Who Was St Valentine?

Typically, in history, the origin of some of our saints and festivals morph into one and St Valentine is no different – he is many people morphed into one. Here we take a look at the origins of who he might have been, and why they are associated with the most romantic day of the year…

They say that some lose their heads for love… Well, this is certainly true of St Valentine

The first St Valentine is a Christian saint who was doing his business around 3rd century Rome. Remember, Christians were persecuted by the Romans – chucked to the lions so in many places around the world (like in Egypt) their societies had to operate in secret because what they were doing could have them killed.

The first St Valentine was part of a secret underground Christian movement at the time of Claudius II (Claudius Gothicus – and not because he was the first to listen to Sisters Of Mercy and wear black) and he is associated with love because he married Christian couples in secrecy (he also helped fellow Christians who were being persecuted and thrown to the lions by Claudius but that bit isn’t relevant to today’s post…)

Claudius had him slammed in jail and while he was awaiting execution, he tried to convert Claudius from his pagan ways. Obviously Claudius was fuming – why would he want to convert to a more sedate Christianity? Paganism followed MANY gods and had many parties celebrating these many gods – not to mention the mystery gods… Or the sacrifices, or the days partying hard on wine and women – and men (this 3rd century St Valentine wasn’t up for partying hard, Andrew WK style, basically).

He was beheaded outside the Flaminian Gate and you can visit his reliquary (pictured above) in the basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome. Apparently, his bones and a vial of blood ended up in Dublin’s Whitefriar Street Church. But before he died, he sent a message to the jailer’s daughter, who he had fallen in love with, that said, ‘From your Valentine’.

He is said to be executed on February 14th – a bit of a convenient date, considering a lot of important dates have been muddied with Pagan parties- remember, the Lupercalia is on the 15th… and when Christianity cleansed the world of the debauchery that was happening in the name of religion, a lot of Pagan celebrations just so happened to fall on the same date as this new religion…

Back in history, Valentine was a popular name. Like John or Chris… It was used a lot because Valentinus meant powerful and strong… And butch. But of the Valentines we know about (there are effing loads of ‘ordinary blokes’ with this name noted in history), it doesn’t seem to be a lucky name.

Aside from St Valentine of Rome, who you’ve just read was beheaded, there was another Valentine, the Bishop of Terni. Because this bloke lived around the same time and was also apparently beheaded by Claudius II, some believe this to be the same bloke. The Catholic church has a massive list of Saints and there are many named St Valentine, and there was even a Pope Valentine (he served only 40 days).

One Valentine who fared a bit better was St Valentine Berrio-Ochoa, a Dominican order Spaniard, who traveled to Vietnam and served as bishop. Then in true St Valentine tradition, he too had his head chopped off in 1861.

Real Life ” I Do”! Rachael’s Scrap Book Proposal

Continuing our proposal inspiration, we asked real-life bride to be Rachael how she popped the question to her intended, Neil… She had to get creative because lockdown scuppered the original plans, but we think this is beautiful! This is what she said…

THE SCRAPBOOK PROPOSAL

I had already decided in December 2019 that I was going to propose to my partner. I knew he wanted to get married, as did I, but was being a bit slow about proposing. He’s not really a jewellery or big spontaneous gesture kind of person, so flash mobs, public proposals and engagement rings were out of the question.

We’ve always referred to each other as adventuring buddies both think Up! is romantic (the first bit) and I like crafts. So I decided to make him a scrap book to propose with. We have an in joke, and 15a means ‘I love you’. So clearly sections of the scrap book needed to be numbered up to 15b being ‘marry me’. I set about the book in January 2020, including lots of tickets, photos, napkins, cards, anything to spark a joyous memory.

