Searching for Saint Valentine
A Light Hearted Look at Love
Searching for Saint Valentine
Saint Valentine has a lot to answer for – and who was he anyway? You don’t see him portrayed on cards like the fellow in the red suit at Christmas.
Investigation reveals several Mr Valentines who can claim the honours. And their lives were far from romantic. Here are a few.
Bishop Valentine for example. Around 270 AD he had a big bust up with Emperor Claudius. Claud had banned marriages. In his wisdom he believed married men made mediocre soldiers. The wimps preferred to make love, not war.
Valentine began conducting wedding ceremonies in secret. When Claudius found out you could tell he wasn’t happy. He had our hero stoned, clubbed, and, just to be certain he couldn’t recover, beheaded.
Another Valentine refused to worship pagan gods. He soon found himself in the slammer. The jailer’s daughter fell for him and, amongst other things, he taught her to pray. On the day of his execution he is said to have written to her, signing himself ‘Your Valentine.’
Then there’s Valentine the priest who ministered to Christian martyrs in Rome – and was himself martyred on 14 February in the 3rd century. What’s love got to do with it? It seems the association was purely accidental.
We can safely assume that a person named Valentine did live and was killed for being a Christian.
The Story Continues
Then the martyred Valentine became linked to a pagan Roman festival called Lupercalia.
At this ceremony the names of girls were put into a box and any young man who wanted a date for the festival had a lucky dip. (Or maybe unlucky!)
Anyway, the couple got together for pleasure and the whole darned thing. When February 14th came around the next year it was back to the lottery and change partners please.
The Christians were miffed about this blatant sin. They spoilt all the fun by changing the rules and placing saints’ names in the lottery box. The saint you picked out was the one you prayed to for the year. And Saint Valentine was chosen to head the operation.
Human nature being what it is, the idea didn’t last long. They all went back to pairing off and Saint Val was stuck with the consequences.
Later another custom evolved. The first person you saw on February 14th was your very own Valentine. You could claim each other.
Just as well this went out of fashion. Imagine the chaos on trains and trams and offices as everyone paired off.
Imagine disgruntled partners. You could rely on a Valentine’s day’s massacre every year.
Another tradition was strictly for the girls. The first bird they saw on Val’s Day indicated their future marriage partner. For instance – a sparrow – a countryman. A robin – a sailor. A blackbird – a clergyman. A goldfinch – whoopee – he would be rich.
Soon it became fashionable to send the one you fancied a Valentine’s card anonymously. This worked quite well.
People could dream it was from their hearts desire. And if you were dateless and desperate you could save face, send yourself one or two cards and boast about them.
Sending a clue to identity was fun. Maintaining the code of secrecy, I researched some past messages.
Did Spunky Who ever recognise Yucky Poo? Who is Muffin man, Guide Dog, Pear Drop and Hot Blooded one? Cheese cake sounded yummy but I have reservations about Snotface. Personally I identified with ‘Darling Antelope from the old goat.’
And a short message for the totally unimaginative – ‘The old grey mare is not what she used to be,’ is not a suitable lyric for the mature lady. You may well find her sense of humour is not what it used to be. Don’t ask me how I know.
Tonight - tonight
So what we have today is a commercial exercise guaranteed to make florists, confectioners and sellers of lingerie richer.
Not to mention wine merchants and expensive hotels. If you don’t declare your love in a big way it could be the end of the road. Love helps the economy along.
But how is love defined? True love can make us happy.
Love is so contradictory. People leave people they love for people they love more.
Meanwhile we’re still conditioned to believe in love everlasting –a walking hand in hand into the sunset scenario.
Lets look at the red-hot lovers we use as role-models. Romeo and Juliet. Cathy and Heathcliff, Rhett and Scarlett, Tony and Cleo. Hold it - none of them lived happily ever after. All these relationships were dysfunctional. Most had sticky endings.
Henry the Eighth ravaged England to ravage Anne Boleyn. Then he had her head chopped off. It must have been love that made him mean. He became betrothed to Jane Seymour the following day.
Remember Miss Havisham in Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations?
Love found her locked away in dust and despair, still wearing her wedding dress, watching rodents gobble up the cake. The cause of her misery. Love had shot through. She was determined to suffer.
It would be nice to rewrite it and let her see the error of her ways. Single, independent, wealthy. She could have gone places, that woman.
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways, wrote Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
She and Robert wouldn’t be impressed if they could see how people counted the ways these days. I bet they’d blush.
Love has me confused. But it’s better than the alternative. So come on Saint Val, inject a bit of love sweet love around the world.
Show us a sign, Val, and we’ll all be lovey-dovey. I promise. February 14th is coming and we’re counting on you.