February is the month of purification by water. And on 15 March, we celebrate the Lupercalias, the feast of she-wolves and the goats, in other words, our feast.
*Illustration of La mujer lobo (she-wolf) by Laura Pretel.
The Lupercalia festival (around 500 BC) celebrated the end of an initiation rite in which young people lived for a time in the forest, in a pack, like wolves, eating what they could hunt and gather. In this way, they learned how important it was to work together in order to survive and they also acquired the certainty that nature provides everything we need. When they emerged from the forest they were anointed with goat’s blood and milk, and after a liberating laughter, a courtship began where women who could not conceive approached these young men with what they had learned, in the forest, to be touched with the strips of goat skin they carried.
Around 500 AD, a pope by the name of Gelasius abolished the Lupercalia and set 14 February as the day on which the Valentines of the world celebrate their saint’s day. But again, the millenary pagan traditions could not be covered by the mantle of the Christian popes, and neither could be Lupercalias.
* The Lupercalias.
Oral tradition invented love legends about the Saint Valentine, who, having been imprisoned for being a Christian and condemned to death for refusing to abjure his faith, fell in love with the daughter of his jailer, who brought him food on the sly. The day before his execution, he sent her a letter which concluded with “from your St. Valentine”. Hence, the tradition of sending letters on this day and signing them with this ancient 1500-year-old signature. Time passed but, due to this need for rituals that human beings have, the feast of St. Valentine’s Day, which came to fill the gap left by the lupercalias, remained. And it is still celebrated today, fuelled by department stores, as it is a business worth 20,000 million dollars a year in the United States alone. It arrived in Spain to Galerías Preciados.
* Valentine’s day love letters.
Libros de las Malas Compañías (Bad Crowd Books) wants to give back its truth to this fertility rite that underlies the Christian celebration of Saint Valentine’s Day, which the department stores have ended up commercialising. In Spain, it was Galerias Preciados which introduced this gift-giving custom.
But if, after all, you want to give a gift of love, what better than a book… or two. We recommend our latest publication:
Bella Dama (Beautiful Lady), a book object: a box containing the gift of a poem that reveals a great love for a beautiful Lady. A poem by Estrella Ortiz and illustration by Raquel Sáiz.
* Images of Bella Dama.
And also, for those who send love letters on Valentine's Day, Si tuviera que escribirte (If I had to write to you),by Alejandra Correa. 28 postcards with collages and poems by the author that constitute a true love device.
* Photos of Si tuviera que escribirte.
The she-wolves and goats from Libros de las Malas Compañías wish you a Happy Lupercalias.
* From left to right: Anaïs González and Ana Cristina Herreros