Be My (Dark) Valentine? – Valentine’s Day Special!

Hello, my little demons!

I wanted to write a new blog post, this one I wanted to discuss one of the days I dislike… Feburary the 14th.

Valentine’s Day.

This blog is in two parts; the first part I want to explore with you guys the history behind Valentine’s Day, who is St. Valentine? When did it start? And, of course, exploring the dark side of it (because I do love a bit of darkness every now and then). The second part, is the concept of Valentine’s Day, and why I dislike it.

What is Valentine’s Day and where did it come from?

Most of us, at least those in the Western World, will know about Valentine’s Day. The day of love. Valentine’s Day cards, chocolates in heart-shaped boxes. Buying wilting sevice station roses in cheap red glass vases in a mad rush to get something for a loved-one because you forgot all about it… Ahem…

But the real origins of Valentine’s Day is actually a little hazy, even Historians are a little unsure. There isn’t one ‘definitive’ answer, instead there are a number of theories. This blog post will explore these a bit more.

Is Valentine’s Day originally Catholic/Christian?

One of the issues with understanding where Valentine’s Day comes from, is that there are numerous martyrs called ‘Valentine’, and there are many sources that appear to mix them up. (So, bare in with me if I get something wrong!)

Valentinus comes from the Latin “Valens” which means ‘to be in good health’, and was unfortunately a common name in ancient Roman times [2].

However, one source suggests that two holy martyrs of the same name was recorded on the 14th of February [2].

But, the problem is, when I dig into these names I found, there are many different versions. I guess this is the problem with having a popular name, and the power of the internet; facts get mixed up. And to avoid being part of the expanding problem; giving false/mixed facts, I’ll instead just mention the names and the different versions and let you make up your own mind. I think this topic is something historians and archaeologists spend decades researching and a simple novice and her blog simply cannot delve into in a day or two!

Aside from this, however, most sources talk about at least two Valentines.

Saint Valentine of Terni (c) Melanie Renzulli.
Img src: https://www.italofile.com/saint-valentine-terni/

One story is about Valentine of Terni, it suggests he performed marriages for young lovers in secret [1]. He did this because the Emperor Claudius II outlawed marriages for young men, suggesting single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families. Claudius found out, of course, and ordered Valentine to be put to death. The source suggests that that many hagiographers (a writer of the lives of the saints, and yes, I had to look up that word!) agree that this was the ‘real’ Saint Valentine.

Another story, which again is mentioned in the same source [1], but I found mentions in other sources [2, 3], talks about a ‘Valentino falling in love with the daughter of the prison guard (Asterius) when he was imprisoned in Rome’. It talks about a note which has ‘Your Valentine’ or ‘From your Valentino’ (you have to remember the issues of translating languages), which was left before his death. One source even suggests that he performed a miracle of restoring her sight [2]! Valentino was apparently beheaded on the 14th of February 273 [2]. The issue is, within the first source [1] it is unclear whether the author actually talks of two different Valentines.

Another issue is that source [3] not only talks the Valentine that married soldiers when marriage was outlawed, but the source then continues to talk about another Saint Valentine… of Terni, as if this Valentine was seperate from the marriage Valentine. The line “he, too, was beheaded…” suggests this Saint Valentine of Terni was a seperate Valentine to the second. However, it doesn’t really seem to suggest this other Valentine was the imprisoned one from the previous paragraph (You can begin see my confusion with researching for this blog post!)

To backup source [3], Saint Valentine of Terni being a seperate Valentine to the Valentine that married soldier’s, another source talks about Valentine or Terni ‘debating a potential convert’ and he too ‘was beheaded’. But unfortunately not much else is given in this source for this version of Valentine of Terni.

One line I found from source [4] suggests the two Valentines decapitated were in fact different versions of just one saint, which appeared in both Rome and Terni. This would offer an explaination as to why sources appear to confuse the two. Source [5] also offers this as a suggestion too.

Wikipedia [6] also talks about two seperate Valentines; Saint Valentine’s of Rome and Saint Valentine’s of Terni. Which could be another name(s) for the two most common Valentines. However, I always take what I read on Wikipedia with a very large pinch of salt, anyone is able to make changes to pages on Wikipedia, and I have always been told in my past university professors to not use wikipedia as a reference in essays and other university work.

