View Full Version : Valentine's Day before it was Valentine's Day

12-08-2013, 02:14 PM
Anyone know anything about the pagan celebration Valentine's Day was before it was Valentine's Day? Or as it's celebrated today by some modern pagan groups, maybe? Any other Valentine's Day trivia, factoids or personal experiences? I'm thinking about a Valentine's Day story but not sure which way to go with it yet, so whatever you've got to say about it is most welcome. :)

Alessandra Kelley
12-08-2013, 03:24 PM
Have a look at the early Renaissance illuminated book "King René's Book of Love." A white-clad king dreams and is led around by Love in some weird and beautiful imagery. The one that sticks most in my mind is where King René offers his heart. Literally -- he's holding it out in his hand.

Looking at the stylized French Renaissance painting, it suddenly becomes obvious how that heart is a perfect link between the appearance of real human hearts and the strangely stylized symmetric red two-lobed symbol we call a "heart" today.

So far as I know, there aren't especially any pagan rites about Valentine's Day. Although there are certainly pagan holidays that got folded into later Christian ones, there is little evidence that that happened here.

Saint Valentine's Day was earliest associated with the advent of spring (ah, Europe, with its mild climate and early spring). It didn't much get associated with romantic love until after the introduction of the Sufi concept of Courtly Love, around the fourteenth century, and then things like the presentation of the heart, as seen in the above illuminations, came from Sufi mysticism, not from some ancient European paganism.

During the fashion for neoclassicism in the eighteenth century there was an attempt to connect Valentine's Day to pagan Roman festivals, but like so much eighteenth century mythologizing it was based solely on wishful thinking.

Most of the rest of the associations with Valentine's Day, the flowers, gifts, and candy, are recent developments.

12-08-2013, 08:39 PM
There are several St. Valentine, which is the first problem.

The second problem is that they had / have various Saint's days.

Earlier, before Chaucer, the most popular St. Valentine's day seems to have been May 3.

Chaucer seems to have made February 14 popular via his poem The Parliament of Fowls; he had political reasons for choosing that date as the day every bird chose its mate.

See: Chaucer and the Cult of Saint Valentine. Henry Ansgar Kelly. (See your local academic/uni library; this is a pricey monograph).

See also: http://www.spotlight.ucla.edu/faculty/henry-kelly_valentine/


The imagery (but NOT the style) of King Rene's Book of Love is derived largely from an earlier French medieval poem called the Roman de la Rose/Romance of the Rose.

This is a lengthy, elaborate and allegorical dream vision (a popular genre) wherein a lover dreams of/seduces Rose, who is both (allorically) a representation of idealized female sexuality/love and and actual flower.

It was started by one poet, Guillaume de Lorris and finished by another Jean de Meun, both in the later 14th century.

It was an enormous hit, heavily illustrated, read, debated, translated (Chaucer translated a chunk) and critqued by early feminist and writer Christine de Pizan.

It's also totally bizarre, because at the end, the Rose is essentially raped, in one of the weirdest and also horrible scenes in medieval lit.

See mss:



12-08-2013, 09:30 PM
There's pretty much no evidence for Valentine's day being associated with anything pagan.

The closest we (Wicca specifically) have is Beltane (or Beltaine) which celebrates the fertility of the land and the love between the God and Goddess. Traditionally it was a day for making love in the fields to celebrate that, so as to bring fertility to the crops. Beltaine is traditionally celebrated on May 1, though the astrological date (what I use) is 15 degrees Taurus, which usually falls around May 3-9.

ETA: Beltaine is also the "faeries moving day," when they were said to move from their winter court to their summer one. It is one of the two days when the veil between the worlds is most thin. (The other being Samhain.)

My book Dark Moon Gates actually takes place around the Beltaine dark Moon.

King Neptune
12-08-2013, 10:21 PM
The celebration of St. Valentine's Day is derived from the Roman festival of Lupercalia. If you search, then you will find even more about it.


12-09-2013, 08:16 AM
Thanks, everyone.