Valentine’s Day. I’m a real fan of love and romance thanks to watching Room With A View at the impressionable age of 14. (I also fell in love with Florence but that needs its own post or five).

As I age and I see heart-shaped dog pillows and college girls in mini-skirts and heels climb through snow banks on a date, Valentine’s Day seems ridiculous. But that may be appropriate.

The ancient Roman feast of Lupercalia was celebrated from Feb. 13th to 15th. Men would go into the cave where Remus and Romulus, the founders of Rome, suckled on the she-wolf Lupa, sacrifice a goat and a dog, skin them, get drunk and naked, and use the animal hides to 'whip’ women who were lined up and ready. It increased fertility. The men also drew names of women from a jar who would be their, ahem, ‘dates’ for the festival and maybe later got married if it was a good match.

Per usual, 5th century Pope Gelasius replaced Lupercalia with St. Valentine’s Day to end paganism whilst honoring two Christians named Valentine who were killed by Claudius II. And here we are several hundred years later with the business savvy of Richard and George Cadbury and Hall Bros. card company.

Wellcome Images, CC BY

Historical power struggles and commercialism aside, I do like little heart shaped things, like cupcake sprinkles, and was curious about how the shape came to exist. 

The plant silphium grew in the ancient Greek city of Cyrene in North Africa. The stem and roots produced a sap that was used as a wonder drug for chills, fevers, corns, coughs, stomach aches, gas. It was so valuable, the Cyrenians put the silphium seed on their money.

Kurt Baty/Fair Use

Perhaps it made them so much money because it had another use.

Birth control.

Every cupcake sprinkle, candy box, love emoji, and Valentine card we shared with our classmates in second grade bears a little symbol of the ancient Greek pill. 

Now that I know the origin, I am definitely designing heart shaped jewelry for next year. 

Portion of proceeds to Planned Parenthood. 


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