Just to confuse things even more, some sources talk about other ‘Valentines’. Source [1] also explains (which the author admits doesn’t ‘buy’) that Valentine ‘offered roses to a fighting couple and told them to love each other as if they had only one heart’. I would have to agree, this story seems a bit too far-fetched and not strong enough to be ‘written’ and thus become a legend.

Source [4] also talks about another ‘Valentinus’, apparently the earliests of Valentines, who died in Africa along with 24 soldiers, but the source says there isn’t much more information about him, other than birth and death dates, which also makes me consider isn’t enough to turn into a Valentine’s Day.

It is also worth noting that February the 14th became an official holiday associate with romantic love around the 14th and 15th centuries [5, 6]. One source talks about the oldest mention of ‘valentine’ from the 15th century, Charles d’ Orléans, who was held in the Tower of London after his defeat at the Battle of Agincourt (1415). He addressed his wife with “I am already sick of love, My very gentle Valentine” [2]. However, another source explains it was the poet Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th century who linked love with St. Valentine for the first time in his works “The Parlement of Foules” and “The Complaint of Mars”, the source then suggests Chaucer invented Valentine’s Day as we know it today [7].

Another note here is that, if St. Valentine’s Day originated from one two martyrs, these would have been many centuries before these first mentions of the ‘Valentine’s Day’ above.

Or… was it actually originally Pagan?

But (get ready for the darkness), the [7] source previously also talks about February 14 also being considered the first day of spring in Britain or more generically, has it’s roots in paganism.

A few sources talk about the feast of Lupercalia [7, 8]. From February the 13th to the 15th, men sacrificed a goat and a dog, then whipped women with the hides of the animals, beliving this would make them fertile.

Although, again, sources make these references in history a little fuzzy. One source explains it was the Romans who celebrated this feast [8], whereas another explains it’s a pagan ritual (I’m sure the Roman’s were Christians, not pagans…)

Source [7] also talks about another tradition at this time, where men selected women’s names at random to ‘couple’ with them for either the duration of the festival or longer, if the match was right.

Source [7] goes on that it was Pope Gelasius I who combined St Valentine’s Day with Lupercalia to expel the pagan ritual, so like a previous post I have written (Samhain), it was the Christian’s way of ridding of paganism but combining pagan festivals with Christian ones.

And lastly, Source [8] mentions the Norman’s celebration of Galatin’s Day. Galatin meant “lover of women”, and it could be possible that the two days were confused.

To conclude, therefore, it isn’t definitive as to where Valentine’s Day originated. It could be that it was from one of the martyred Valentines (or it could be that this was indeed one man), it could be a pagan festival whether it was murged or not by the Church, or it could have come from the Norman’s Galatin’s Day. Or, it could have come from the other lesser known stories of Valentine’s I mentioned, or something else entirely.

Why don’t I like Valentine’s Day?

No, it’s not because the last five years I have spent Valentine’s Day alone. I’m not that cynical. I’m actually very happy being single! And trust me, I feel the same when I am in a relationship.

One reason is that, like many holiday’s celebrated in the United Kingdom; Easter, Christmas, Halloween, it’s heavily commercialised. Of course, if it was just commercialised and it didn’t affect my everyday life, I probably wouldn’t care. It’s up to those who want to celebrate it. But, it does affect my everyday life.

It restricts my ability to go out for a meal, not only is it difficult to just go and find a table anywhere, but some restaurants deliberately put the prices up knowing they’ll have people willing to pay it. It can also make things busier, not just restaurants but take-away deliveries too.

Another issue is if you went out with a friend of the opposite sex (of which I have many friends from the opposite sex), it’s immediately assumed they are your partner. Of course this tends to happen to me frequently regardless of whether it’s Valentine’s Day or not, but it’s more prevalent on Valentine’s Day.

Another issue is that shops, such as supermarkets, move items on their shelves to fit in the Valentine’s Day gifts and cards. Sometimes this can mean stock isn’t available, given me less options, and I already have a dislike for supermarkets in this country (that’s a rant for another day!) I will admit, this is more of an issue at Christmas time rather than Valentine’s Day, as there are usually rows and rows at Christmas, yet Valentine’s Day isn’t as commercialised as Christmas, but this still pays a small factor into it.

