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The Ancient Origins of Valentine's Day

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When we think of Valentine's Day we tend to think of chocolate, love, and presents, yet most of us don't know that Valentine's Day has its roots in an ancient Roman fertility festival called Lupercalia. It was a festival celebrating early spring, fertility, the ancestors, and love. The ancient priests would sacrifice a goat and then make their way around the perimeter of the city of Rome, lightly tapping women on the way with strips of the blood-soaked goat's skin. No one thought this was strange, as this was an invitation for the spirits of the ancestors to re-incarnate through the cycle of rebirth and ensure fertility. At the end of the day single girls would write their names and place them into an urn. Each bachelor would pick a name out of the urn and would spend the year with her -- thus ensuring fertility for the community.

Many of our other common rituals associated with Valentine's Day also come from cultures and times long passed. In the Middle Ages in France and England the ritual of picking a single girl's name out of an urn continued. The bachelor took it a step farther though, and would actually draw a heart on his sleeve -- which is where "wearing your heart on your sleeve" comes from! He would then commit to taking care of her for the whole year -- love that idea!

Another example of this comes from a legend. In the 3rd century, the Roman Emperor Claudius II thought marriage was not good for war since men wanted to stay home with their wives, so he outlawed marriage. At the time there was a Christian priest named Valentine who felt sorry for the couples and married people in secret. When Claudius found out, he threw Valentine in jail and executed him on Feb. 14. Before his death however, Valentine wrote a letter to the jailer's daughter, who had become his friend and signed it from your Valentine.

Throughout the ages men and women continued to write love notes to each other, much like Valentine in the 3rd century. They crafted the art of caring poems and used to sign them with just a heart if they didn't know how to write. In the 17th and 18th century, small gifts were also exchanged at this time. Greeting cards also began to be popular in the 19th century. This was an easy way to show affection to another in a society that was not overly emotional.

Today with the e-card there is no excuse for not sending a note of love and appreciation, although in my opinion, nothing replaces a handwritten note -- especially one rubbed with lavender flowers, which it is said to bring you and your love happiness.

This Valentine's Day, make it a ritual to love.

For your relationship: Bring the passion back. Remember all the things that made you fall in love with your partner. Over time communication can turn into miscommunication, and criticism can supplant support. If something doesn't change, the focus on negativity will begin to block out all positive elements in the relationship. This is also a perfect holiday to renew your vows: Tell your partner what you love and appreciate about them and the reasons these vows matter in your everyday lives. When you are finished, commit to doing what it takes build a strong relationship that can endure. This quote is one of my favorites from the I Ching, that I often use when officiating marriage ceremonies: "... but when two people are at one in their inmost hearts, they shatter even the strength of iron or bronze; and when two people understand each other in their inmost hearts, their words are sweet and strong, like the fragrance of orchids."

For yourself: Treat yourself the way you want someone else to treat you. Set your intention to have the love you deserve. You have to make time for love if you want it in your life. When you treat yourself as precious, you will more easily attract true love and healthy relationships into your life. Eventually you will develop an aura that will radiate in the world and draw others to you. Go to movies or concerts you've wanted to attend. Have brunch at that new restaurant. Buy yourself a beautiful sweater or a good book. Whatever you choose to do, just go out and enjoy yourself!

Remember that love always begins within our own heart. Envision, nurture and share this healthy love with yourself, your family, friends and community. When we come from this place of open-heartedness, we are better listeners, communicators, friends and lovers. Think how your life might be different if everyday were Valentine's Day.

For the world: Send a love letter to Mother Earth. She is the Great Mother and source of all love and fertility. A simple ritual that I love to do in honor of her is to place a rose (linked to Venus and love) on the earth as a sign of your appreciation and devotion.

For more by Barbara Biziou, click here.

For more on traditions, click here.

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