Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Holy Shit, Lupercalia!

This time of year always calls to mind certain old traditions that surround the concepts of gender interaction and fertility. I speak, of course, of Lupercalia.
Wolf Head
Season's Greetings!

Lupercalia was a Roman holiday celebrated on February 13th-15th back in the day. By "celebrated," I mean, "Men got bare-ass naked and ran through the streets whipping people." No really. That's how it was done. Roman holidays were hardcore.
It's just how they rolled.

The naked men dancing through the streets may have donned wolf skins (though not enough to cover any important bits of their physique), and they whipped anyone they encountered, especially women. Women ran away in terror at the horrifying display. Just kidding, they scrambled to be among the lucky ones to receive the lashings.

You see, the point of this orgiastic parade, and the point of most pagan holidays, centered around a very crucial concept:
This guy.
Babies. Specifically, the creation and delivery of babies. Pregnant women who were whipped by naked men during the incomprehensible sausage-y festival of Lupercalia believed their pseudo-violent encounter would bless them with a safe and peaceful labor. Non-pregnant women believed, and let me lay out these details carefully lest we forget, that a naked man smacking them with a whip would magically grant them a superbly fertile womb.
Bull whip
Ancient fertility drug?

Like most awesomely bizarre pagan festivals, Lupercalia was doomed by the rise of Catholicism. Some say (without any tangible evidence other than the convenient date know...fertility...) that Valentine's Day was meant to replace it. More likely is that the convenient date was just a coincidence, since Valentine's Day had nothing to do with romance or fertility until about a thousand years after Lupercalia was abolished.

The point, though, is that Romans were weird. Don't think modern society is going to get off easily. We have weird enough festivals that we'll get into later.

But running through the streets in the buff, merrily whipping willing young women?

Holy shit.

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