) Birds choose their mates on February 14. Take your pick! [...] In ancient Rome, February witnessed a fertility festival where, legend has it, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city's bachelors would take a lucky dip and be paired for a YEAR with his chosen woman. That was one blind date you really wanted to work out.

'Don't be Stupid, Learn Your Cupid', The Sun, 2 February 2009

Valentine's Day Facts: Gifts, History, and Love Science

From National Geographic:

Where did St Valentine's Day come from? (Think naked Romans, paganism, and whips.) What does it cost? And why do we fall for it, year after year? [...] The average U.S. consumer is expected to spend $102.50 on St Valentine's Day gifts, meals, and entertainment, according to an annual U.S. National Retail Federation survey—down from $122.98 per person in 2008.

John Roach, 'Valentine's Day Facts: Gifts, History, and Love Science', National Geographic, 11 February 2009

Lupercalia Rituals

Modern Reconstructions

'A Ritual for Lupercalia'

Text of a modern reconstruction c. 2004.

Lupercalia Events Guide

North America

Lupercalia Edmonton

Description: "A Weekend of Fetish and Fun with a Taste of Ancient Rome". Contact: Lupercalia, 10301-104 Street, Box 1010, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T5J-1B9. Website: http://lupercalia-edmonton.com/


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