And, of course, the commercialism from companies that promote Valentine’s Day, not only profiting from it and giving more rise to consumerism (given more power to companies) but making it more of a thing, giving it more social construct and thus giving rise to the guilt people can feel when they don’t conform to the holiday. This is one of the reasons why I didn’t use the day to promote my romance books, as I’d be a hypocrite if I did!

I also dislike the way it makes single people, those who have recently lost love ones, those who generally feel low/depression/isolated and those who are in violent relationships, feel worse. The day is thrown in these’s people’s faces.

And of course, lastly, the one that I constantly tell everyone… why do we even have Valentine’s Day? One day of the year that is devoted to love? Those who are in relationships shouldn’t be using the one day of the year to confess their love!

Rather than celebrating love on one day of the year, let’s remember the reason why we even have Valentine’s Day…

…If we could just remember the reason!

References:

[1] https://www.italofile.com/saint-valentine-terni/

[2] https://www.italyheritage.com/traditions/calendar/february/14-san-valentino.htm

[3] https://www.history.com/topics/valentines-day/history-of-valentines-day-2

[4] https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/gory-origins-valentines-day-180968156/

[5] https://www.britannica.com/topic/Valentines-Day

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valentine%27s_Day

[7] https://www.countryliving.com/life/a46353/history-of-valentines-day/

[8] https://www.npr.org/2011/02/14/133693152/the-dark-origins-of-valentines-day

Samhain, All Hallows Eve and Ghost Stories – Halloween Special!

Some of my close friends will know, Halloween is my favourite holiday! It’s the one time of year that the majority of people dress up as something ‘scary’ and in a way celebrate the dead and all things weird yet wonderful. Why do I like this? Well, only a select few will know that not only have I got a few ghost stories of my own, as well as been able to predict a few things, but I have a fascination with parapsychology.

For those who don’t know, or probably think they know but are a little misinformed, parapsychology is a study of paranormal psychological phenomena (such as telephathy, psychokinesis and clairvoyance). It’s not to be confused with paranormal investigators! (But ghosts and spirits can be a part of it). And, as far as I am concerned, parapsychology is a little more ‘science’ based than paranormal investigators. There are even legitimate research laboratories set up around the world for the study, one of my favourites is the Koestler Parapsychology Unit based here in Scotland, at Edinburgh University (link at the bottom of the blog post). I am interested in one day completing at least the online course for interest, but have also been considering a PhD and conducting real research (plus, wouldn’t it be a cool talking point to say that my PhD was in parapsychology? I’ll call myself Dr Spooks!)

Continue reading and there might be a few spooky stories of my own!

Where did Halloween Originate from?

Halloween is an annual holiday celebrated each year on October 31st. This year it falls on a Thursday. Many people around the world celebrate it; United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, United States, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Greece, even China and Japan.

Some people believe Halloween originated from the pagan religious festival ‘Samhain’, others, however, believe that Halloween is a solely Christian celebration.

Samhain

Let’s start with Samhain.

the-festival-of-samhain-is-celebrated-in-glastonbury

Photo from: https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/samhain

Samhain (pronouced “sow-in”), is a Gaelic word for “summer’s end”. It is a typically ancient Celtic spiritual tradition, possibly originating in Ireland 2,000 years ago (the Celts also lived all over the United Kingdom and parts of northern France), celebrated from the 31st October to 1st November (the mid point between autumn equinox and winter solstice) to usher the “dark half of the year” and to welcome the harvest. The Celtic New Year was November 1.

After the harvest, the community began celebrations around a wheel that, due to friction, would create sparks and flames. This is said to represent the sun. Cattle were sacrificed and people would take a flame back to relight their fire in their own homes.

The Celts also believed that a barrier between worlds was breachable during Samhain, believing that this time of year was associated with death and also believed the dead would cross over during this time.

By 43 A.D., the Celtic territories were conquered by the Roman Empire, and over 400 years, two Roman festivals (Feralia, a day in late October for commemorating the dead and day to honor Pomona, the goddess of fruit and trees – probably where the tradition of bobbing for apples came from) were combined with Samhain.

