Lupa (Latin for “she-wolf”; plural: Lupae) can refer to: a female wolf (Canis lupus).
Sacred She-Wolf of Roman legend, nurse of the foundling twins Romulus and Remus.
Lupa’ s temple harlots were lupae, sometimes called Queens (or high priestesses) in outlying towns of the empire.
Lupa’ s greatest festival was the annual Lupercalia, celebrated in the Grotto of the She-Wolf, with orgiastic rites to insure the year’sfertility. After participating in the ceremony, naked youths traveledthroughout Palatine towns to “purify” them. Perhaps this was why, after Lupa’ s festival was adopted by the Christian church, circa 496, it was renamed the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin.
Lupercalia, which also derives from the Latin root “lupus” meaning “wolf” started off in the cave called the Lupercal where Remus and Romulus were theoretically suckled by Lupa. There two sets of men (which was later made into three by Julius Ceasar) called the Luperci Quinctiales and the Luperci Fabiani would gather and sacrifice a goat, and often a dog. The goat is said to represent the fertility aspect of the ritual, especially since goats were sacred to Pan or Faunus, a fertility and lust god. The dog is more obscure, though it is suggested that it was sacrificed because dogs are seen as the enemy of wolves. The blood of the sacrifice would be smeared on the Luperci and strips would be made of the skins to use as small whips. The Luperci would then laugh and feast on the meat before starting their ritual run through Rome by the “sacred way,” the Palatine. As the Luperci ran through the city purifying it they would whip married women with the skin thongs they carried. This was supposed to impart fertility on the women, as can be seen represented by the picture below:
These actions may seem a bit distasteful to modern ears but Lupercalia was an incredibly popular ritual. It was practiced all over the Roman empire, theoretically since the founding of Rome up to 494 CE, when the Pope finally outlawed it’s practice. Even so it was still practiced in some Roman Orthodox countries for quite some time afterwards.
Some people like to claim that Valentine’s Day was made popular in order to eradicate Lupercalia, or that Valentines Day was made to replace it. Though the former was probably true in some manner or other, Lupercalia and Valentine’s day hold very few similarities other than date which argues against the latter. Unlike All Hallow’s Eve, Christmas and Easter which quite clearly borrowed Pagan traditions, Valentine’s Day does not seem to borrow any traditions from Lupercalia unless you consider the broad connection of love and marriage with fertility and lust. The renewal and purification aspect of Lupercalia is certainly lost however, even if the Catholic Church was trying to convert the ancient Roman ritual into a more “acceptable” pattern.
Bronnen: Barbara G. Walker ~ The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets – Wikipedia
The myth most often associated with Lupercalia is that of Remus and Romulus, the two founding brothers of Rome. Remus and Romulus were thrown into the river by their uncle who wanted to seize their kingdom. Saved by driftwood, the twins were found and raised by a she-wolf (Lupa).