VALENTINE’S DAY AND ASH WEDNESDAY
February 14, 2018 is very very special as Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday will be sharing centre stage on that day. Makes for great drama and intrigue. Romance vs Penance. No doubt, Valentine Day and Ash Wednesdays are not jokes and silly notions, however they have set up a climax with Easter Sunday falling on April 1, All Fools’ Day. Hoping no one gets fooled.
Chances are, this is the first time you are experiencing this unusual occurrence as the last time it happened was in 1945. Most of us know February 14 as the day when we deck out our red and white outfits; send poems and buy gifts; express love and romance and of course a lot of sex, lewdness and at times even debauchery.
Well, this year, Ash Wednesday finds itself on February 14 and is threatening to temper this aura of romance with its insistence on penitence, repentance, sadness, and mourning. What a contrast. Imagine mourning and fun and frolicking on the same day. Is this a choice?
Of course, you might be wondering which of the two rituals will win. Which will get more recognition? Valentine’s Day or Ash Wednesday? Will there be romance or penance? Maybe, there could be a draw with no clear winner. A bit of romance and a bit of penance. Hmmm, now that is complicated.
Then again it might not matter which one wins because they both serve the same purpose: they both are agrarian/pastoral attempts to get the favours of the gods to ensure a great Spring and farming. One does it with lewdness and one does it with shrewdness. The winner is the seasons or more simply, nature.
The Origins of Valentine’s Day (February 13 – 15)
(Februarius) February got its name from the thongs (known as februa) cut from the flayed skin of sacrificial male goats and dogs which were killed to favour the agricultural gods during that time of the year. Most of the observances in this month concerned the dead or closure, reflecting the month’s original position at the end of the year. It must be noted that the calendar had February at the end of the year but Julius Caesar decided in 46 BC to move the start of the calendar from the traditionally beginning of March to the beginning of January.
The spring cleansing ritual of Februa (February 13 – 15) involved sacrifices, lewdness and eroticism. It evolved into the Lupercalia as called by the Romans or Pan as called by the Greeks. The Lupercus (god of the flocks) was nude, save for a goatskin girdle.
At the Lupercal altar, a male goat (or goats) and a dog were sacrificed under the supervision of the chief priest. Goats and dogs were chosen as they are animals remarkable for their strong sexual instinct, and thus most appropriate sacrifices to the god of fertility.
An offering was also made of salted mealcakes, prepared by the vestal virgins. After the blood sacrifice, two Luperci (priests) approached the altar. Their foreheads were anointed with blood from the sacrificial knife, then wiped clean with wool soaked in milk, after which they were expected to smile and/or laugh. (Red and White on February 14?).
The sacrificial feast followed, after which the Luperci cut thongs (known as februa) from the flayed skin of the victim, and ran with these, naked or near-naked, up and down through the streets, for sport and laughter striking those they meet with shaggy thongs. Many women purposely get in their way, hoping to be struck, believing that the if they are pregnant it would help with delivery and if they were are barren they would get pregnant. (Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday?).
The rituals also included a matchmaking kind of pixie draw, in which young men drew the names of women from a jar. The couple would then have sex for the duration of the festival — or longer, if the match was right.
Note that the Lupercali festivals and worship were practiced before the birth and death of Christ and was quite acceptable among the common folks and gentry. However, it was considered abominable by Jehovah and the Jews. With the conversion of Rome to Christianity in AD 326, attempts were made to “reposition” the idol worships of the ancient fathers into a frame of mind that would be palatable and more becoming for purists and folks who were “trying to serve Jehovah”.
Fortunately, by coincident or design, a priest named St. Valentine, was imprisoned by the emperor of Rome, Claudius II for assisting persecuted Christians and secretly marrying Christian couples in love. As the story goes, during Valentine’s imprisonment he tried converting Claudius to Christianity. Claudius became enraged and ordered Valentine to reject his faith or be killed. He refused to forsake his faith, so Valentine was beheaded on February 14.