It’s possible that Samhain was merged with these two days to eradicate the original pagan festival, as there was a Persecution of paganism under Theodosius I in 381 A.D., who reigned as co-emperor of the Roman Empire. Theodosian created “Theodosian decrees” which meant practicing paganism was banned, visits to temples forbidden, and remaining pagan holidays were abolished, among others. He also declared that pagan feasts that had not yet been rendered Christian ones to now be workdays.

Christian Halloween

The name “Halloween” comes from “All Hallows’ eve”, which, “hallows” means saints. November the 1st was a day to celebrate all the saints and martyrs, originally called All Saints’ Day. October the 31st just so happened to be the eve, which, of course, was also important day of celebration.

But, All Saints’ Day was originally on the 13th of May, originally to celebrate Martyrs, but Pope Boniface IV changed it to the 1st of November and incorporated a celebration for all saints.

In 1000 A.D. the church also made November the 2nd “All Souls’ Day” a day to honor the dead. It was celebrated similarly to Samhain.

All three days are collectively called Allhallowtide.

Pumpkin Carving

On Halloween, pumpkin carving is a tradition, sometimes called Jack O’Lanterns in America. This is where a pumpkin is hollowed out, a face calved into it’s side and then a candle being placed inside to light it up.

This tradition originated from Ireland, but it wasn’t pumpkins that were originally used, as they weren’t native. Originally turnips, potatoes and other root vegetables were used, it wasn’t until Halloween made it’s way to America that pumpkins were used, as it was found they were easier to calve than root vegetables.

images

Original Jack O’Lantern, Turnip Carving.
https://www.irishcentral.com/roots/history/jack-o-lantern-turnips-ireland

The name ‘Jack O’Lantern’ is also from an Irish folktale. According to the story, a man called Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him, but Stingy Jack didn’t want to pay for his drink, so he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin so Jack could use to buy their drinks. But Jack decided to keep the money and put it in his pocket, next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing.

The Devil was eventually freed, under the condition he would leave Jack alone for one year, and should Jack die, he would not claim his soul.

The next year, Jack again tricked the Devil into climbing a tree, Jack carved a cross into the tree so the Devil could not come down until he promised Jack he would not bother him for another ten years.

When Jack died, God didn’t allow Jack into heaven for his actions, but the Devil also didn’t allow him into Hell. Instead, Jack was sentenced to roam Earth with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put the coal into a carved out turnip and became a ghostly figure called ‘Jack of the Lantern’, which eventually was shortened to ‘Jack O’Lantern’.

Trick or Treating

It is suggested that the practice of trick or treating originated from the custom of “Souling”, baking and sharing soul cakes for all christened souls. Groups of poor people, often children, would go door-to-door during Allhallowtide, collect soul cakes in return for a prayer for the dead.

Soul cakes, or soulmass cakes, were often market with a cross, much like the Easter/Lenten hot cross buns.

FDS8G00JN3HULF7.LARGE
Picture from: https://www.instructables.com/id/A-Witchs-Afternoon-Tea-Celtic-Style/
(includes a receipe if you’d like to recreate them yourself!)

Of course, the phrase ‘Trick or treat’ wasn’t used back then, the first mention of this phrase can be dated back to 1951 from a Peanut Comic Strip, but the actual origins are unclear.

Now, trick or treating has become a tradition for children to go knocking on local doors in exchange for sweets, usually dressed up as something scary!

Dressing up

The act of dressing up on Halloween can probably be dated back to Samhain, where villagers would disguise themselves in costumes made of animal skins to drive away unwanted visitors/spirits.

It was also a tradition shared with Christians, who believed Allhallowtide was the last day for the dead to seek vengeance on their enemies before moving on. People would dress up to avoid being recognised from being a target of this vengeance.

Now, the act of dressing up is left to parties and children who take part in trick-or-treating.

My Own Spooky Experiences

Something doesn’t feel right

A few years ago, probably around 2013, I took a trip to Conwy, Northern Wales (home to the smallest house in Britain) with my partner at the time. We both lived in Warrington so getting to Northern Wales was easy.

It was a cold day, which made for a good day exploring as there weren’t many people about, and so we took a trip to have a look around Conwy Castle.

conwy01
Photograph from www.castlewales.com/conwy.html

At first, it was great, hardly any tourists, because it was the wrong time of year, it was cold but dry and I always love my little days out visiting new sites, so I’m happy exploring too. We had just seen the smallest house in Britain and now we were having a wander around the castle, I was snap happy with my camera. As always.

