Monday, 24 January 2011

The Festival of Lupercalia

Following a comment made on one of my postings recently I suddenly remembered that there was an ancient Greek festival involving mild flagellation in ancient Greece .

It was the festival of Lupercalia held annually on Feb. 15. It was intended to secure fertility and keep out evil. Two male youths, clad in animal skins, ran around the city slapping passers by with strips of goat skin. The the youths were impersonating male goats who were, surprise surprise, considered to be the embodiment of sexuality. First the runners had their foreheads anointed with blood, and then they ran around the Palatine hill, striking at any woman who came near them with their thongs which was supposed to bestow fertility.

All I can say is it that it makes Morris dancing look pretty tame!


  1. L

    i didn't now that anyone knew about this - it really is obscure

    you are not Stephen Fry are you . . .

    as for 'the belt' there is a book i recall, it may be french, about a nymph's obsession with an ornate belt, who was wearing it etc eludes me though i recall it was eventually used to her swoonig delight - more may come to me - mm, it was green and ornate - mm, i think a film was made of it - yes, definately french - though they can have difficulty with 'le vice anglais'


  2. In the Czech Republic every Easter, apparently, there is a wide tradition of men spanking women with a whippy sort of wand, and the idea behind it is that it bestows more beauty and youth on the recipient. This Lupercalia is perhaps a more primitive understanding of the dynamic.

  3. Actually, the Lupercalia is the ancestor of our Valentine's Day. There is also a reference to it in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, where Caesar tells his wife to make sure that Mark Antony "touches" her. Antony was Pontifex Maximus and so would have been the guy holding the goat thong. Either Shakespeare didn't know that the "touch" was given with a goat thong, or else he felt he needed to tone it down a bit, the "kink" tolerance of 400 years ago not being all that great. He could hardly have had Caesar tell his wife to bend over and stick it out so that Antony could give her a good whack, although it would have made for a fun scene!

  4. Great post, but you have confused Ancient Rome with Ancient Greece. The Palatine Hill is in Rome, and Lupercalia was a Roman festival.

  5. My goodness, what a highbrow audience I seem to be attracting! I only published this post as a result of a comment on another post a while back, and had not given it much thought. I'd looked briefly into this about a year ago when I was co-writing a play that involved some characters from Greek mythology. Had I realised the interst it would have attracted I would have done my research far more thoroughly.

    Anyway thank you for your intrerest, and of course I stand corrected on a number of points!