Claudius and Valentine

This week is Valentine’s Day, where, in one version at least, we remember the day named after the priest Valentine. Roman Emperor Claudius believed young men were less keen to sacrifice themselves in the Roman legions if they were married, and outlawed the practice. But the disobedient Valentine continued to perform marriages in secret, but was put to death, though immortalised in memory in the process.

Valentine supposedly fell in love with a young girl while in prison, believed to be the jailor’s daughter. Before he was executed he wrote her a letter signed ‘From your Valentine,’ an expression still in use today. Though I think it’s much more helpful to follow Valentine’s example and sign your real name.

Another Roman ritual, less popular today, involved a feast on February 14 to honour Juno, the queen of Roman gods and goddesses, and the goddess of women and marriage. The following day a priest would sacrifice a dog and a goat, and boys would slice the hide up, dipping the strips in the sacrificial blood. They’d then roam the streets, gently slapping women with the animal hides.

Being slapped by a bloody hide was seen as a great honour, and believed to confer fertility. Later, all the lucky young maidens would place their name in a big urn. Bachelors in the city would each then take a name out of the urn, and became paired with the girl for the rest of the year.

One ritual I enjoy a little more is giving and receiving (or perhaps just eating) chocolate. Gayleen’s Decadence have produced a limited edition range of heart-shaped Valentine’s chocolates, and there are also chocolate delights from Honest Chocolate, Earthshine and Montezuma.

Whether you’re after chocolate, spankings by animal hide or just good food, I wish you a week filled with love for all you encounter.

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