The story also included an account that happened during Valentine’s imprisonment after he tutored a girl named Julia, the blind daughter of his jailer. The legend states God restored Julia’s sight after she and Valentine prayed together. On the eve of his execution, Valentine supposedly penned a note to Julia and signed it, “From your Valentine.”
The Catholic Church declared him a saint and listed him in Roman Martyrology as being martyred on February 14. In the late 5th century A.D., Pope Gelasius I eliminated the pagan celebration of Lupercalia and declared February 14 a day to celebrate the martyrdom of Saint Valentine.
Interestingly, many of the traditions of Februa and Lupercalia were usurped or continued under the banner of Valentine’s Day. As mentioned, use of red represented the blood sacrifice during Lupercalia and the color white signified the milk used to wipe the blood clean and represents new life and procreation. The sex, promiscuity and romance were done to enhance fertility.
As seen, the rebranding of February 14 and Lupercalia worship as Valentine’s Day is an easier sell to get converts. Today’s discerning population will prefer to buy a product packaged with a chubby priest than the use of that horrible looking half naked man dressed in goat clothing. Of course, we know an apple called by any other name is still an apple.
Such is the story of Valentine’s Day origin. Let’s look at the seemingly contradictory approach to fertility, called Ash Wednesday, that suggests penance and abstinence.
The Origins of Ash Wednesday
The worship of Lent is a fore runner to Ash Wednesday. Similar to how Lupercalia became Valentine’s Day. The term Lent is a shortened form of Lenten, which derives from the Old English term lencten, which means spring. This word is from the Old English root word lang which means long. Lent thus refers to the Spring because it is the season when the days begin to lengthen.
In biblical times, Lent was a period of penance and abstinence for forty (40) days to mourn the death of Tammuz (a day for each year of his life as he was killed at age 40). At the end of the mourning, on a Sunday near the Spring Equinox, Tammuz would come back to life and the agriculture would flourish and the animals fertile. The 40 day mourning and penance had to end on the Sunday after the first full moon after March 21 to coincide with the worship of Easter, the goddess of fertility.
You may be curious as to who was Tammuz. As we will soon realize, man also made gods in his own image and likeness. Tammuz, the god of fertility, was one such god. He was paraded as the immaculate conceived son of a great woman called Semiramis who, some legend has it, later became the Queen of Heaven, Easter or Ashtoreth as Isaiah and Ezekiel called her. (see below for more information on this mother/child relationship).
Lent was accepted into the beliefs of the Catholic Church at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. The council also settled upon the 40-day fast period as the standard length to celebrate Lent. During this time period Constantine’s (emperor of Rome) goal was to combine pagans and Christians into a peaceable unit within the Roman kingdom.
In 601, Pope Gregory moved the beginning of Lent from the fourth Sunday of the year to Ash Wednesday, 46 days before Easter. This changed allowed for 40 days of fasting with six Sundays counted as feast days, for a total of 46 days for Lent.
The interesting thing about Lent or Ash Wednesday is that it is attached to Easter. Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, is determined after the date of Easter has been designated. Easter begins on the Friday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox, which is March 21. By ecclesiastical rules, which fixes the date of the equinox to March 21, the earliest possible date for Easter is March 22 and the latest possible is April 25.
Accordingly, Ash Wednesday can be as earl y as February 4 and as late as March 11. It all depends on when the moon fulls after March 21 and counting backwards for 46 days from Easter Sunday to determine the beginning of Lent.
Wait a minute. I am sure if you were brought up in a nice Christian home like I did, you will be getting a bit puzzled now. What does the full moon, and beginning of Spring (March 21) got to do with Lent and Easter? The answer is everything. They both depends on the full moon after the spring equinox.
To fully appreciate the origins of Lent and Easter we must look back at where it all started. Thousands of years ago, man was very dependent on nature and its predictable yet uncertain behaviour. They quickly realized that the Sun, Moon and stars had a far-reaching impact and influence on harvests and live stocks.
As reasonable folks or better yet, as shrewd folks, they tried to give reverence and recognition to this profound fact. Common sense would dictate that the reverence be given to the Creator of the sun and moon but guess what, so far, no one has seen the maker of the sun and moon.
