What do goats, particularly Italian goats note Pasqualina and Pinta, have to do with Valentine’s Day? So glad you asked!
Valentine’s Day as we know it has its roots in the ancient Pagan festival of Lupercalia, which was held in mid-February in Rome to purify the city, chase away evil, and also increase fertility. The celebration would begin when vestal virgins delivered cakes made from the first ears of grain of the previous year’s harvest to the cave where a She-Wolf had suckled Romulus and Remus, the brothers who (as the story goes) had founded Rome.
At this point, two naked young men proceeded to sacrifice a goat and a dog — notably this is the only Roman festival in which a goat was sacrificed. Then, according to The Pagan Library:
With the bloody knife, their foreheads were smeared with blood, then wiped clean with wool dipped in milk. The young men laughed and girded themselves in the skin of the sacrificed goat. Much feasting followed. Finally, using strips of the goat skin, the young men ran, each leading a group of priests, around the base of the hills of Rome, around the ancient sacred boundary of the old city called the pomarium. During this run, the women of the city would vie for the opportunity to be scourged by the young men as they ran by, some baring their flesh to get the best results of the fertility blessing (you can see why the Christian church tried so hard to get this ritual banned, but it was so popular that it continued for quite some time under the new regime.)
That’s right, folks! In ancient Rome, the goal of this mid-February event was not to see how many boxes of chocolates you’d get, what color roses you’d receive, or whether you’d get the best conversation heart message. Instead, the race was on to get whipped by a goat skin — and the gals weren’t afraid to go Mardi Gras style either (OK, they were probably baring arms and legs and not breasts, but still…).
So, as you can see, goats have a deeply rooted history with this day for lovers — although it isn’t a particularly pleasant one on the part of the goats. For this reason, I ask that you show your goaties a little extra love this Valentine’s Day, and if they happen to ask for smooches, well, I say give ’em what they want.
By the way, if you’d like to honor the role goats have played in Valentine’s Days past, please consider giving the gift of a goat through Heifer International: “The gift of a dairy goat represents a lasting, meaningful way for you to help a little boy or girl on the other side of the world.”
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Smooches to all!
P.S. Still want more trivia to impress your family and friends? Find out why the heart is a symbol of love and Valentine’s Day.
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