But when to propose? On a nice weekend away was obvious. We had two suitable trips planned, the last weekend in February and then in May. We’ll, there was no way I was proposing on the only day in 4 years where women are traditionally allowed to (29th Feb), so May it was. Then covid, ill health, furlough and all sorts of things hit. Needless to say the trip in May did not happen. But I couldn’t wait for all this to be over as it dragged in into August with no end in sight. So, with the scrap book ready, I ordered a wonderful set of cheeses from our local cheesemonger, as it was something special. I tidied the dining room (we rarely eat in there, so it felt like being somewhere other than the house we hadn’t left in 4 months) and set it up to look like a Parisian restaurant (our last holiday was Paris) with Moulin Rouge on the lap top (a film we both adore and have amazing memories of the Secret Cinema version). We ate. We drank. I gave him the book and got very nervous! He beamed looking through all of the sections and memories and when he got to 15b, grinned at me, said yes, gave me a kiss, and ran off!

He returned with a little box with a ring and asked me the same question! He had been planning to propose on the May trip too! Of course I said yes! We then video called parents and announced on social media. I was so pleased that it managed to all feel magical despite being at home. It was a very ‘us’ proposal.”

I Love the way Rachael proposed to Neil – thanks so much to her for sharing this fabulous and inspiring proposal! It really sums up the story of their life together so far… They get married in October 2020 ❤

All pics by Rachael Eyre

Proposal Ideas Pt 2

If you are looking for a different way to pop the question on St Valentine’s Day, here are a few more ideas…

GIVE THEM THE KEY… TO YOUR HEART.

Well, it might sound a bit obvious, but it’s fun, right? And these days, asking for permission and finding a formal moment to “do it” all sounds a bit serious, doesn’t it? So why not have a bit of fun? A key that fits a locked box, which has a ring inside is a really cute way to propose… But if you want to make it even more special, why not put inside some of your favourite photos from your story so far – moments that have been magical. If you are like me, you may have kept tickets or “souvenirs” from things you did together… why not pop them inside the box as well! If you are poetic, why not include a poem, or some lyrics to your favourite song?

MATRYOSHKA!

Are you crafty? Do you love folklore? Then why not hide the question inside a set of Russian nesting dolls? You can get some really cool ones around now, based on any theme, and I’m told that a certain UK hobby shop even does ones you can paint yourself – so you can make your own mini Matryoshkas based on yourselves!

LOVE BY THE BOOK…

Photo-books are really easy to create these days. Most of the major printing sites make them and you can caption each page yourself, so why not give your loved one your love story so far? Don’t be put off by the thought of it being a difficult thing to create as most sites have templates and you just click on the photo upload area and choose your pics. Don’t forget to pop the question in the book! and it is noce to leave a “to be continued…” page to make it clear that that isn’t the end of the story!

If photo uploads aren’t your thing, you could do a really low-key proposal, simply by putting the ring in a book and asking your intended to pass you the book. This is a nice idea as it’s quite relaxed and if you choose your moment correctly it will be unexpected and delightful!

BY VIDEO

These days, everyone seems to be doing things by video, so why not propose… but the key thing here is to make it special, and not some quick recorded message sent to their inbox without a thought, because you are scared to ask in person! This is not the alternative of being scared to ask in person! Some ideas for you include choosing your background – you want to make it look like you’ve put some special thoughts into it. you can make a physical background by decorating a wall or some curtains with love hearts, or even letters… Talking to camera works – make sure you look down the lens, though, so your loved one feels like you are talking directly to them, and ensure you are nicely lit – a light in front that illuminates your face is best, as back lit will cause shadows. If you want to make it humorous you could lip sync to a song and there are editing packages that are really easy to use now, so if you wanted to play different characters, wear different outfits, or incorporate clips from friends, then you can. How you choose to send it is up to you, but unless you are really confident of the answer, and sure your intended wont hit the roof because everyone has seen this first, it’s probably not the best idea to put it up publicly on social media or youtube. And choose your moment to send it! Make sure it hits their inbox at a special moment…

More proposal hints and tips coming tomorrow!

Will You?

Yes, we all know it’s a cliche and only to be expected on St Valentine’s Day – but so what? If you want to pop the question, then why not?