So man, being as creative as he is, decided to make gods in his own image, likeness and understanding. A god for everything of great importance. The sun was called the god of life and the moon was the goddess of fertility. Venus and Cupid took care of Love and Thor took care of war. You get the drift.
The greatest thing about this multi theism was that these gods were not jealous of each other. Each had his or her own affair and actually worked together. (Contrast this with Jehovah who is said to be so Jealous that he is biased and prejudiced in that he will destroy those who serve other gods and take care of those who serve him).
Sentiments aside, let’s look at how the myths and legends explain the rituals and practices surrounding the worshipping of Lent and Easter.
According to the original and genuine Easter story, Ashtoreth/Easter (the goddess of fertility) was worshipped as the provider and re-starter of all life at Spring (March 21). She is also believed to be the deification of the infamous Semiramis, the wife of Nimrod, of bible fame. Recall the tower of babel great hunter. We learnt about him at Sunday School and how he was against Jehovah.
It is unclear how Nimrod died as in in the Book of Jasher it is said that Esau, son of Isaac) killed him; while Josephus states that Shem, the son of Noah, killed nimrod. However, after his death, Nimrod body ascended into the heavens and became the sun god himself. A bit horrifying but here comes the romantic part. Nimrod, the sun god, became rays of light and implanted his seed into his wife, Semiramis now a widow, and impregnate her. (Virgin mother and child?).
The myth further stated that the child was called Tammuz , son of the sun god. He was responsible for bringing light into the world and to fight darkness. Can you guess when Tammuz was born? If you said at the Winter Solstice (December 22 – 25) you are correct. For those steeped in religious studies, you will recall that Invictus Sol (the unconquerable sun) was born on the shortest day of the year or the Saturnalia (December 22 -25) and we worship him today every December 25. That is Tammuz. Some customs called him Baal, or Mithra and more recently Jesus Christ, to legitimize its worship. Again, an apple by any other name is still an apple. Click here to See my blog on December 25 worship
The myth climaxed with the idea that Tammuz, at age 40, went hunting and was killed by a boar (hog, pig..same thing….how fitting). In order to bring back her son (Tammuz) to life an elaborate scheme was devised. The idea required forty (40) days of mourning for Tammuz (a day for each year of his life). At the end of 40 day mourning, Tammuz returns to life on the Sunday after the first full moon after March 21. Abstinence from meat, self and lust was the order of the day for the 40 days of Lent. At the end of Lent, a boar is killed and ham is eaten. Sweet revenge on the pig that killed Tammuz.
As the myth would have it, Tammuz mother, Semiramis died and the gods looked favorably on her as she was the mother of the son of the sun god. She was sent back to earth as the Spring fertility goddess, Ashtoreth/Easter, always shown as a well endowed bare breasted queen of fertility. According to the myth, she emerged from a giant egg that landed in the Euphrates river at sunrise on the Sunday after the full moon after the Spring equinox.
Semiramis, the queen of heaven, was “born again” as the goddess Easter (Ashtarte). To prove her divine authority, Semiramis, now Ashtoreth/Easter, changed a bird into an egg laying rabbit. Decorated eggs and stories about rabbits are still part of today’s Easter ritual.
As the cult of Ishtar developed, the priests would impregnate young virgins on the altar of the goddess of fertility at sunrise on Easter Sunday. A year later the priests of Easter would sacrifice these three-month old babies on the altar at the front of the sanctuary and dye Easter eggs in the blood of the sacrificed infants.
You must be saying wow. You knew Easter was bloody but it was suppose to be the blood of Jesus, that was shed to save the sins of the world.
Indeed, Christians are quick and proud to recognized Good Friday and Easter Sunday as Christ’s death and resurrection day. It is with good intentions that they do such acts of passion but the evidence show that the crucifixion of Christ was only attached to Easter, 300 years after Christ died. Furthermore, the math and prophecies suggest that a Friday death and Sunday resurrection would not fit in with the “three days and three nights” requirement for the Christ to be dead and then resurrected. (Friday evening to Sunday morning is one day and two nights).
