Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Donna Henes: On Valentines and Vulvas:

The Romans celebrated the sacred febris or sexual frenzy of the Goddess Juno in mid February, the time when the birds in Italy mate. On Lupercalia, men and women drew love lots to determine their partner for this festival of erotic games. Sulpicia, prominent 1st century BC Roman poet described her experience thus:

At last love has come. I would be more ashamed
to hide it in cloth than leave it naked.
I prayed to the Muse and won. Venus dropped him
in my arms, doing for me what she
had promised. Let my joy be told, let those
who have none tell it in a story.
Personally, I would never send off words
in sealed tablets for none to read.
I delight in sinning and hate to compose a mask
for gossip. We met. We are both worthy.

Lupercalia was the original Valentine's Day. Unable to stop this popular orgiastic festival, early church fathers created a mythical sainted martyr, patron of lovers, whose feast day would be February 14th. In doing so, they sanctioned a celebration they could not suppress.

All the symbols of Lupercalia are still intact, if sanitized and insipid. Cupid, child of Aphrodite and Hermes was an Herm-Aphrodite, the embodiment of sexual union. S/he is now depicted as a cutsie chubby angel baby with a bow and arrow. Cupid's arrows are symbolic of phallic projectiles of passion, penetrating a red heart. And the heart, which has no resemblance to an anatomical heart, is a simplistic illustration of an aroused and engorged vulva, a holy yoni.