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The Puzzle of Valentine’s Day

  The Puzzle of St Valentine's Day

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Feb 14th is when Valentine was put to death. Later this day, as Christianity spread, and became the heart of the Roman Empire, became a day of remembrance. But how such a day, of death and faith, especially of a Bishop not known for libidinous joy, becomes a day to part love’s rose and taste the liqueur centre of love’s mystery must be treated as a puzzle.  

How has the remembrance day of a Christian Saint killed by a Roman Emperor become a day dedicated to romantic love?

Modern researchers argue that what once was a festival that was ‘devout’, became transformed by the Romantic Movement of Courtly Love of Europe dating to the early 1100’s.

This was the time of The First Crusade, when Earls of terrible power, Knights of Renown rode off to battle, leaving behind their ladies, ensconced in castles, with a small retinue of trusted relatives and retainers. Abandoned by God’s war, for years, and longer... European, especially French castles and land became a place of another kind of battle, a mesmeric dance... The Ladies left behind could not be disrespected, they had honour bestowed on them, by the feudal system, for an insult on them was an insult on the Earl, on the land, on every Lord, and so on the kingdom. No, each of these Ladies, and their Ladies in waiting were not to be treated lightly, commanding swords, loyalty, torture chambers... And yet they were human, alive with need, touched by Venus’ gifts and earth’s bounty... and those who were left to hold the land, to be The Earl’s right arm were not less impacted by Nature’s warmth...

And so from this dynamic sprang...

A Religion of Love

Yes, a Religion of Love, sprang from the loins of Women abandoned by Men, but by feudal law to be respected. It had its commandments. Codified by such authors like Capellanus, whose influential text De Amore, lays down precepts like:-

"Marriage is no real excuse for not loving."
"He who is not jealous cannot love."
"No one can be bound by a double love."
“When made public love rarely endures.”

Now remember these were times when women often did not have rights. Were property of the man. When women did not choose partners. ‘When alliances had sound, financial, legal, and familial reasons’, not whimsical romantic reasons. Adultery was a crime.

Consider this, adultery among the Jews, right till the medieval times meant it could attract death by burning, beheading or stoning. Burning meant hot lead was poured down the gullet. While European law stopped at capital punishment, its alternates were not a bed of roses. Common punishment for adulterous women & men in France was whipping, head shaving, and parading the adulterer through the streets, or worse, enclosure or imprisonment. Though at the gates of the ‘prison’ the husband could take her back or leave her perpetually enclosed.

And so you see how radical the ‘Religion of Love’ really was.

The Crusades against Islam, did not succeed in taking back Jerusalem. But it bred a new Jerusalem. A new-ancient religion. A new-old God.

Chaucer has a hand in this Conspiracy of Love!

Now the actual linkage of St Valentine’s day and Love’s celebrations is laid at Chaucer’s feet. His poem a Parliament of Birds, linked a glorious bowing down to nature’s gift of Spring, and Love to St Valentine’s Day.

The Poem Parliament of Birds
{Transcreated from the Original, and translated-originals,}
A version by Tarun reads thus...

Although I know not Love,
Nor how he pays his vassals their hire,
I know, through pen’s grace, I know,
I know, through scribe’s futile offering, I know,
I know only this that he is Lord...
“God Gave such a Lord”. I shall proclaim.

On Saint Valentine’s Day, it was,
When every bird comes here to choose its mate,
I opened the covers of an ancient book
And plunge in...

Read, read I greedy,
In Cicero's inky maze I follow Scipio to Heaven’s ascent,
See earth as but a place of torment,
There as I seek the mysteries of glory greater than glory,
Night descends, dread night,
night of a thousand stars and ravening wolf,
The skies in mottled morbid hate
Should cause the brave to shiver...
But the stars touch eyes of heart and lift its thrust...

Who do I see?
Scipio Africanus again, but not from page, but as man, as wizard-force...
He guides, his path takes me... {And now you}, 
There to the place where earthly rock
give way to grassy enchantment,
There where stream asks the brave to brave
the treachery of raging water, slippery rock,
There I meet God Priapus,
Holding his turgid staff,
There I meet caves of green in scented enchantment curved...

On Saint Valentine’s Day, it was,
When every bird comes here to choose its mate,
And every kind of man fills the crowd of Life,
And raises up a thunderous noise,
That the very earth & air & tree & every lake resounds...

That I walked into her chamber...
And my eyes did burn like tapers at the kingly court,
See... or cover them fair sir,
For shall it not blind?  
Her golden hair with a golden thread is tied
But not with loving hand, so gentle,
it spreads its rippling charms...
And where it brush the cheek, your mind brush too,
And where gold tasselled hair explores a nipple,
How will the lover hidden beneath the armoured breast not follow suit?
From breast to head, she lies naked...
But even there where hungry man should turn for more,
Nothing stops the naked eye,
Invites indeed,  
For where the eye descends with delicate feet below,
Is but a veil woven so sheer,
The mist teases, than forbids...

