|Painting of the Lupercalia|
What is that? You aren't familiar with Lupercalia?
I had a very vague recollection of Lupercalia from being assigned to read Shakespeare's Julius Caesar while in High School, and seeing the play performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company. In case you haven't read that classic, or don't remember it well, the Lupercal festival served as the background where Mark Antony made the fateful offer of a crown to Caesar.
S&M Utopian Guardian that peaked my interest in this festival.
There really is a fascinating history behind Lupercalia. Some even say that Valentine's Day was adopted by the Christian Church to replace Lupercalia. I don't want to get into that debate, but I do thikg a bit more background about the festival is in order.
The great old historian Plutarch wrote:
At this time many of the noble youths and of the magistrates run up and down through the city naked, for sport and laughter striking those they meet with shaggy thongs. And many women of rank also purposely get in their way, and like children at school present their hands to be struck, believing that the pregnant will thus be helped in delivery, and the barren to pregnancy.Here's the History Channel account of the festival
Celebrated at the ides of February, or February 15, Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.And finally, here's some more background on the Lupercal Festival from An Illustrated History of the Rod, by the Reverend William M.Cooper:
To begin the festival, members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at a sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or lupa. The priests would sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification. They would then strip the goat's hide into strips, dip them into the sacrificial blood and take to the streets, gently slapping both women and crop fields with the goat hide. Far from being fearful, Roman women welcomed the touch of the hides because it was believed to make them more fertile in the coming year. Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city's bachelors would each choose a name and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage.
Besides the employment of the whip in the cause of good morals, the Romans introduced whipping into their religious ceremonies, and especially into the festival of the Lupercalia, performed in honor of the god Pan. The word comes from Lupercal, the name of a place under the Palatine Mount, where the sacrifices were performed.So, apparently it's a very good day, at least according to some traditions, to get out my goatskin flogger for some Lupercal fun! Mine doesn't have a furry side, and mine's not fresh goatskin, it's tanned, but there are limits to how far I'll go for accuracy.
The Lupercalia were celebrated on the 15th of the Kalends of March - that is, on the 15th of February, or, as Ovid observes, on the 3rd day after the Ides. They are supposed to have been established by Evander. Virgil speaks of the dancing Salii and naked Luperci, and the commentators explain that these last were men who, upon particular solemnities, used to strip themselves stark naked, and who ran about the streets, carrying straps of goat's leather in their hands, with which they struck such women as they met in their way.
Nor did those women run away; on the contrary, they willingly presented the palms of their hands to them in order to receive the strokes, imagining that these blows, whether applied to their hands or to other parts of their body, had the power of rendering them fruitful or procuring them an easy delivery.
Sound better than getting fat on chocolates, doesn't it?
Now, who wants to be flogged first?