Lupercalia

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The Lupercalia was a Roman festival held in honor of Pan. It was celebrated near the cave or grotto of Lupercal near the Palatine Mount, to expiate and purify new life in the Spring.

During Lupercalia, a dog and goats were sacrificed to Pan, who was in part a dog or goat. Two youths were anointed with the blood and ran round the city with thongs cut from the sacrificed goats in their hands called Februa. We get our month of February from the Latin februare, "to purify".

Girls who were struck by the februa were believed to be granted fertility.

Today, Lupercalia is celebrated as Valentine's Day.

The festival went on until A.D. 484, when Pope Gelasius I, in a typical pattern of early Christianity, made use of a pagan festival for Christian purposes and changed Lupercalia into a Christian "Feast of Purification" now known as Lent. The last day before Lent, known as Shrove Tuesday in older English sources, Mardi Gras in French, and Carnival in many places, is a festival of feasting before the penitential season begins. Carne + vale in Latin means, literally, "goodbye, meat", an appopriate sentiment at the beginning of Lent.


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