As we round the corner on Valentine’s Day I thought a little education on the heart and on the origin of the holiday might be of interest. An alternative, if you will, to the sentimentality imposed by Hallmark & Florist’s Day, February 14.
I don’t mean to burst romantic bubbles, but our modern, mid-month celebration was a Christian assumption of a pagan holiday and, like so many others, it was so successful that the original intent has been all but lost. The ancient, pre-Roman pastoral festival of Lupercalia was observed on February 15 to avert evil spirits and purify new life for the spring, releasing health and fertility. The festival of Lupercus, the Roman god of shepherds, was partly in honor of Lupa, the she-wolf who suckled the infant orphans Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, hence the name, “Wolf Festival.” Plutarch described some of the festivities:
“At this time many of the noble youths and of the magistrates run up and down through the city naked, for sport and laughter, striking those they meet with shaggy thongs [animal skins from sacrifices of dogs and goats]. And many women of rank also purposely get in their way, and like children at school, present their hands to be struck, believing that the pregnant will thus be helped in delivery and the barren to pregnancy.”
So there you have it. Not nearly as nice as two dozen roses and a dinner out, but perhaps more fun. As for St. Valentine, he was most likely a martyred Christian (or the face of many such priests) who performed marriage rites for Christians at a time in the Roman Empire when such an act was illegal and punishable by death. Over time the ideas of fertility, new life and marriage all combined and morphed into the notion of love and romance.
And while I’m all for romance, it really has very little to do with love. The job of romance is to seduce us into love. Romance is about hormones and the dissolution of ego boundaries, but love is a deeper, more profound connection to compassion, sacrifice, joy and Life itself. Giving and receiving love is the purpose of life.
The locus of love lies in the heart. The heart, in our culture, is much maligned; it’s a second-class organ, largely scorned in favor of the mind, a travesty and vestige of the so called “Age of Enlightenment” wherein reason triumphed over imagination and feeling. It has been relegated to schmaltz, to candy hearts and flowers and anemic sorts of flutterings.
But the heart is enormously powerful. It’s energy field imbued with such mystery and magnitude that science has yet to really begin to understand, let alone appreciate, it’s power for transformation. When the psychologist Carl Jung made a journey to the desert southwest of the United States, he met with a tribal elder who told him that white people were crazy, because they thought with their heads. Jung asked from where his people thought, and he replied by pointing at his heart. All ancient wisdom teachings tell us what St. Exupéry wrote in The Little Prince: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly.” Modern science is now beginning to bear witness to the physiological truth of this ancient wisdom.
Amazing things have recently been discovered about the heart. Heart cells have been shown to have their own intelligence and memory. The heart is even thought to have it’s own brain. It’s electrical field is 200 times stronger than the brain’s and its magnetic field is 5,000 times greater, measurable as far as eight feet from the body. (It may extend miles, we simply don’t have the means to measure it.)
On September, 2001, two GOES satellites 22,000 miles above the equator detected a spike in the Earth’s magnetic field strength fifteen minutes after the first airliner crashed into the World Trade Center. A similar spike appeared after Princess Diana’s death. The implications of this stunned scientists. Large scale, heart-based emotion appears to have a direct impact on the earth’s magnetic fields, fields which influence a multitude of events from climate conditions to world peace. Research in Japan discovered that the activation of this heart field energy—and by this I mean unconditional, positive feeling, not thought—directed toward another, can cause tumors to completely disappear in a matter of minutes, this proven by simultaneous body scan.
These things are not coincidence, not magic, not wishful thinking. The power of the heart is real, magnificent, omnipotent and universal. Life is energy, and the appreciation and harnessing of this energy has the potential to save us all. Not to mention that loving and being loved is the best feeling there is.
Happy Valentine’s Day. Go run naked.