by Mike Ford (1955-2021)
"Cupid, draw back your bow
And let your arrow go
Straight to my lover's heart
For me. . . ."
Sam Cooke sang those words back in 1961, and "oldies" radio stations still play the song on occasion. Oddly enough, Sam Cooke was killed at the relatively young age of 29, gunned down by a jealous girlfriend at a Hollywood motel. Evidently, Cupid's arrow spawned only a fatal attraction.
This song was from a more innocent time, and before conversion, many of us probably sang along, totally ignorant of its deeper, pagan meaning. Now people sing of graphic sexual acts with no subtlety or imagery involved. Advertisers and merchandisers discovered early on that sex sells.
Satan, sexless and childless, with no hope of becoming part of a family, has seen to it from the beginning that man has misused sex. The term "sex" here not only means the sex act itself but related areas such as pornography, sex shops, prostitution, perversions, etc. Satan has always found willing victims among mankind because we always want the easy way. Is it any wonder that prostitution is known as "the world's oldest profession"?
Rather than working on a relationship, growing and overcoming with one's wife or husband, humans have always sought immediate pleasure for themselves with no thought of others. David saw Bathsheba, as she possibly had planned, and he wanted her (II Samuel 11:1-4). With no thought of the pain it would cause, they both sought their own pleasure. Satan has succeeded in seducing not only individuals like David and Bathsheba, but cities (Sodom and Gomorrah; see Genesis 19) and nations (Israel; see Numbers 25; I Kings 14:24, II Kings 23:7).
Christ is returning to marry His church, a chaste virgin, dressed in white, without spot or blemish (Ephesians 5:27; Revelation 19:7-8). On the other hand, Satan is behind Babylon, symbolized as the whore and mother of harlots (Revelation 17:1-6). Quite a contrast.
What does all this have to do with Sam Cooke and Cupid? Well, nothing with Mr. Cooke directly, but plenty with Cupid!
February 14 is Valentine's Day, a day when Cupid supposedly does his thing. It is sometimes lost in the afterglow of Christmas' glitter and the awakening of Easter's false hope. Yet it is a day emblematic of the devil's whole approach. It is a holiday worth knowing more about so that we can be more fully armed and better able to withstand Satan and his wiles (Ephesians 6:11).
To most people, Valentine's Day would seem to be nothing more than kids exchanging Valentine cards and adults giving chocolates or flowers. But it is harmless only in the eyes of those who do not know any better. As with most worldly festivals with religious overtones, its origins go back long before Christ. And, as we have come to recognize, the Roman Catholic Church "Christianized" it, assimilating pagan beliefs into its own.
Any good encyclopedia or reference material will state where Valentine's Day originated. The American Book of Days by Jan M. Hatch (3rd edition), reads, ". . . association [of Valentine's Day] with lovers is a survival, in Christianized form, of a practice that occurred on February 14, the day before the ancient Roman feast of the Lupercalia. . . " (p. 178).
Holidays and Anniversaries of the World by Laurence Vrdang and Christie N. Donohue, in the article "Valentine's Day," says, "[Valentine's Day is] also believed to be a continuation of the Roman festival of Lupercalia."
The New Standard Encyclopedia, under the article "Valentine," states:
Saint Valentine was an obscure, possibly legendary, martyr who by tradition was put to death by the Romans on February 14, about [AD] 269. This day was made a feast day by the Roman Catholic Church. The date of his death almost coincided with that of the Roman feast of the Lupercalia. . . .The celebration of the two occasions merged.
So Valentine's Day is nothing more than a continuation of Lupercalia.
There is nothing mysterious or secret about this pagan observance, as most of these reference works also have information about Lupercalia. The Encyclopedia Americana, 1996, from the article "Lupercalia," says:
. . . an ancient Roman rite held each February 15 for the fertility god Lupercus. Goats and a dog were sacrificed, and goats' blood was smeared on the foreheads of two young men and wiped off with wool dipped in milk. Young men, wearing only goatskin about their loins, ran around the base of the Palatine hill, striking with goatskin strips any women they met. This was to ease labor for pregnant women and to make the others fertile.
Well, how thoughtful!
The American Heritage Dictionary, under "Lupercalia," reads, "a fertility festival in ancient Rome, celebrated February 15 in honor of the pastoral god Lupercus." Even the month of February gets its name from this pagan ceremony. The Latin februaue means "to purify" after this so-called "Feast of Purification." Some sources say that the thongs from the skins of sacrificed animals—which the priests used on the evening of February 14 to whip women—were called februa.
