February 21, 2024

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Back to February: Valentine’s Day! (History)

St. Valentine begins in two separate 3rd Century martyrs with the same name who were supposedly executed on February 14. St. Valentine’s  initially evinced no special affinity for love between couples, reveling instead in the tortures of martyrdom and the miraculous of intercession by God.

The first association of St. Valentine’s Day with romantic love, or ‘love birds’, derives from Geoffrey Chaucer’s Parlement of Foules. Dating from 1382, Chaucer celebrated the engagement of the 15 year-old King Richard II to Anne of Bohemia with a poem, in which he wrote: For this was on St. Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh to choose his mate.

True to form, it was a Frenchman who is recording as sending the earliest surviving Valentine’s note to his sweetheart. Charles, the Duke of Orléans, was writing to her from his prison cell in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. In the poem the duke talks of his love for his wife and wrote to her as “my very sweet Valentine”.

By 1601 St. Valentine’s Day appears to be an established part of English tradition, as William Shakespeare makes mention of it in Ophelia’s lament in Hamlet: Tomorrow is Saint Valentine’s day, All in the morning betime, And I a maid at your window, To be your Valentine.

Cupid is the most famous of Valentine symbols and everybody knows that boy armed with bow and arrows, and piercing hearts . The arrows signify desires and emotions of love, and Cupid aims those arrows at Gods and Humans, causing them to fall deeply in love. Cupid has always played a role in the celebrations of love and lovers. In ancient he was known as Eros, the young son of Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty. To the Roman’s he was Cupid, and his mother was Venus.

Psyche was happy until her sisters persuaded her to look at Cupid. as soon as Psyche looked at Cupid, Cupid punished her by leaving her. Their lovely castle and gardens vanished too. Psyche found herself alone in an open field with no signs of other beings or Cupid. As she wandered trying to find her love, she came upon the temple of Venus. Wishing to destroy her, the goddess of love gave Psyche a series of tasks, each harder and more dangerous then the last.

For her last task Psyche was given a little box and told to take it to the underworld. She was told to get some of the beauty of Proserpine, the wife of Pluto, and put it in the box. During her trip she was given tips on avoiding the dangers of the realm of the dead. She was also warned not to open the box. But temptation came over her. When she opened the box she did not found beauty she found deadly slumber. Cupid found her lifeless on the ground. Cupid forgave her, as did Venus. Psyche’s love for Cupid made her a goddess. Today, Cupid become the most popular of love signs.


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