Interestingly, it should be noted that the new testament even mention Easter by name and being around at the time of Christ and the Peter the disciple. Acts 12: 4 state that 4 And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people. (Seems the Romans were already worhsipping Easter).
So the true meaning of Easter Sunday is originally for the day Tammuz was resurrected and neatly too the day when his mother, Semiramis, was returned to earth as Ashtoreth/Easter/Ishtar the goddess of fertility.
The major contention that many people have with the Friday and Sunday idea of Christ’s death and resurrection has to do with the fact that the Gospels mentioned Christ as being killed the day before the Sabbath. Of course we all know that Friday is the day before the weekly Saturday Sabbath. However, most elementary school students will let you know that if Christ was killed on “Good Friday” evening and raised from the dead on Easter Sunday morning, he would be lying or his math poor as this is only one day and two nights.
Why is this contentious? Well, if we are to believe the scriptures and Christ, then Christ must be dead for three days and three nights. “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matthew 12:38-40).
WHICH DAY DID CHRIST DIED?
If according to the “new” Easter story Christ died on a Friday and raised on a Sunday then we have a problem. Are the gospels wrong? The answer is no. Christ was actually killed on a Wednesday, the day before a Sabbath but it was not the regular weekly Saturday Sabbath. Many of us do not know that the Jews had annual Sabbaths. As a matter of fact, two extra Sabbaths called High Sabbaths are observed every year in Nissan 14 (March or April). As a result, there are two Sabbaths every year in March/April.
These High Sabbaths don’t have to be on a Saturday as they are dates not days. They are celebrated to recognize the Passover and Israel’s miraculous exodus from Pharaoh’s Egypt.
Recall the Exodus story and the Passover? Well, before I graduated from Sunday School, I was taught the Passover story of how Moses got the Hebrew people out of the land of Egypt after being enslaved for years. Of course, the Hebrews were only set free after Jehovah killed all first born in Egypt. During the slaughter, the Hebrews who had killed animals for the last meal in Egypt, use the blood to smear the posts of their houses and the Lord passed over them and none was killed. Exodus 11:4-5.
Hence the creation of the Passover and the two High Sabbaths which were required to be commemorated annually by the Israelite. Leviticus 23:5-8. In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight is Yahweh’s Passover. 6 ‘Then on the fifteenth day of the same month there is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to Yahweh; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. 7 ‘On the first day of the 7 days you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not do any laborious work. On the seventh day is a holy convocation; you shall not do any laborious work.'”
As mentioned, these two holy convocation or High Sabbath sometimes fall in the same week of Easter and sometimes they are not. The year when Christ was killed, the week of Passover and the Feast of the Unleavened bread fell in Easter week, Wednesday (High Sabbath) and on Saturday, normal Sabbath.
For example, this year Passover 2018 will begin in the evening of Friday, 30 March and ends in the evening of Saturday, 7 April. As such this year we will see two Sabbaths in one. The High Sabbath and the weekly Saturday Sabbath will both occur on Friday evening March 30, to Saturday evening March 31. On the other hand Easter is Sunday April 1. Noticed how Easter is always a Sunday while the High Sabbath and Passover can be week days or even the Saturday Sabbath.
Summarily, the bible mentioned two Sabbaths during the week of Christ’s death. The annual High Sabbath which occurred the Wednesday Christ was killed and the weekly Saturday Sabbath, the evening he rose.
Still a bit fuzzy? Let’s use the Gospels as our guide to get a clear idea of the timeline for Christ’s death.
|DAY/TIME||EVENTS||Days/night of death|
||First night (6 pm – 6 am)|
||First day (6 am to 6 pm)
Second night (6 pm – 6 am)
||Second day (6 am to 6 pm)
Third night (6 pm – 6 am)
(6 am to 6 pm)
Note that the Jewish day starts and ends at six o’clock in the evening, while our day starts and ends at midnight,
If the gospels are right that Christ fulfilled the prophecy and was dead for three days and three nights it questions the premise on which Easter is currently associated with Christ’s death.
