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Lupercalia

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  • December 3, 2012
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“The Lupercalia”

In ancient Rome, religious holidays played a large role in the ancient Roman life. One of the more popular of the Roman religious holidays was the Lupercalia. Celebrated on the 15th of February, the Lupercalia is known as the celebration of fertility and purity of childbirth and the city itself. Since February occurred later on the ancient Roman calendar, the Lupercalia was regarded as a festival of purification and fertility for a new year. Though this might seem like an average celebration, the rituals involved in the Lupercalia ceremony were perhaps some of the strangest traditions ever practiced in ancient Rome.

The religious rituals of the Lupercalia were said to be practiced very early in ancient Roman history. Archeologists think that this festival originated by some of the earliest settlers of Rome, the Arcadians, and was first designed to ward off evil. Though this religious ceremony is said to have originally been dedicated to the god, Lupercus, who was to ensure fertility and protect the fields and flocks against wolves, there is no actual temple or god that the Romans forwardly dedicate this festival to. Instead, they held the holiday in honor of the she-wolf, Lupa, who suckled Rome’s legendary founders, Romulus and Remus. While including Lupa, the Romans were found to have associated many other deities within this purity festival. Several ancient writers have associated Faunus, the god of agriculture and shepherds with this ceremony while others have also suggested Juno, the goddess of marriage, family, and childbirth.

This Roman ceremony began at the Lupercal cave on Rome’s Palatine Hill, where Romulus and Remus were believed to have lived with the she-wolf as infants. It was directed by two different bands of Romans, who called themselves Luperci, or “brothers of the wolf”. These male priests were responsible for the ritual sacrifices of two male goats, which signified sexuality and fertility and a dog that stood for the...