Any day is a good day for love! Here are a few ideas to make it a bit different…

TREASURE HUNT

We’ve all been on those treasure hunts, where clues lead to other clues and the winner gets, well? What? I don’t think I can remember winning any actual treasure… However, now is your chance to change all that, where the winner (or should I say, only contestant) gets to win your heart and a sparkler to put on their finger.

Granted, during lockdown, this might be a bit more difficult as we’re not allowed to go anywhere, which means you will have to be a bit more creative when you lay down your clues around your house and/or garden… and also, choosing the time of day might make it feel more special – eg, doing it after the sun has gone down by candlelight… Your clues could be simple post it notes cut into the shape of a heart and each clue leads your intended to a different, but special location – perhaps one clue could lead to an unforgettable photograph, and the next lead to the kitchen, where there is a treat (like your last rollo?) or to their favourite dish or ingredient, the next to the wardrobe and to an item of clothing or shoes they were wearing when you first met? You get the idea, make your clues part of your story together and it will be a fun and memorable proposal.

If you want to wait until lockdown is over for your love adventure, then you can make an even bigger treasure hunt that leads to special places, such as the place where you first kissed, somewhere you have your first date, etc.

In both cases, just make sure you keep the treasure on your person as you really don’t want the ring falling into the wrong hands… and make the last clue one that leads to your heart, so you have the chance to propose! If you want to make that more fun, you could hide and they have to find you for the treasure!

and don’t forget, you don’t have to make it a paper trail! you can go low-tech and do it on text messages, or by sending part of a picture of where the next clue is, so they have to guess the whole picture. When they’ve found the place, why not attach the story to the item – eg, “These were the shoes you were wearing when we first met”? This shows you have thought about the details of your relationship and have taken notice!

More ideas coming tomorrow!

From The Heart…

As St Valentine’s Day approaches, here are some more historical facts about the heart…

did you know, the heart has been associated with our feelings and will for thousands of years – just look at the ancient Egyptians who weighed the heart against a feather to see if you were worthy of the afterlife. If your heart was lighter than a feather, you were allowed through that elusive doorway. It was thought that the heart, not the brain, contained all your emotions.

The fact that the heart is in the centre of the body only re-enforced this fact, and if the heart was pierced, you could die.

An early Roman “scientist”, Galen, was the first to realise the heart beats faster in different circumstances. They linked the feeling of the quickening heart (and that funny feeling in the chest) to love. In the middle ages, artists would base their somewhat naive anatomy drawings on the written descriptions of Galen and Aristotle without actually basing it on the real thing and while it’s obvious that the heart is red to represent all that blood pumping around the body because you are in love and your heart is “all a flutter”, the heart was always depicted upside down with a small dent in its base (the dent gradually became bigger). It was gradually turned around in the 15th century and by the 1800s, this heart shape, which appeared on tabards (livery), playing cards, religious pictures and other paintings was everywhere. And started to be sent out as a message of love.

Why the heart?

As St Valentines Day approaches, I thought we would have a look at what is it, and why we use the symbol of a heart as the universal sign of love…

The heart symbol has absolutely no relation to the heart we have in our bodies, aside from the fact that people in historical times thought that the heart was at the centre of the body, and that it drove our feelings. The heart shape itself has its origins in foliage, fruit and seeds. In ancient Greece, they loved this massive fennel-type plant called silphium. It was the wonder ingredient of its time, the greeks and Romans loved it so much that they consumed it to extinction. Not only could it be used to flavour foods, it was also medicine and used for birth control and its seeds were heart-shaped. Others believe that the fig leaves used to cover the modesty of Adam and Eve were the origins of the heart shape (as are ivy leaves…). Later, in the 13th Century (Tom, that’s for you) a famous French manuscript, ‘Roman de la Poire’ shows a pair being handed to a lover in a title page illumination. Nothing whatsoever to do with a heart – but the shape is similar and the pear represents love and fertility in many different cultures.

It also has its origins in the naive anatomy drawings that started to come out in the middle ages. The artist would base their drawings on the written descriptions of Galen and Aristotle without actually basing it on the real thing!