Who was Lupercus anyway? Lupercus was a hunter of wolves (Latin lupus is "wolf"), associated with the Roman god Faunus, god of agriculture and fertility. Since Rome took its gods from those it conquered, we can trace Faunus to its Greek equivalent, Pan, god of woods, fields and flocks. The ancients pictured both of these mythological beings as having a human torso, but legs, horns and ears of goats. This fits nicely with the fact that they sacrificed goats and used thongs from their skin to whip women during this "feast." The Bible often compares God's people to sheep while frequently linking Satan with goats.
Pan can be traced to the Phoenician sun god Baal (also a god of fertility and nature). We can make a strong case that Baal is none other than Nimrod. In Genesis 10:9, Moses describes Nimrod as a "mighty hunter." In the days after the Flood, animals multiplied rapidly and caused fear among the people. Nimrod grew powerful because of his ability to fight the wild animals. Tradition says that he roamed as far as Italy to hunt wolves.
Valentine comes into play here. The word derives from the Latin valens, meaning "strong, powerful, mighty." Our word valiant, "courageous, heroic," also comes from this root. These are apt descriptions of Nimrod. In a sense, he was the peoples' valentine!
Even the heart, ubiquitous symbol of this day, is actually a symbol for Nimrod. The Romans acquired the heart symbol from the Babylonians, who spoke the Chaldean tongue. In this language, the word for "heart" was bal or bel. Due to its similarity in sound to "Baal," it became an emblem for Nimrod.
There is even a link with Cupid. What equipment does Cupid always carry? He is always pictured with a bow and arrows, such as a hunter would have! In mythology, Cupid, also known as Nin or Ninus, "the Son," was the son of Venus. Ninus was Nimrod.
Venus is the Roman equivalent of the Greek goddess Aphrodite (Ceres) and the "mother goddess," Semiramis (the biblical Ashtoreth). These pagan goddesses, usually depicted with multiple breasts or breasts extremely out of proportion to their body, symbolized fertility. The thread between Lupercus-Faunus-Pan-Baal-Nimrod -Cupid and Venus- Aphrodite- Ceres- Semiramis-Ashtoreth is fertility, or in today's vernacular just plain sex. The celebration of the Lupercalia was just an excuse to lower the morals and inhibitions of people, under the guise of religion. A "church-sponsored" orgy, if you will!
Why February 14?
How did the date get moved back from February 15 to the 14th? There are two possible reasons. In ancient times, days began at sunset, so then the "festivities" of the Lupercalia began on the evening of the 14th. As the Roman calendar took precedence, it was no great matter to move the holiday up a few hours.
The other reason for the change to the 14th is that Pope Gelasius simply ordered it changed in AD 496. As mentioned earlier, Catholic legend speaks of an obscure martyr named Valentine who was put to death on February 14, AD 269, and the Roman church made this day a feast day. There is nothing "festive" about a martyr's death. More than likely, the Catholic Church was doing what we call "spin control," trying to put a better face on a licentious occasion.
Why did the Romans observe the Lupercalia on the 15th in the first place? Nimrod was supposedly born at the winter solstice. In the 21st century BC, the solstice occurred on January 6. As time progressed, however, this date moved earlier every four hundred years or so. In Roman times, Julius Caesar ordered it fixed on December 25. (Today, it falls on December 21.)
In antiquity, the mother of a male child customarily presented herself before her god for purification on the 40th day after giving birth. Remember, the Lupercalia was a "Feast of Purification." Forty days from January 6 is February 15!
Two other Valentine's Day traditions may be of interest. During Lupercalia, the names of young women were put into a box and drawn out by men as chance directed. Exchanging Valentines grew out of this name drawing.
Why is the color red associated with Valentine's Day? Isaiah writes that "sins are like scarlet, . . . red like crimson" (Isaiah 1:18). Adultery is known as the "scarlet sin" (recall the classic book by Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter). Prostitution is practiced in the "red-light district." The Bible describes certain princes of Babylon dressed in vermilion (Ezekiel 23:14-15). Babylon herself is a harlot dressed in scarlet (Revelation 17:4). The highest ranking priests of the Catholic church, cardinals, wear red.
When we tally our list on the merits of Valentine's Day, this pagan holiday shows not one redeeming value! Valentine's Day is as worldly as they come. It is indeed a product of Babylon, and the love of God does not rest on those who become enmeshed by the ways of this world (I John 2:15).
Those who continue to insist that participation in it is harmless have refused to recognize the rank paganism inherent in this holiday. God warns in Revelation 18:4 that if we remain within the gates of Babylon, then we will suffer its fate. Valentine's Day is just another reason why God says to us, "Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues."