Why February 14? Is it because it’s so cold, and thus a good time to cuddle under the blankets? There’s much more to it that that.

Psychologist Galdino Pranzarone knows all about the origin, history and symbolism of Valentine’s Day. He says, “February has been the traditional time of year when, after the winter solstice and during the apparent lengthening of daylight period, many animals?with us humans among them?begin the yearly frenzy of spring mating and reproduction. The Romans held love and fertility celebrations in February. These were called the Lupercalia, a time of love, eroticism and sexual license.

“During the Lupercalia party in Rome, young men chose their sexual partners by a drawing of ‘billets,’ small paper cards, with women’s names on them. Christians later denounced the use of these cards as lewd and pagan custom. The Church tried to substitute the exchange of prayer and sermon cards at this time of year, but the people reverted to hand-made love notes. The commercialization of the Valentine card occurred in recent history at the end of the Victorian Era.”

According to Pranzarone, the origin of the heart symbol was probably the shape of human female buttocks seen from the rear, and not an actual heart. Again, we can thank the Greeks and Romans for this. “The Greek goddess of beauty, Aphrodite, was beautiful all over, but was unique in that her buttocks were especially beautiful,” he says. “Her shapely, rounded hemispheres were so appreciated by the Greeks that they built a special temple to Aphrodite Kallipygos, which literally meant, ‘Goddess with the Beautiful Buttocks.’ This was probably the only religious building in the world that was dedicated to buttock worship.”

Cupid?the Roman god of love, desire and lust?is the son of Venus, the goddess of beauty. “So we see here that the goddess of beauty gives birth to the little god of love, desire and lust,” Pranzarone says. “This Cupid was no innocent kid, either. Even though he was a cute cherub, he flew about naked shooting people in the heart with arrows. His relationship with his mother was not particularly wholesome, either. Several paintings from the Renaissance show a rather incestuous relationship existing between Cupid and Venus.”

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

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