An Alternative Wedding!

So you have met the love of your life, and you both have a love for rock, metal, goth, punk – any and all of the above… Excellent! It sounds like you’ve met the person of your dreams (which certainly solves the problem of someone you share you life with telling you to ‘get that rubbish off’ when you play your favourite album at full blast!). and now you want to get married, but the trouble is, you want a ceremony that reflects who you are – that says what you want to say to one another and where you can actually walk down the isle to Rammstein if you really want to!

That’s why choosing a celebrant to officiate your marriage will be an excellent choice (even if i do say so myself!) A celebrant will work with you to create a ceremony that not just reflects your love, but also your life. If you want a ceremony that is more like a gig, then why not (I’ll tell you what – I’d love to go to this sort of gig!)? As celebrants we can create meaningful vows (and i don’t just mean, “I promise to love your black metal collection – even those Watain records”) and it will be memorable forever!

I’ll tell you a bit about myself. Aside from being a history/folklore buff (I really do love all those weird history things, you know!) I have been on the music scene for many years – if I told you how many years, you would guess my age. And yes, I am old. Old enough to be part of the first wave of the riot gggrl movement. I’ve written for music magazines including rocksound and Terrorizer – and currently Metal Head. I’ve interviewed everyone from members of Black Sabbath, Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie, Ministry – and yes, even Watain and other bands on the black metal circuit. I even had a pretty metal wedding party myself, when me and Stu came back from the ceremony in Sri Lanka, we had a party in Craig Y Nos in Wales, and all our friends who were in bands, artists, and alternatives, joined us. Our first dance was to dueling banjos (that song from Deliverance). And we felt great, because it was something that represented us! Even the flowers and table decs reflected who we were, with skulls, roses, ivy and black stuff (I made them myself, I was quite chuffed!)

What I’m trying to say is that I would like to give you couples out there the same, authentic, experience that we had. It was definitely a night to remember – for all the right reasons! Coming from the same scene as you, I understand where you are coming from (and may even know a little bit about the bands you like!). We can even talk to some gig venues, if you really must turn your ceremony into a gig – because with a celebrant officiating, you don’t need to be in a licensed venue, as your legal papers would already have been signed.

A Clean Sweep And Weddings

No, the venue wasn’t behind on preparations, and the chimney sweep was caught in the act of, er, sweeping… In days gone by, having a chimney sweep at your wedding – and the first to kiss the bride – was good luck!

The tradition is over 200 years old, and may seem a bit random today, but, like a lot of great old customs, inviting a sweep to a wedding for luck is being revived.

The tradition starts in the reign of King George II, when a chimney sweep saved his life by stopping his runaway horse and carriage. The King was so grateful that he issued a Royal Decree that chimney sweeps should be treated with great respect (at a time when thry were considered one of the lowest of the low) and were lucky! Well, they were certainly lucky for him! After this time, every one who wanted to bring luck to a situation – like a new house and definitely a new life as a couple, would invite a chimney sweep to bless the occasion. They had never been so in demand! Some people even considered touching a sweep good luck!

Apparently, May 1 is a particularly lucky day – as it’s national chimney sweep day!

Incidently, did you know that sweeps wore top hats to help them feel good about their status? Some started their vocation as young boys, climbing up inside the chimney breast, and to make them feel taller in a world of grown ups, they were given top hats and tails. The hat was a status symbol throughout their working life – no matter how battered it got…

Anyway, you can hire a sweep for your wedding and there are plenty around who offer this service – just make sure they don’t get soit on the dress!

Jumping The Broom Ceremonies

Seeing as though it’s Hallowe’en, I couldn’t resist sharing this tradition that has been interpreted in a number of years over the centuries.

When we think of jumping the broom ceremonies, there are usually two different types of ceremony that come to mind in modern times – a neo-pagan wedding and hand fasting in Europe and in the USA, jumping the broom has become a popular part of the ceremony for people of colour. Interestingly, there are two paths that have led to these ceremonies. If you are considering jumping the broom, I think it is important that you research the background and what it means to you, personally.

