Valentine’s aftermath

With our national administration seeming to take on more and more traits characteristic of German governmental policy in the 1930s, comparisons with that era, tinted daguerreotype-amber and smelling of pomade and the abattoir, are rampant if often a bit facile. But here we have entered into the lovely month of February, and in researching the history of that most saccharine, errr, I mean romantic of holidays, Valentine’s Day, I found some ties with them crazy ole Romans, to wit –

Head right out to your state-monitored search engine and type in Saint Valentine, and you can get enough versions of the story to hammer together a workable pastiche. Seems that, back around the third century A.D. the renowned philanthropist and Emperor of Rome, Claudius II “the Cruel,” noticed that his soldiers often preferred being with their wives than marching off through the muck to hack the limbs off naked Celts (that blue war-paint is a BITCH to get out of a nice toga). For a time he pondered a solution, and then he realized the best possible way to purge his troops of the distractions offered in the arms of the lovely, doe-eyed girls of Roma – don’t let the soldiers marry! In fact, fuck it, ban marriage for ALL young men! Since no one has ever engaged in extramarital coition, this was a neat solution to a sticky problem and it also made his name “the Cruel” sound cooler and more apt, as his former position as Groomer of the Imperial Kittens hardly lent itself to such a flashy, pro-active moniker – God knows he couldn’t go about striking fear into the hearts of the Helvetii with a sobriquet like “Claudius the Cuddler.”

Enter Valentine, intrepid priest, cleaver of the sundered, stoker of the naughty fire and, soon enough, pisser-off of Claudius the Cruel. Valentine knew that what the Emperor had decreed was grossly unfair, and he also had to look out for the eternal souls of all these hot, horny Romans (ever dated an Italian girl? Then you know what I mean – whew!), which would be placed in jeopardy were there to be a whole mess of fornicatin’ going on. Therefore, he gave ole double-C the finger (or whatever they gave back in those days), and commenced to marry the besotted couples, in blatant defiance of law. Does this remind you of those evil bastards in Salem, San Francisco and Taxachusetts?

Well, friends, you can’t be a saint without undergoing a martyrdom of some kind (as Matt Leinart is likely to find out come October, poor sonuvabitch), and you can guess what Valentine’s altruism got him. That’s right, after a relaxing stint in the dungeons under Claudius’ stables, he got an axe in the throat and his still-pulsing heart torn out (which, according to “The Daily Show,” is where the heart iconography of Valentine’s Day arose. Personally, I think it’s a representation of cheerfully jiggling buttocks).

Of course, there’s some confusion here. There are some threads that have Valentine falling in love with his jailer’s daughter (hot hot hot!), or her falling in love with him after he cured her blindness (bam, there’s the miracle we need for canonization). Still other versions of the tale hold that Valentine – elected by virtue of his enormous phallus (phallissimo) – ran the Roman Brothellers’ Guild, which entailed that he deflower the new employees and brand them with a V right above their nasty parts. These girls were then known as “valentines” and “sent” to people whom one held in regard.

Most likely, however, is that the early Christians (a fun group of folks on a Saturday night, lemme tell you) merely annexed an earlier holiday, as was their M.O. Far easier to do that, to have the people celebrate on a date long earmarked for such, than carving new holidays out of whole cloth.

In this case the festival was that of Lupercalia. Lupercalia was a long, glorious bacchanal in celebration of Juno Februata, the Goddess of “feverish” (febris) love; picture Mardi Gras with more sex, fewer beads and in Latin. Each year at this time love notes (and copious amounts of fluids) would be exchanged among the flushed paramours of Rome. The highlight of the fun was when the young women would throw their names into a giant urn, which were then drawn by eagerly tumescent young men, and the two would be paired off and “married” for the entirety of the festivities. Often these pairings were for an entire year, and would result in actual marriages.

Dumping a big bucket of piss on this lascivious parade were the early Christians, who first attempted to supplant Lupercalia’s moister side by placing the names of saints into the urn, whose qualities were then to be emulated by those drawing them out. Needless to say, this went over like a lead balloon, so they naughtied it up a bit and glommed onto the idea of romance (ROMEance) rather than just animalistic balling. And since Valentine died on Feb. 14, he was just the guy to put up against Juno, whose Feb. 15 craziness they sought to preempt. Hey, what’s more romantic than a decapitated priest?

So, as you wade through the detritus of torn, half-dried rose petals that litter you and your mate’s bed, as you carefully examine the bedding to see which parts are too semen-stained to go back downstairs on the couch, and as you pick used condom-wrappers off the bottom of your stylishly retro Adidas, think back fondly to Valentinus (who CLEARLY would have married gay couples) and Lupercalia (just don’t get caught thinking of this with your sweetie, unless you’re both in period costume, in which case it’s all good), and give ’em a quiet thank-you, from and for the oversexed 21st century.

And, as for the holiday itself, there’s really no mystery at all. Say as the Romans (and Hunter Thompson) would: res ipsa loquitur!