Monday, February 15, 2016

The Festival of Wolves

"Three Women and Three Wolves" -- Eugene Grasset

Celebrating Lupercalia isn't really a thing that most modern Pagans do. It's not one of the eight Wiccan Sabbats. Some would argue that our festival of love is Beltane, so we don't necessarily need a Valentine's Day replacement. The question is, do we want one? If one chooses to have one, could Lupercalia be awesome? Of course! So how can we celebrate the spirit of this holiday in a new form?

First, let's look at some history. Lupercalia is a very ancient Roman festival (in fact, it was probably celebrated in Italy before Roman culture existed) taking place on February 13-15. People who want to celebrate it nowadays usually do so on the 15th. Lupercalia kind of took over Februa, an earlier holiday that also occurred on this date. The purpose of this festival was to purify the city of Rome and encourage virility/fertility. The name Lupercalia connects with wolves. Remember, in mythology Rome was founded by Romulus and Remus who were rescued and suckled by Juno-Lupa, the she-wolf (she is sometimes also known as Rumina). This holiday also pays tribute to Faunus, the patron god of the forest, plains, fields, and shepherds. He is the Roman form of Pan, is sometimes known as Lupercus.

Lupercalia is probably most well known for the wild way it was celebrated. The goat-skin clad priests of Faunus, known as the Luperci, would begin the festival with an animal sacrifice of two male goats and a dog. After a sacrificial feast, the Luperci would cut thongs from the animal's skins, making sure they were nicely dripping with blood, and run around striking anyone who came near. According to accounts, women would line up to get lashed because they believed it prevented sterility, increased fertility, and eased the pain of childbirth.

So, does Valentine's Day come from Lupercalia? I used to think so, but now I'm not so certain. I mean, there's the suspicious timing at the Eros/Cupid iconography, but they really don't have much else in common. According to my own logic it would make more sense for Marti Gras to be the modern Lupercalia. They have the same spirit, anyway.

If we tried to celebrate Lupercalia it the way the ancients did we would probably get arrested. A considerable amount of creativity will be needed in order to create a modern holiday. So, here's a few ideas:

  • The wolf is a very popular icon in the modern Pagan world. A lot of Pagans like to think of themselves as wolves. This holiday is a great opportunity to give homage to this beloved animal. Make or buy some wolf masks to wear and decorate the house with pictures of wolves. Wolves are almost extinct today, so instead of making an animal sacrifice one could make a monetary sacrifice and give to conservation efforts.
  • While I'm not Roman, I do have Italian heritage. Maybe Lupercalia can be used as a celebration of Italian history and culture. Eating some ancient Roman foods could present a challenge (I can't imagine them selling dormice in the grocery store) but most of them are familiar. Try some old recipes. And if worse comes to worse, there's always pasta.
  • There was definitely a heavy masculine component to this holiday. Some people may chose to have brotherly bonding be the focus of this celebration.
  • This is a good time to perform spells associated with purification, cleansing, fertility, new life, and childbirth. The ancient ritual with the bloody animal skins screams to be reborn as a color fight. Just use red colored powder instead of blood.
  • When Romulus and Remus were deprived of their parents, the Gods stepped up and gave them Lupa. Reflect upon the ways in which the divine gave you alternatives when life threw you a curve ball.
  • We Wiccans have Imbolc and Ostara, so seeing this as another "coming of spring" holiday is a little redundant. But there's nothing wrong with another excuse to plant flowers.
  • Consensual kinky sex has become a hallmark of Lupercalia. As long as everyone stays safe and has a good time, there's nothing wrong with that!

So with that being said, here's some names inspired by Lupercalia:

Romulus

Remus

Roman

Roma

Romilly

Faunus

Faun

Pan

Wolf

Wolfe

Wolfgang

Wolfram

Juno

Lupa

Lupe

Lupita

Lupine

Lowell

Loup

Rumina

Beowulf ("bee wolf")

Conan ("little wolf" or "little hound")

Sandalio ("true wolf")

Zev ("wolf")

Februa

Italy

Italia

Howl

Grey

Grayson

Eros

Cupid

Providence

Palatine

Love

Amoret ("little love")

Carys ("love")

Priya ("beloved")

Noa ("love, affection")

Esme ("loved, esteemed")

Prem ("love, affection")

Caradoc ("love")

Kama ("love, desire")

Erasmus ("beloved")

Aziz ("powerful, respected, beloved")

David ("beloved")

Forest

Wilder

Wilde

Shepherd