The broom is a sacred thing in some religions and folklore – certainly for centuries, the broom is an important part of ceremonies and ritual, to sweep out negative forces and clearing away old energies, and here is Wales, it us used to ‘sweep out the chaos’ after the Mari Lwyd and her assistants have visited – the last member of her troupe carries a broom and sweeps the negative energy, attracted to the chaos that the Mari Lwyd drums up, over the threshold, paving the way for good luck.

There is also the obvious significance in the broom – sweeping out the old to prepare for the new.

In some African cultures, when a couple got married, they jumped a pile or line of sticks which signified their building a home together/jumping over the threshold and some say that it was this tradition that led to the jumping of the broom ceremonies that took place centuries ago. Jumping the broom has links to the slave trade, and one of the reasons I urge couples to do a bit of research on this as without knowing the background, incorporating this tradition into your proceedings could be problematic. Among other atrocities, enslaved people were denied ‘legal’ marriage so performed their own rites and as recognition f marriage, couples jumped the broom, which took on different forms from plantation to plantation. In some ceremonies, two brooms were laid out in between the couple and they jumped over the broom nearest to them into the space in the middle, where they joined hands, thus symbolising their joining in matrimony, in other traditions there was a build up of drums, voices and other instruments before the couple jumped the broom together. Interestingly, there is another tradition that almost mirrors the ‘jumping of the church wall’ of English tradition (popular in Chaddleworth – whoever sets foot first over the wall without touching it will be master for life), and that is jumping backwards over the broom without touching it. Whoever jumped clear of the broom would rule the household, but if the couple both cleared the broom, there would be on ‘bossin’.

In Europe, it would probably be more accurate to call this tradition the jumping of the besom (a broom which you might call a ‘witch’s broomstick’) and origins of this also go back centuries; it is one of the oldest marriage traditions, even pre-dating the hand fasting cord (although the actual act of hand fasting goes back to the time of the Celts, and 700 years before the year 0). In Celtic traditions, a broom was used to define the home – homes were made on dirt and the dirt was swept aside (many times a day) to define the boundary of what was the home and what was outside of that. The broom was a home-maker for sure, literally marking the distinction and separating domestic life and the wild. Jumping the broom meant you were jumping into the home and leaving your untamed ways behind!

In Wales, in the 1700s, besom weddings were made popular by Roma gypsies, who would place the besom in a doorway and the couple jump over it and into their new life. It is unclear if the gypsies carried this tradition with them from other parts of the world (as they often did, like gathering stories, dances and music) or if Welsh people were already doing it.

Lastly, there is the tradition of jumping the bench, an ancient fertility rite which the couple do together to mark the severance of their old lives… Creating what is now known as the bench mark!

In modern jumping the broom ceremonies, a couple is encouraged to buy a new broom, so it doesn’t carry the energy of any other force. A broom or besom can be decorated how the couple wish – some like to bestow their broom with different crystals, which acts to empower the union with whatever quality the crystal delivers, some like to entwine it with significant or symbolic coloured ribbons and some will carve initials and other symbols into the handle. However you decorate your besom is up to you and the celebrant can incorporate the message and symbols in your ceremony – or they can just be kept secret for only the couple to know! and a broom can be kept as a special wedding day memento.

Wedding Venue Inspiration: Halloween

Did you know that with a celebrant officiating your wedding ceremony, you can have your nuptuals where ever you like? Which can lead to all kinds of inspirational ideas, not just for the setting, but also the time!

And as it is almost my favourite time of the year, what better than having a Hallowe’en wedding? Seriously, how gorgeous will a ceremony be, with all the colours of the season, and you could even choose to say your vows at twilight under the twinkling warmth of some lanterns? Perhaps your guests will also be holding flaming torches as you declare your love for one another… Or light their torches as a symbol of your love and warmth?

I really can’t imagine anything more beautiful!