by Dr. Susan Block
It’s Hearts ‘n’ Flowers time again, or maybe it’s Whips ‘n’ Floggers time for you. Whatever your fantasy or fetish—even if you somehow manage to steer clear of love and sex the rest of the year—it’s futile to resist around Valentine’s Day. Images of ideal love surround you: the soft-lit couples embracing or strolling on a sunset beach, baby cupids fluttering around them, candy hearts dripping with cream, dashing young men slipping gleaming diamond rings on feminine fingers, lovely young ladies gazing adoringly up (always up!) into their one guy’s eyes, lush lips parted in a sweetly suggestive “O”. These images simultaneously make you feel good and bad. You feel good, because who but a romantic zombie isn’t aroused by all that fluttering, embracing and dripping cream? Bad, because real-life love rarely measures up to the Valentine ideal—at least not in that gauzy goody-goody eternally youthful way, plus all that candy just puts on weight. As we so often confront in this bloggamy: The Ideal is the Enemy of the Real.
The Saint Valentine Day Hallmark Fantasy
Consider that Valentine’s Day as we know it is based upon a capitalist’s fairy tale. The High Holiday of Love was essentially concocted by the 19th century American greeting card industry. To increase card sales, Hallmark’s predecessors spun the romantic tale of a Christian martyr we now know as Saint Valentine who married young couples secretly and illegally in pagan Rome, where mean old Emperor Claudius had forbidden his soldiers to marry. In reality, there were several Christian martyrs named Valentine, and there’s no real evidence that any of them did anything remotely like this. But the Ideal is often more compelling than the Real. As the story usually goes, after Saint Valentine was arrested and refused to recant Christianity, he was condemned to death. While imprisoned, he healed his jailer’s blind daughter, who fell in love with him (“love is blind,” after all). Before he was executed, on February 14 (of course), he left the girl a farewell note, which she could now see and read (thanks to his saintly ophthalmological skills), signed “your Valentine.” If that sounds a little too Hollywood and/or Hallmark-friendly to be real, it’s because it’s made up of just as much make-believe.
It also makes you feel horribly left out if you don’t happen to have a very special someone, a “Valentine” of your own, upon whom you can spend limitless cash (Xmas, birthdays, anniversaries or Valentine’s Day, that’s always your purpose, according to the Hallmark holidaymakers). If you are fortunate enough to have a beloved Valentine and a few discretionary dollars, pesos or yen to spend, the pressure on the two of you to make this day and night awesomely romantic is intense and debilitating, often turning otherwise happy homes into Saint Valentine’s Day Massacres (emotionally speaking) by February 15.
It’s enough to make you want to whack someone, maybe even your special someone.
Whip it Up for Lupercalia!
The idea of celebrating exclusive, romantic LOVE on what we call Valentine’s Day is a relatively new invention. But the tradition of honoring all-inclusive, natural LUST around February 14 pre-dates classical times when Ancient Romans put on the Lupercalia, an archaic festival of the now obscure old shepherd god Lupercus, an even earthier cousin of Faunus, the Roman Pan. In these early Roman times, the Luperalia celebrated communal sexuality, purification, fertility, the true meaning of the heart, the rush of hormones, the howl of the wolf, the crack of the whip, the laughter of lust and the coming of Spring.
Several millennia before anyone thought up 50 Shades or even the initials BDSM, Lupercalia (or The Lupercalia) celebrated the joy of communal erotic whipping every year on or around February 14th… that is, until the early Church banned and replaced it with the far more chaste, sanitized and now thoroughly commercialized Valentine’s Day.
What was the old Lupercalia, and what could it become? “Luper” is Latin for “she-wolf.” According to Rome’s foundation myth, after their great uncle Amulius ordered them tossed into the Tiber River,the twin brothers, Romulus and Remus, were rescued and suckled by a she-wolf (luper) in a cave they called the Lupercal. Interestingly, the word “lupa” is Latin slang for “prostitute.” So the Luper is a kind of “Sacred Whore,” the Great Primal Wolf-MILF of ancient Rome.
