Under the Northern Sky – Valentine’s Day And The Power Of Love

Valentines Day
Image by Depositphotos.com

by Xavier Kataquapit

We celebrate Valentines Day with wishes for those we are romantically interested in or in general for good greetings to family and friends. However, the history of this day which is celebrated on February 14 is very different.

Everyone grows up with the annual traditions that their parents followed without question. It is more strange to follow long standing European traditions when you come from an Indigenous background. We simply followed traditions like Valentine’s Day like the rest of the Canada because we were told so and no one ever wondered why. Early on it was viewed as a Christian holy day but over the past few generations it seems to have lost it’s Christian significance.

My parents were born in the James Bay wilderness and they followed a traditional lifestyle that was based on the changes of the seasons. The most important times for us were based on when the waterways froze, when the ice broke free to open up the waters and other times were marked for when a bird species arrived, or the arrival of fish or the migrations of caribou herds. The days we commemorated had to with our survival but when Christian missionaries began imposing their religion on us, we started commemorating holy days like Valentine’s Day.

I was surprised to learn that many of the Christian holidays we celebrated actually originated as pagan days of worship. Valentine’s Day is steeped in pagan history and full of controversy and tragic violence. There is some evidence that this day was made to replace the pagan celebration of Lupercalia which had to do with celebrating fertility.

Valentines Day became a day of sharing loving greetings in the Middle Ages and the fact that it came out of pagan fertility celebrations makes sense. In the 1700s and 1800s the celebration of Valentine’s Day took off and people began sharing letters of romantic greetings and then printed cards with those they cared about.

The common accepted Christian tradition is that the holiday commemorates the martyrdom of Saint Valentine in the year 269. However, like many medieval Christian traditions, their are many stories, histories, legends and myths about the identity of St Valentine. He is often identified as a leading figure in Rome or a someone with the same name in Terni, Italy while relics of his body, his remains or his items can be found in Rome, Terni, Spain, Ireland and several cities in eastern Europe.

No one is really sure who exactly Saint Valentine was but many identify him as a Christian figure who worked to free other Christian people and ended up being imprisoned himself for his actions. One thing for sure is Saint Valentine was a symbol of opposing the Roman empire and pagan beliefs.

Even with all the Christian history, pagan symbology is still prevalent in this holiday. The image of Cupid as a cute naked being shooting arrows of love is connected to pagan rituals and Greek mythology. He started out as a slender youth named Eros who was featured as shooting arrows of love to cause romance to flourish. Later in history he became the cute little creature we know today as Cupid.

Valentine’s day is steeped in mystery, intrigue and violence which gives us reason to pause and consider what it all means. The fact is that no matter the history, the main concept of love for others on a special day is still something wonderful. Of course, it has evolved in our modern world into a money enterprise where there are flowers, drinks, chocolates as well as other gifts associated with this day. I am always happy to get a few chocolates no matter what the reason is so from my point of view that is something wonderful.

Love is something we need more of for sure. We are living in a time of wars that don’t make any sense and are causing widespread death and destruction while making some a lot of money. We are dealing with media propaganda and now Artificial Intelligence that is impacting us in so many ways.

The future of Mother Earth is being threatened by climate change. The military industrial complex is threatening nuclear apocalypse and that is a worry for humanity. We need more love than ever and that means caring more about our planet and all of humanity. We have to realize that it is up to us to stand up to fascism, right wing ideologies and the very wealthy who continue to make money on war, death and destruction. Love is a very pure and powerful force that we need to tap into. I may not identify with many ancient European traditions but love is an idea I can understand. Love can change everything.


Previous articleWinter Returns! Southern Ontario Braces for First Big Snowfall of February
Next articleAttawapiskat Braces for Extended Cold Snap: Frostbite Risks and Flurries Ahead
Under The Northern Sky is the title of a popular Aboriginal news column written by First Nation writer, Xavier Kataquapit, who is originally from Attawapiskat Ontario on the James Bay coast. He has been writing the column since 1997 and it is is published regularly in newspapers across Canada. In addition to working as a First Nation columnist, his writing has been featured on various Canadian radio broadcast programs. Xavier writes about his experiences as a First Nation Cree person. He has provided much insight into the James Bay Cree in regards to his people’s culture and traditions. As a Cree writer, his stories tell of the people on the land in the area of Attawapiskat First Nation were he was born and raised.