Many will stop here and dally,
But you are made of truer heart,
{Are you not sir?},
And deeper plunge...

Deeper go you, to where She sits,
Divine, splendrous,
Impossible to behold or Say no to...
Eternal Lover, everspringing young,
Goddess Nature,
the almighty Lord’s daughter, surely She?
So you walk close drawn to her side,
Pulled by her eyes,
Urgent the step, so slow,
Do you curl at her feet?
Or sit by her side and lay head gently on her lap...

You are a rainbow of laughter,
every cell asinging with Spring...

{Note: While this broadly follows Chaucer’s poetic path, those who would prefer a modern Chaucer translation that takes fewer liberties may refer to Kline’s translation: https://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/English/Fowls.php }

The Goddess of Spring reclaims her Garden:

St Valentine's Day, which was marked by ideas of Martyrdom... is set in February in giddy days of early spring... Now across the world in Spring, Feb-March, different civilisations have had festive days where love has been the celebratory focus. In India Vanyotsava and Hollika, in Rome one had Lupercalia, the Chinese New Year festivals. Many of these festivals can be traced back, 5-10,000 years... And so as the long years of wintry piety, and crusading chill steel, began to inspire a Religion of Love... The rock of martyrdom, began to be covered over by wild creepers of Love's roses... And St Valentine who was not Lord Priapus' devotee, or patron of Lovers {He is among other things protector of Epileptics}... Became through poet's fancy linked with, a Festival of Love...

Festivals of Spring, will, and should celebrate, life, love, romance, desire... For when we dance with life and not against it, only then shall we grow truly... wholly...

It is when we trust our bodies, accept the incense of love, raise to the deepest union, Man & Soul, Shiva, Shakti, Nature & Cosmos... that we stop lobotomising ourselves...

As you read, and reread the message, you realise that what is marvellous is how the religious war, a war of patriarchal force, driven by patriarchal ideas of right and wrong, should have inspired a respect for womanhood, and nudged man back into respecting nature again, if not everyday, but at least for a season...

The religion of Love & Nature... hides behind the mask of a saint...

And so you see our history, the history of man, lurching like a drunk, or wounded soldier is not, abandoned, deeper consciousness nudges, pulls us out from beneath bloodied cross, or the horns of raging beast...

“Who are you that guide us sorry creatures?” we ask....

The Racial Consciousness of Man:

“Not Gods, but helpers, souls of man, collectives...” They answer,  “We are racial consciousness, promise of every species that became flesh, who see the struggling stream of man-ants, and nudge the journey...

“We are chosen from those beyond time, those who were last on earth millennia ago, those who are dead, and few who are still on earth...

“In our council are all kinds, kings and sweepers...

“In our council is not only man, but tree, lake, ant, stone, earth, galaxy and God & God & God... ”

Are we abandoned?

"We are more a parliament, a gaggle, sometimes there is one leader, sometimes, three... sometimes like now, one has an angel from a majestic herarchy conduct our guidance...

"So we shape destiny... in many ways... our primary route is dream... then impulse... the quickening of a stock broker's heart... shiver in the finger of an inventor... we can also step into brains {more rare} and inspire scientist, activist, thinker, poet, lover...

"Can we do more? Ummmm... Yes... We can reshape a mind... nudge ways of seeing... Can we do more? Order an assasination? No. But we can inflame conflict, harmonise a home... Can we do more? We can see... We can warn...

“You face your greatest challenge. In decades, the first hammer will fall, will it crush or rouse? Will earth cast you off and choose another? Will starfarers come and put you firmly in place? That is left to you to decide... ”

“Know this; there is wisdom in the body... It connects with great earth dragons...

“There are powerful technologies, ways to make suns on earth, to ring the planet with satellites, bio-weapons that can selectively wipe out white, or brown, or yellow, or black... and yet the greatest at your disposal is your heart... is love... is joy... is belief in the magic of your existence... ”

And so shall we halt here? And Let us renew our hearts... Let us strengthen the belief in the magic of our existence?

-- Tarun & Celia Cherian

 

 

 

   
 

To feel the true power of Love

Re-Read God is Kick Ass Real An introduction to a divine being that leads Creator's Child, by Tarun & Celia Cherian, Jan 2021

To know the true expansiveness of Love

Re-Read Love knows no separation. by Nadi*, Dec 2016.

To know how Love sustains our world

Re-Read Joy Weaves The World Pub: December 2020.

 

  Images in the Collage courtesy Daniel Apodaca & Jason Abdilla, from unsplash.com