Newswise — Planning any stories on the innocent romance of Valentine's Day? Feel free to contact Dr. Galdino Pranzarone, professor of psychology at Roanoke College in Salem, Va., and an excellent source on the real meaning of the holiday.
Some examples of the origin, history and symbolism of Valentine's Day:
February: "February has been the traditional time of year when, after the winter solstice and during the apparent lengthening of daylight period, many animals " with us humans among them " begin the yearly frenzy of spring mating and reproduction," says Pranzarone. But there's more to it than just spring fever. "The Romans held love and fertility celebrations in February. These were called the Lupercalia, a time of love, eroticism and sexual license," he says. But it's not as romantic as it sounds, he adds. "Enthusiastic revelers were paired up by public raffle."
Cards: "During the Lupercalia party in Rome, young men chose their sexual partners by a drawing of 'billets', small paper cards, with women's names on them," he says. "Christians later denounced the use of these cards as lewd and pagan custom. The Church tried to substitute the exchange of prayer and sermon cards at this time of year, but the people reverted to hand-made love notes. The commercialization of the Valentine card occurred in recent history at the end of the Victorian Era."
Hearts: According to Pranzarone, the origin of the heart symbol was probably the shape of human female buttocks seen from the rear, and not an actual heart. Again, thank the Greeks and Romans. "The Greek goddess of beauty, Aphrodite, was beautiful all over, but was unique in that her buttocks were especially beautiful," he says. "Her shapely, rounded hemispheres were so appreciated by the Greeks that they built a special temple to Aphrodite Kallipygos, which literally meant, 'Goddess with the Beautiful Buttocks'. This was probably the only religious building in the world that was dedicated to buttock worship."
Cupid: Cupid " the Roman god of love, desire and lust -- is the son of Venus. "So we see here that the goddess of beauty gives birth to the little god of love, desire and lust," he says. "Ain't that the truth? This Cupid was no innocent kid, either. Even though he was a cute cherub, he flew about naked shooting people in the heart with arrows. His relationship with his mother was not particularly wholesome, either. Several paintings from the Renaissance show a rather incestuous relationship existing between Cupid and Venus."
Cupid's Arrow: "Do I really have to explain the obvious symbolism inherent in Cupid's arrow?" asks Pranzarone. But there really is some interesting historical background on Cupid's archery. "In India, where Cupid was known as Kama, represented passionate, lustful sexual desire," he says. "The famous sex manual of India, the Kama Sutra, was named after him."
"In Hinduism, Shiva is one of the Big-Three manifestations of Brahma. Kama was induced by lesser Hindu gods, who were jealous of Shiva's dominance, to distract Shiva with love and desire. Kama was about to shoot his 'flowery' arrow of lustful fire into Shiva when Shiva saw him and incinerated Kama with a white-hot blast of yogic energy from this third eye. Of course, in Hinduism there is reincarnation. Kama returned as a tree and arrows are made from tree saplings."
The Color Red: "Red is the color of life, of blood, and of sexual excitement," says Pranzarone. "The 'sex flush' occurs just before orgasm in fair-skinned people, and is a reddening blush on the face, lips, neck, chest and genitalia of the lover. Passion is red, and so is the Valentine heart."
Chocolates: "On Valentine's Day we traditionally offer chocolates to our intended Valentine and not any other confection," he says. Why? "They contain the 'love drug' phenyethyamine (PEA), which your own brain normally produces when you are in love. PEA intoxicates you." As for the heart-shaped box you put those candies in? "In Freudian dream symbolism, any type of container, such as a box, is symbolic of the female genitalia."
Flowers: Speaking of genitalia"¦ "There's no escaping that flowers are the genitalia of plants," he says. "So what are we saying when he present out beloved with a dozen, beautiful red, long-stemmed genitalia?"
Saint Valentine: There is genuine question as to whether this person ever really existed, says Pranzarone. "Several contradictory biographies exist for him," he says. "One describes him as a handsome Roman youth who was executed the moment that his lover received his 'billet' of love. Some say he was a tutor to young ladies who was martyred for his faith." While there was some attempt to deny his existence and suppress the celebration, his myth persisted and he became the patron saint of lovers."