But as I got closer to one of the towers, I had a very unsettling feeling towards it. I hadn’t had that feeling anywhere else so far in the castle except that one tower. I told my partner I couldn’t go near it and he just looked at me oddly. He was a sceptic (I didn’t hold it against him, but I did hate the looks he used to give me). But he started to read out the board next to the tower, and told me why couldn’t go near…

…it was the prison tower.

Imaginary Friend

This is a story that I will be turning into a book eventually, so I won’t go into too much detail, but I will explain a little about it.

My experiences with all things paranormal started when I was a child. When I was very young, probably still at primary school (ages 5 to 7), my brother and I had an imaginary friend; Sammy.

I don’t remember much about this because I was still quite young, so most of my memories have gone, the only memories I do have was remembering telling my mum that my missing hairbands were probably lost because Sammy hid them.

My mum told me that this imaginary friend, Sammy, used to live in the corner of our ceiling and would hide things for fun.

My mother at the time was a sceptic, and she believed my brother and I were just blaming things going missing on an imaginary friend, not wanting us to get into trouble. My brother also had a very vivid imagination when he was young, mum would get teachers from school worried about some of the stories he used to tell. Mum still to this day remembers the story about the Tiger in the backgarden. I’m suprised my brother never followed in my footsteps and became a writer!

But her scepticism quickly vanished after what she thought my brother and I had outgrown our imaginary friend became a lot more than just an imaginary friend…

She used to work at the primary school my brother and I went to, and because of such, became friendly with a few of the other mothers. One lady had approached my mum asking her for advice, asking if my brother and I ever had imaginary friends. After my mum gave her advice that “don’t worry, they grow out of it.” The mother proceeded to tell my mum that her son had an imaginary friend…

…called Sammy…

…who lives in the ceiling…

…and hides things.

My mum told me this a few years ago, and I can’t say I was surprised, after all the other things that had happened to me over the years… she also explained that the other mother’s son told her that Sammy was looking for his parents. Somehow we figured out that Sammy had died in an accident, car accident or something similar.

But I have tried to search for information on such an accident in the area I grew up (near Laws Woods/Park, in Swindon, Wiltshire) and I couldn’t find anything in any records. Although, a lot of locals have had ghostly encounters in Lawns Woods, my mother and I have heard a few stories in the area, a woman in white searching for something, ghost animals, even amature ghost hunters went to the area and believe they saw a woman in white being carried.

Lawns Woods used to be home to the Goddard Family, with remains of an old church and graveyard apparently for the family’s pets, an old ice house up on the hill, remains of an old sunken garden, a site where Tutor Mansion used to sit, then an 18th Century Mansion, both no longer there. But with so much history in the area, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a few ghostly goings on in the area. Including the ghost of Sammy that used to haunt the children in the area. I just wish I could find more information about it.

References:

Here are a few links if you’re interested in reading more about some sites I mentioned in this blog post:

Koestler Parapschology Unit

Lawn Park

Goddards in Swindon

Paranormal activity in Lawns Park

History of Halloween

History of Samhain

~~~

Keeping in theme of the spooky, check out these links below.

New Story idea! – Butterfly House
Rose Garden Sanatorium – Prologue
New Story Idea – “I fell in Love with a Psychopath”
My Normal – A Short Story by Penny Hooper

If you’re interested in my other travel/historical posts, check these out:

Remember, Remember, the 5th of November…
Douglas, South Lanarkshire – A Hidden Gem
Best places to visit in South Lanarkshire
Living in Australia – Part 1: Breakup from hell and Brisvegas

Don’t forget to like this post and follow me!
And feel free to comment with any of your spooky stories!

Halloween Special! 35% off my e-books!

Halloween Special!

Both my e-books are 35% off! For one day only! Sale ends tomorrow!

Happy Halloween / Happy Samhain!

I fell in Love with a Psychopath: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/893044
It’s My Mistake: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/744287

If you’d prefer the paperback, you can get them both here:
I fell in love with a psychopath: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1722710365/
It’s My Mistake: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Its-My-Mistake-Penny-Hooper/dp/1985376709/