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The Secret history of Valentine’s Day

The previous blog was about the Superbowl and the Roman Empire and how we are actually living in a reboot of the cruel reign of Augustus. I hinted that the red caps of the elves was a throwback to the Saturnalia festival for freed slaves to pretend they weren’t for a week during Winter solstice.

Cupid, the god of erotic love, still lives on in our collective celebration of this pagan fertility ritual linked to the founders of Rome.

This week, we will deconstruct Saint Valentine’s Day…but don’t worry…my goal is to reach a more profound and eternal truth about the nature of LOVE itself. 

Historiography 101

If you think journalism is fake news, think of how bad history is.  

To understand the notion of historiography, understand several truisms (axioms)

1) History is written by the victorious

2) People are generally too busy or lazy to understand primary sources

3) Apathy and inertia are essential aspects of the human experience. In magician’s terms, “people rarely question the contextual reality with which they are presented”

Valentine's Day

For hundreds of years, Christians were persecuted for not being pagans. That changes when Emperor Constantine had the revelation that he should embrace (although not personally adopt) the religion of the common Roman) to enhance his strategic position.

In the year 312CE, Counstantine had the soldiers put a CHIRHO (first two letters of the Christ) on the shields of his soldiers in the Battle of Milvian Bridge, and because he won the battle, he decided that Christianity, which was roundly persecuted under previous emperors, should now be elevated.


Not Nero's Empire anymore

In the time of Nero, Christians who raised trouble were used as human torches. 

And so it went for hundreds of years in the empire until Emperor Constantine and the advent of the Council of Nicaea (325) (a meeting to discuss what EXACTLY was going to be the new orthodox Christian faith. The details are, as you might expect, complex, and for the next ninety years, would-be Christianity fractured into dozens of religions over a Chinese Menu type of argument over issues like:

1) is there one or three gods?

2) Was Mary a god?

3) Did Jesus really die?

Hagiography 101

Most holidays in our Greco-Roman civilization reboot are founded on preexisting holidays, often based on the solar calendar (solstices and equinoxes).

In 496 AD, they decided to honor the priest Valentine with his holiday. As with many celebrations, it roughly coincided with a day the peasants were already celebrating, namely LUPERCALIA

Romulus and Remus

The origin story of Rome was that Romulus and Remus were suckled by a she-wolf named in a cave named the Lupercal.  The holiday honoring was February 2/15.  On this day, the priests of this cult would sacrifice a goat and dog, wipe blood on their bodies and then two young athletic men would run naked around the Palantine hills of Rome. As they did, women could grope them and there may have been a raffle of a single woman’s name picked from a jar for partnering.


What is love, anyway?

To the neuroscientist using chemistry and functional MRI, love a biochemical experience of oxytocin, dopamine, norepinephine, and seratonin activating pleasure and danger areas of the brain, mainly in the limbic system.

Is love a feeling that is felt when one experiences limerance (involuntary obsession) over another person? Also, yes.

Is love a verb as in the Schoolhouse Rock cartoon? 

The case for the verb

in 1992 and with a recent resurgence the notion of love being not a chemical thing but an action verb was given support with the book called “The Five Love Languages”. 

I was asked by my son a month ago whether it hurt me that my parents were not demonstrative of their love. In fact, culturally, the expression of love was not something they grew up with so they used actions to express love. Love was not a feeling but rather, an action.

According to Chapman, the author the five main love languages are:

Words of Affirmation

Presence (quality time)

Presents (gifts)

Acts of service

Physical Touch

Attachment theory 101

In the last year, I have become interested in a pop psychiatry trend which has its roots in the work of psychologist, Mary Ainsworth in the 1960s and 1970s. Based on infant behavior, she identified four broad types of behavior when relating to the primary bonded caregiver.

It turns out there is 1) Secure, 2) Anxious, 3) Avoidant, and 4) Disorganized (combined anxious+avoidant)

When we look at couples who are trauma-bonded, the dynamics of how they come together and fall apart can often be identified in these trends. In some sense, they recapitulate childhood “trauma” but it explains a lot when it comes to love stories, I find.

The anxious person is attracted to the avoidant person and they get to relive their neurotic drama within the relationship. To do a deeper dive into these ideas, see the channel of Heidi Priebe

What is NOT love?

The opposite of love is not hate. It is indifference.

As a feeling, it represents no feeling

As a verb, it represents no actions

As a world, it represents a disconnect from the current reality

There's a word in Greek for that

Perhaps the notion of one life-long partner who will fulfill all aspects of love for us was doomed from the start. When we say “we love” it can refer to at least seven concepts according to the Greeks…

EROS: romantic sexual love

PHILIA: intimate friendship

LUDUS/EROTOROPIA: playful flirtation

STORGE: unconditional familial love

PRAGMA: love out of responsibility or commitment

AGAPE: universal love and empathy

PHILAUTIA: self-compassion

The Greatest love of all

As I’ve lived these 56 years, I have learned that Oscar Wilde indeed had the best quote about Philautia.

In most of your disappointing and failed relationships, the common denominator is of course, you. When a person struggles with childhood trauma masking as attachment issues, they are going to become fearful, anxious, and bored with long-term relationships. 

In contrast, when a person accepts themselves and treats themselves with compassion, they are able to enter into a consensual love relationship with another.


So what is love?  Love is a neurochemical state, brought about by actions, that can manifest in seven forms… but love ultimately is what connects us with ourselves and the greater world. There is a reason most songs are about love.  The longest journey you will ever take is from your head to your heart.

Looking for love in all the wrong places

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