“Little arrows in your clothing, little arrows in your hair,
When you’re in love you find those little arrows everywhere…” – Albert Hammond and Mike Hazelwood
Valentine"s Day is a strange holiday.
Whose idea was it to use the image of an arrow going through a heart to symbolize love? Correct me if I’m wrong, but wouldn’t that kill you? It’s hard to get romantic when you’re dead. Maybe the romantic part comes when, gasping your last breath, you confess your undying love. “I’ve…always (cough, cough) loved you. (Gasp, croak) I have a theory that Cupid was actually a serial killer who hired a good PR agent to change his image.
In Roman Mythology Cupid is a god, but not in a “Hugh Jackman is built like a Roman god.” kind of way. Cupid is a short, chubby little guy, more like a young Danny Devito. They say Cupid is the Roman god of desire and erotic love. No dinner and a movie with him, it’s straight to business.
Now, the valentine heart in no way resembles the actual cardiac muscle, so from where did this symbol originate? One theory is that in the seventh century BCE, the seedpods of a now extinct plant were used as an ancient form of birth control, and these seedpods were in the shape of – you guessed it – the valentine. Another theory is that the shape of the valentine can be related to various sexual parts of the human anatomy, sort of simplistic porn, if you will. And with the arrow being the sign of the male, the symbolism of the arrow through the heart is self explanatory.
So, who was St. Valentine…or were the Saints named Valentine? That is a good question, as the only thing known for sure is that more than one priest named Valentine was canonized in the early centuries. One popular story is that a Roman priest named Valentine refused to renounce his faith and was executed. That doesn't sound very romantic to me. In fact, none of these ancient stories seem to have anything to do with romantic love.
The first written incidence of St. Valentine being connected to romantic love is in a poem by Geoffrey Chaucer, “Parlement Of Foules” (1382)
"For this was Saint Valentine's Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate."
He made it up. Or as the character of Chaucer in the movie, “A Knight’s Tale” said, “…I give the truth scope.”
And in 1797, the first “mechanical valentines” were printed for those young men with no head for poetry. In other words, fake sentiment was now being mass produced.
Where does eating chocolates enter into this? Delicious, yes, but is that the only reason they are given on Valentine’s Day? Perhaps it is because chocolate has been rumoured to cause a change in brain chemistry, producing feelings similar to that of love, giving the suitor an advantage. Whether or not this is true is irrelevant, as this tale fits with the rest of the Valentine fiction.
So, what does all this mean? Valentine’s Day, which currently is thought of as a day to express feelings of admiration, friendship and love, had a less that innocent or romantic beginning. If I combine elements from each of these tales, this is what I conclude. Valentine’s Day is a day to commemorate the life of a stranger, characterized by women taking birth control, reading assembly line sentiment, while eating mood altering sweets from a pornographic box, hoping to get skewered by a portly, little horn-dog.
Happy Valentine’s Day!