History of Saint Valentines Day and the Legend of Cupid

In the spring a young man's fancy turns to love which goes to show that there is more than just pollen floating around in that fresh spring breeze. Romantic thoughts and tiny little cloud hearts are also blowing in the air.

Cupid's hand is at play so be on your toes and on the alert for this tiny winged fellow in a diaper. He can strike at any time but around Valentine's Day one must be especially vigilant. That magical little love maker Cupid is after you and your heart. He flies around shooting love laden arrows into unsuspecting passersby and he is out there just waiting for his opportunity to strike you. He is pure trouble for anyone who wants to maintain a single lifestyle. He can take you down with a single twang from his mighty bow. Scary thought huh?

There is a logical reason why Cupid and Valentine's Day are eternally entwined. Cupid's heritage is directly connected to love and to making people fall in love. It all relates back to his ancestry and his relationship to the Gods. In Roman mythology Cupid is the son of Mars and Venus.

He is very closely connected to his mother Venus who is the ultimate Goddess of love. Cupid inherited his mother's powerful ties to the emotion of love and is believed to be even more powerful than she because he also inherited the right to power over Hades, all the creatures of the sea, and the Gods of Olympus. You may now be beginning to understand why Cupid is so interested in love so let’s peek a little further into Roman history. It is there that a certain day of love is born.

The history of Valentine's Day is itself really quite smudgy but if we dig deep into Roman history we can examine Saint Valentine and his relationship to the creation of this love filled holiday. There are mentions of three different Saint Valentines in association to the February 14th date. Which of these is the specific Saint related to the creation of Valentine's Day is a fact lost within the passing of time but these are their historical mentions. One was a Roman Priest, one was the Bishop of Interamna or Terni as it is now termed, and the last suffered his end in Africa. All three of these saints died as martyrs, each of these saints perished with much suffering, and each died for the sake of kindness and love.

Now this is where the history of the true Saint of Valentine's Day gets a little fuzzier. The one fact that is absolute is that there was indeed a St. Valentine and that he was buried in Rome on February fourteenth 269 AD. From that point onward there are a number of legends as to why this man was sainted but no one clear answer as to which legend is the true basis for our February 14th holiday.

One legend is that the saint we refer to as Saint Valentine was a roman priest who aided Christians by helping them to escape their Roman captors. He was arrested and jailed when he was found to be marrying Christians. His captors then attempted to stone and beat him to death but he somehow managed to survive these attacks. He was eventually beheaded for his crimes of kindness. 

Another belief is that while under the reign of the Emperor Claudius the II, Rome found itself involved in a number of armed conflicts and required large numbers of soldiers to fight in these battles. Claudius felt that the reason why he could not acquire sufficient soldiers for his many battles was because married men did not want to leave their wives and children to go off to fight. So he forbade young men to marry. When a local priest named Valentine was caught continuing to perform these outlawed marriages, he was jailed. Claudius ordered his death which is how this martyr is believed to have perished.

One accounting reports that Valentine felt fondly toward his jailer's daughter who visited him frequently in his cell. The story goes that just before his death he sent her a card signed "from your Valentine". Which is how the first valentine came into being. 

However it is that the true Valentine died it was indeed for the sake of love that he gave his life and he was sainted for his sacrifice. February 14th is a day that now lives on in his memory. In 496 AD Pope Gelasius declared February 14th as a celebration date to honour Saint Valentine. There is some small degree of irony with this declaration because a martyr who died for the sake of love was now being used to displace another very distinct celebration of love.

In ancient Rome February fourteenth was already a day of celebration and immediately preceded the "fertility festival" or celebration of the gods Lupercus and Faunas. It was a custom that after the Feast of Lupercalia was complete young men could choose a ladies name from a jar and that lady would then become his sexual concubine for one year (or until the festival was celebrated the next year around). It was because the Pope did not approve of this ritual that he decided to have the girl's names replaced with a Saints name. The Saint that was chosen for the dubious honour of replacing these young men's sexual gratifications with more honourable intentions was none other than Saint Valentine.

Cupid and Saint Valentine had their roots intertwined way back in the early days of Rome's history books. Which is also why both have become eternal representations and guardians of love for February 14th.

To further cement that Cupid, St. Valentine, and February 14th will be forever connected to love is a bit of European folklore. Into this loving mix of legend and mystic our young cupid flies. Since way back in the middle ages people from France and England have strongly believed that the fourteenth of February is the beginning of mating season for birds and as such, a day for love to take flight. It is another reason that this spring date became a traditional day for gifting cards and other tokens of love.

Now back to the topic of cupid's arrows. Just in case you were starting to feel all romantic mushy gushy and all that other lovey kind of Valentine day's stuff here is a little sobering thought to ponder.

A little known fact about Cupid is that he not only carries gold headed arrows to make people fall in love but that he also carries a set of lead headed arrows and these latter arrows can inspire the emotion of hatred in those who are struck by their magical tips. So keep one eye on the watch for Cupid and hope that if you do happen to encounter the little guy that he is flying around in a good mood rather than a foul one.

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