For the fun of it, let’s take a quick look at Easter, as it was in the time of the prophets such as Isaiah and Ezekiel, thousands of years before Jesus Christ was born. Yeah,as we noted, Easter was around long before Christ was even born. Ashtoreth/Easter is mentioned in the old testament and in every instance that Easter is mentioned, Jehovah, the god of the Hebrews/Isrealites is pretty much annoyed, and in vengeance mode. A top flight Jamaican DJ, Bounti Killer, would say.. “cross, angry and miserable”.
Ezek 8:14 Then he brought me to the door of the gate of the LORD’S house which was toward the north; and, behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz. (Lent)
2 Ki 23:13 And the high places that were before Jerusalem, which were on the right hand of the mount of corruption, which Solomon the king of Israel had builded for Ashtoreth the abomination of the Zidonians, and for Chemosh the abomination of the Moabites, and for Milcom the abomination of the children of Ammon, did the king defile.
1 Kings 11:5-6. He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites. So Solomon did evil in the eyes of Yahweh; he did not follow Yahweh completely, as David his father had done.
1 Kings 11:33. I will do this (split the nation) because they have forsaken me and worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians…., , and have not walked in my ways, nor done what is right in my eyes, nor kept my statutes and laws as David, Solomon’s father did.
So the people of Israel removed the Baals and images of Ashtoreth. They served only Yahuwah. (1 Samuel 7:3,4)
These “images” are referring to the idols and statues of Ishtar, the fertility goddess of the Philistines, who is depicted with large, bare breasts. (Some say she is now the Statue of Liberty).
Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday have both been dear to our hearts for years. The romance associated with Valentine’s Day has allowed us to express love in many ways. The penance shown during Lent starting at Ash Wednesday, reminds us of our mortality and dependence on nature.
History, however is muddling this rosy picture of Valentine’s Day and is suggesting that Valentine’s Day is a mere continuation of Lupercalia, an ancient agrarian erotic fertility festival that was held near the Ides of February (February 13-15). The festival involved shedding the blood of a sacrificial goat and then dipping a piece of its skin in its blood after which it was used to smear the priests and then wiped clean with milk. (Is this the red and white).
Ash Wednesday has not escaped the glare of history. Many myths and legends suggest that Lent was also an ancient pagan festival devoted to Tammuz, the god of fertility who was the son of the infamous Semiramis who became Easter, on the Sunday after the full moon at the Spring Equinox. . The horrifying stories of three month old children being killed to appease these gods at Easter might make Satan blush. Then again, they might just be his proxies.
With this in mind, it seems that although both Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday have served us well and seems to be good for us, they can be poisonous. Hmmm, Poisoning. Poison, but you are good for me?
Can’t resist the temptation to share a song done by my daughter, Aneil, called Poison. It’s quite befitting for Valentine’s Day. It tells of a heart that is being motivated and being made special albeit by something that is already “owned”. This dilemma is profound as it provides the choice of running away or staying and fighting and ruling the world with it. Seems, it can be poisoning but also good for you. Verse 1 lyrics are below. Please watch the video on YouTube by clicking here… ANEIL – POISON (Official Lyrics Video)
Your love is poison
But oh baby I want it
And oh baby I’m ‘on it’ (ye ey ey ey ey)
Ya take my mind on a roadtrip
My mind can’t behold it
All the tantalizing things that you say
You do for me what sanity won’t
And that is to be your only girl
In reality it’s so wrong
Because you are already ‘owned’
Your love’s like that drug; can’t get enough
ECG shows my heart all over the charts
You make me wanna ru-u-un, sta-a-ay, fight and rule the world (x2) with you
You’re poison, but you good for me
Do check out the song on YouTube by clicking on the Poison logo.
Maybe, this February 14, we can make it special with love and penance by sharing our time and resources with the less fortunate. That is godly and requires no ritual such as those on Valentine or Ash Wednesday. Just natural out-flowing love and sorrow that should be shown 365 days a year and 366 days in a leap year. Oh what a lovely world it would be.