Lupercalia is a popular pagan festival that was celebrated by Ancient Romans every February 15th of the year.
The festival which primarily celebrates fertility and purification is normally headed by a group of priests that is called the Luperci.
It is believed that the festivity was a way of honoring the legendary she-wolf named Lupercus who nursed and cared the Romulus and Remus who were the twin founders of Rome.
According to a Roman Legend, King Amulius once ordered his troops to throw both Romulus and Remus to the Tiber River for the fear that the twin brothers would overtake his kingdom.
The brothers were initially cared and rescued by a she-wolf before they were adopted by a shepherd and his wife.
Every Lupercalia celebration often started with the sacrificial rites by the Luperci. Among the most popular animals that were sacrificed in the festival include dogs and goats.
Interestingly enough, the ritual also required two young men to laugh to be completed.
Consequently, chosen celebrants which wore the skins of sacrificed animals were tasked to run through the streets of Rome to help increase the fertility of every woman.
By simply hitting women with their goatskin thongs, the Luperci can dramatically uplift their fertility level.
While nakedness was among the popular characteristics of the Lupercalia, it eventually lost its popularity over time.
The celebration became a bit more innocent and women were whipped on their hands by fully-clothed men.
Facts about the Festivity of Lupercalia
- The Lupercalia was also associated with a deity named Faunus who is the grandson of Saturn. Typically, Faunus is described by Ancient Romans as someone who is half man and half goat.
- The Lupercalia is normally linked with Valentine’s Day. Even though Valentine’s Day was derived from a martyred Christian saint named St. Valentine, several scholars believe that the holiday is actually an off-shoot of the Lupercalia.
- Dissimilar to Valentine’s Day, the Lupercalia was a sexually-charged festivity which is most often violent and bloody. In fact, it features animal sacrifices as well as random coupling and match-making in the aim of fending off infertility and evil spirits.
- The Lupercalia is also closely connected to Julius Caesar as it provides everyone with helpful insights into the final months of his life.
- The Lupercalia is considered as the longest-lasting Roman festival in history. It is believed that the Lupercalia started during 753 B.C. and ended on 5thcentury A.D.
- Male goats were among the most popular sacrificial offerings during the Lupercalia festival. In Ancient Rome, goats were a symbol of fertility and sexuality.
- Sacrifices were prohibited at the start of 341 A.D. but several historians believed that the Lupercalia survived beyond this date.
- Some versions attribute the end of the Lupercalia festival during the time of Pope Gelasius while other scholars argue that it ended during the time of Pope Felix III.
- When did the Lupercalia end?
It was believed that the Lupercalia formally ended in most part of Rome during 5th century A.D. However, the celebration continued to the 10th century in Constantinople.
- When did the elements of sexuality ended in celebrating the Lupercalia?
Nakedness and sexuality were removed from the Lupercalia by the 2nd century A.D.
- Where is the Lupercalia held?
More often than not, Lupercalia festivals were held in popular places such as the Palatine Hill, the Lupercal cave, and in the Comitium which is a Roman open-air and public meeting place. Ancient Romans believed that the Lupercal Cave was among the most important places in Rome as this was the site where Romulus and Remus were cared for by the she-wolf.
- What are the popular activities held in the Lupercalia?
Other than the sacrificial rites, men also randomly select a woman’s name from a jar during the Lupercalia. Legend has it that the woman picked by each man have to stay with them until the duration of the festival. It is, however, essential to note that there have been numerous circumstances that couples stayed together and eventually got married.