Ask Angus #26: Valentine’s Day (or the Bohemian rite of Beltane!)

Dear Ask Angus: Valentines Day. I mean, what the hell?
Single in Salinas

Dear Single: Um…… you have a question, perhaps?

Sorry. Its just – what gives? Is it a real holiday? Was Valentine a real person? Should I expect anything on the 14th from the guy I’m seeing? (and If so – why?)

Dear Single. I see your point. What the hell?

Valentines Day is a Hallmark Holiday whose purpose is redundant to those who are partnered and damned depressing to those who are not.

Valentines Day is a celebration of Earthly love that is sponsored by a Saint*. Oh the irony.

Because nothing says “I love you” more than commemorating the death of a celibate Catholic priest who was martyred and buried under a highway in Rome on February 14th. Ting! Moment!

Listen to St. Valentine, He says “If you really
liked me, you’d reinter my bones. Thanks.”

 Valentinus became a speedbump under the Via Flaminia in 197 C.E. – well, except for his ‘relics’ (read: bones) which are now venerated in a Roman basilica. Oh, those creepy Catholics.

There is nothing in the scant information known about “Valentine” to link him to affection in any way. He just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time worshipping the wrong god but buried at the right time: During the festival of Lupercalia. (Now THERE’S a holiday for ya!)

Goeffrey Chaucer then took up the tale, 1200 years later (1382), writing a poem that included the lines

“For this was on seynt Volantynys day

Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.”

Because cheesing your make is what Valentine’s Day is all about, right? Except, hold on a minute: birds don’t choose their mates in mid-February. Especially in England. Brrrrr!

Valentinus (third from left), taking his pulse and saying
“Yo, dogs! What’s with the skinny-ass door?”
He is standing on the road that would become his GRAVE

Turns out Chaucer (or, in the original spelling: Cahzea%icuyxorrr) was commemorating a marriage treaty between Richard II and Anne of Bohemia, which was signed on May 2, 1381. (Because nothing says “Romance” like needing a flippin’ treaty for your engagement.)

So, given the adjusted date, Valentines day is really another name for Beltane, especially as both Dick and Annie were 15 years old at the time of their negotiated betrothal. Oh, you crazy kids!

So we have a saint who isn’t a Saint buried without his bones and used politically to combat the wildly popular local Lupercalian custom of drawing random names for a massive key party. The memory of said Saint was then enshrined in a hoyrrribaly misspelled poemmmme that missed the date by two-and-a-half months and caused a whole bunch of birdies to catch cold.

And there the Holiday sat, more or less dormantly, until about 1850 when Hallmark said “Hey, we can score major buck-a-roonies and slaughter whole forests because of lust and guilt. Woo-hooo! Roll the presses!!”

Which brings us to the confectionary paper lacey juggernaut of Marketing that we have today – all of which would have completely horrified Saint Volantynys.

Me? I’m all for affection and the veneration of my partner, the awesome Admiral Karen. But I choose to do so when I choose to do so – not when I am TOLD to do so.

I celebrate my life’s love everyday with playful passion and a kaleidoscope of gifts, very few of which are pink or cause tooth decay.

So, Single, its not so much what your guy does for you on The Day. What counts is what you do for each other EVERY DAY.

 Angus McMahan


*Actually Valentinus hasn’t been a Saint since he (or more accurately ‘they’) were laid off in 1969. Sorry, about all this, Val. Rest in – Peace?

 (1st and 4th photos from; 2nd and 3rd photos from Wikipedia. 5th photo from Authors collection,)

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