In the last few days of January and on into February, store shelves are inevitably filled with red and pink hearts filled with chocolates and teddy bears with outstretched arms. This of course is in observance of Valentine’s Day. We all know this day is associated with love and relationships and is a time to exchange gifts, chocolates and other treats as well as spend time with the special people in our lives. In recent days, as I’ve noticed the usual Valentine’s paraphernalia piling up in store windows, I’ve realized that despite the romantic connotations there are hardly any love spells or rituals associated with this day and the few I have been able to find have been invented quite recently. This prompted me to explore the origins and traditions of Valentine’s Day a bit more to understand why so few magical traditions are associated with this day.
February 14th is the feast day of Saint Valentine, an obscure 3rd century martyr about whom virtually nothing is known. Some sources claim that he was a bishop in the early church. All that is known for sure is that there was a Christian martyr named Valentinus who died in Rome on the 14th of February 269 AD. The feast of Saint Valentine was established by Pope Gelasius I in 496 and his veneration spread throughout the universal church. He is today venerated in Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism and even the Lutheran and Anglican churches maintained his feast day after the Reformation.
Many historians believe that the association between lovers and St. Valentine can be traced back to the early days of Christianity when the church often tried to absorb pagan holidays and replace them with Christian observances. In Southern Europe spring comes early and many species of birds start to nest by mid-February and ancient Romans associated this time of year with acts of love. The institution of the Feast of St. Valentine could have been an attempt to substitute a pagan feast with a day honoring the martyr Valentine and over time the association of love and romance transferred from previous pagan observances to St. Valentine’s Day. This association between lovers and St. Valentine’s Day reemerged in the late Middle Ages in the writings of Geoffrey Chaucer during a time when the idea of courtly love was very much en vogue. Beginning with Chaucer’s writings, the idea of St. Valentine’s Day being a day for lovers extended throughout the English speaking world and has only in recent years spread to other countries and cultures, many of which had previously existing traditions regarding days for lovers.
It was not until the Victorian and Edwardian ages that many of the symbols associated with this holiday came into being, red and pink hearts, images of cupid, gifts of chocolate and jewelry can all be traced to the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Really from the beginning, Valentine’s Day has been more of a cultural and social observance as opposed to a religious one which explains the lack of rituals and magical practices associated with this day despite it bearing the name of a saint. You can however invent you own rituals to draw and strengthen love and perform them on February 14th when so much positive love based energy abounds. I wish you a happy and love filled Valentine’s Day and a life filled with abundant blessings.