February 14th

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February 14th. St Valentine’s Day. But who was St Valentine and why do we celebrate it as a lovers’ day with red hearts, roses and sloppy cards?

St Valentine was a Catholic saint, or according to some sources one of two or three, all martyred, one of whom is said to have sent a letter to his loved one (his jailor’s daughter) from his Roman prison and signed it from your Valentine.

The pagan festival of Lupercalia was celebrated between 13th and 15th February. Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, Roman god of agriculture, as well as to Romulus and Remus, founders of Rome who were supposedly cared for by a she wolf or lupa. Priests would gather in the cave where Romulus and Remus were thought to have stayed with the wolf and sacrifice a goat for fertility and a dog for purification. The hide of the goat was then cut into strips and dipped in sacrificial blood (where our Valentine red comes from?). Priests then took the strips and slapped women, who welcomed this as an assurance of their fertility in the year ahead, and the success of crops on which the population relied for food. Later the women’s names would be drawn from an urn, men choosing a woman with whom they would pair for a year –Roman society was rather permissive – or perhaps marry.

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Around the fifth century the church determined to Christianise the feast, so deemed the mid February day a day in celebration of Saint Valentine.

In France by the fifteenth century, the 14th of February was a day celebrating romance and love with banquets and revelry. While in England, Chaucer seemingly referred to it in one of his poems, linking it with love. Shakespeare mentions it in Hamlet with Ophelia saying To-morrow is Saint Valentine’s day.

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Although the day began to be celebrated around the seventeenth century, it wasn’t until the late eighteenth, with advances in printing and the introduction of the Penny Post, that friends began to exchange presents or notes decorated with flowers, love knots, lines of poetry, embroidery and frills of lace (though without any of the beating red hearts that feature today), first hand-made then sending one of the printed cards coming into vogue. And the fashion has grown since then.

No red hearts or roses for me today either. Instead I’m going with images of a sculpture of two people that I found decorating a wall in a street of Funchal’s old town. The sculpture is made of ‘found items’ of scrap metal. For me it tells a story of all the traits, feelings and emotions – caged, easy-going, difficult, honest, creative, delightful, happy, sad, positive, negative, complex and intertwining – that make up a person. And when two people come together the characteristics of each need to find a satisfactory response in the other, slotting together to make the meshing and compromises required into a worthy relationship. That, for me is the story of romance.

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St Valentine’s Day has been shaped from a past of conflict, clashes of cultures and beliefs, and natural and manmade troubles. But it was also a past in which people strove to find something good, brief or enduring relationships of love and harmony rather than brutality. The sculpture of two people is a mishmash of shapes, chains, bindings, sharp angles, gentle curves, constructed from pieces of implements and tools that speak of other purposes, other perhaps harsher lives, yet they too have been moulded into an image of togetherness, at one with one another. To me that seems appropriate to the day.

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So on February 14th cherish those near and dear to you however long or short your relationship and, in a world that’s become increasingly fractious, celebrate your good fortune.

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About jingsandthings

I am me. What do I like? Colour Shapes Textures Paintings, photographs, sculptures, woven tapestries, wonderful materials. The love of materials probably comes from my father who was a textile buyer, and I grew up hearing the names of mills and manufacturers which sounded magical and enticing. Glass in all its soft and vibrant colours and flowing shapes, even sixties glass which makes its own proud statement. A book I can immerse myself in. Meals with family or friends with lots of chat and laughter (and probably a bottle or two of wine). The occasional trip abroad to experience the sights, sounds, food, conversation, quality of light and warmth of other countries. To revel in differences and be amazed by similarities. I like to create and to experience, to try and to achieve. And then there are words – read, heard, written at my keyboard, or scrawled on sticky notes, or along the edges of dog-eared supermarket receipts excavated from the unexplored nooks of my handbag. What do I dislike? Cold Snow Bad design Fast food Condescension
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8 Responses to February 14th

  1. mybrightlife says:

    I must say, I prefer your mishmash sculpture too! The tangled and entwined story of true love! Gorgeous.

    • Thank you, so glad it appealed to you. I’ve always been fascinated by sculpture made from ‘found objects’ and this just seemed to fit the bill for the 14th – a change from hearts and flowers.

  2. carol1945 says:

    First of all, I was absolutely enthralled to read your history of St Valentines Day, and I am glad I am reading it today, February 14, instead of two weeks from now, as I often do with WordPress! Secondly, your choice of photo is absolutely perfect. I, too, love sculptures made from found objects. Many years ago, as a person drove towards the bridge connecting Berkeley to San Francisco, the bay mudflats would be full of wonderful sculptures made from found wood.
    To take scraps and be able to create a piece of art that resonates with thousands of people is just incredible. Thirdly, and most important, what you wrote here about relationships is utterly profound. I remember reading once that each of us is like a polyhedron. To be able to connect on a few sides is a miracle. For me, this photo of the sculpture shows the connection, but also all the difficulties that are inherent in any love or friendship.

  3. Hi Carol, so happy you share my liking for sculptures made from ‘found objects’. Sculptures made from found wood dotting the mudflats must have been quite a sight. Husband and I collected some pieces of an old Victorian pier but never got round to doing anything with them –not that we’re sculptors but it would have been interesting to try and see what we could achieve. It was the connections aspect, and the multitude of objects representing the difficulties inherent in relationships that drew me to this piece. Coming across unexpected items like this is like finding a gem amongst pebbles. It’s what makes trips, whether short or long, so memorable and exciting.

    • carol1945 says:

      Even if a person is not an “artist”, it is amazing what you can make with found objects. It is therapeutic too.

      • Quite a number of years ago I did an art class. As part of that we had a section on making sculptures with wood and various found objects. I had great fun using aluminium window catches which my husband, for some reason, had a great stock of, and an aluminium door handle, plastic string (red), and a tree branch on which I wove with various knobbly and thick textures of wool in autumn colours. I tied some interesting pebbles with wool (like parcels) so that they hung from the branch and inserted the branch into a wooden cone (as used in woollen mills). Received great praise for my efforts. The pieces made sat around our house for long enough. In face I might still have a couple of them. So, yes, it’s amazing what you can do when you try.

  4. walter- says:

    Well, what to say. You always have a special opinion about any topic. The sculpture is such which a couple’s relationship. Happy moments and difficult moments, agreements, disagreements, and among all that trying to keep the unit.
    Regards
    Walter-

  5. Thank you, Walter. I couldn’t think what to post for February 14th and was flicking through photographs when I came across these and the idea for a post came to me. I liked that it was a little different from the usual hearts and roses, so went with it. I find photographs a great source of inspiration for posts. Some bloggers write about what they’re doing every day, but I live in the country and often there doesn’t seem much to write about.

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