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Lupercalia - Roman Holiday on February 14


Definition: Lupercalia was an annual Roman festival celebrated on February 15. Because Lupercalia has some connection with fertility it is like an early version of a Valentine's Day holiday. Lupercalia was named for the naked male priests called Luperci. Lupercalia involved not only fertility, but also purification rituals, and was celebrated to honor a god the Romans themselves were unsure of, but who was called "Lupercus" by the Augustan era. The pastoral god Faunus was also worshiped. The Luperci sacrificed a goat and possibly a dog, and offered sacred cakes. The Luperci donned goat skins or goat skin loincloths and ran through the streets of Rome striking people or just women with strips of goat to make them fertile. Pope Gelasius I (d. 496) (or Felix III - late 5th century) is thought by some to have turned the February 15 Lupercalia purification festival into the festival of the Purification of the Virgin Mary.
Sources: Ovid's Fasti, Adkins & Adkins' Dictionary or Roman Religion.

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