After Romulus founded Rome (having killed his brother in a fit of sibling rivalry), two “colleges” or fraternities of nearly naked young men, the ancient Roman “frat boys” of the Luperci Quintilii (founded by Romulus) and the Luperci Fabii (Remus’ boys), got together in that dark, womb-like cave of the Lupercal in mid-February. There they sacrificed a goat, marking each other’s foreheads ritualistically with bright blood-red goat’s blood. Then they feasted on fresh roasted goat and drank a lot of wine, as the more sober among them cut strips from the goatskin, making some into loincloths and others into leather whips called “februa.” Thus equipped and very drunk, the Lupercalians left their cave, laughing and howling like wolves, as they raced through the hills and towns, wielding their februa whips, gaily whacking the willing behinds of women, also perhaps a bit drunk, looking for luck, love and perhaps a baby. The ancient Romans believed that such gentle whacks ensured fertility, which is not as scientific as an IVF clinic, but it probably did whip the local populace up into a frenzy for sex.
The great, horned and horny god Pan, whom the Romans called Faunus, lord of the wild, also lends his support to the Lupercalia, and the celebrations often did get rather “wild.” Needless to say, all that wild whipping and other blatantly sexual forms of public sex were (and are) a lot more interesting than Valentine cards and candy. In fact, it was a little too interesting for the early Catholic Church which squelched Lupercalian enthusiasm by not only making it illegal, but by turning Pan/Faunus into the Devil, branding the horny old Lupercalian and all communal sacred sex as “Satanic.” Then it placed the more Church-friendly celebration of Valentine’s Day right around the time of the old Lupercalia, appropriating the color of goat’s blood smeared on human skin as its signature hue: red.
Another symbol of Valentine’s Day seems to me also to be Lupercalian in origin. The classic Valentine “heart” looks nothing like the cardiac organ for which it appears to be named. It does look like a well-formed, well-whipped set of buns, however. No wonder we call the perfect ass “heart-shaped.” Because the heart logo is shaped like the perfect ass.
Not that there’s anything wrong with red hearts that symbolize romance, or lovers enjoying a candlelit Valentine’s dinner for two followed by gifts, candy and hours of intimate lovemaking–if you can even move after all that dinner and candy.
As for my beloved husband of 24 years and me, we ritualistically celebrate the “Feast of Saint Valentine” by opening our “Speakeasy” to a Saturday night Valentine/Lupercalian Bacchanal, whipping it up for Lupercalia with februa, floggers, no pressure to be “in love” (unless you just are), but lots of opportunity to feel the love, as well as enjoy the lust and an erotic sense of community. Of course, unlike the old Roman Lupercalia, we usually have at least as many ladies whipping and whacking the menfolk as vice versa, plus same-gender whacking. It’s The Bonobo Way. Though they don’t make februa, bonobos do whack each other occasionally as part of their erotic play. #GoBonobos!
What’s with all the whacking? It’s fun! It’s safe sex. And if you stick to the buttocks, it’s difficult to do damage. But it’s more than that. If love is going to hurt—as it so often does, despite all the flowery cards and candy fantasies—around Valentine’s Day, then you’re better off getting your buns beaten than your heart broken. Yes indeed, the spanking-hot lust and communal pleasure of Lupercalia is the way of the wild and, perhaps our more pagan, cooperative and bonoboësque future.
So if the sugar-coated hard-sell of Valentine’s Day hype is giving you a toothache, whip it up for Lupercalia this season.
Join us for our Valentine Lupercalia this Saturday. RSVP: Call 310-568-0066.
Read The Bonobo Way
Get the Finest Lupercalian Whips and Floggers at JuxLeather.
See Exciting Flogging and All Kinds of Amazing Sex and Commedia Erotica Clips and Pix on DrSuzy.tv.
This Valentine’s Day or Any Day, Give the Gift of Therapy to Someone You Love, Even If That Someone Is You. Call the Dr. Susan Block Institute at 310-568-0066.
Watch & listen to the Story of Lupercalia, the Original Valentine’s Day: