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Happy Valentine’s Day! The three traditional symbols of this holiday are (1) a voluptuous heart-shape, (2) Cupid, and (3) a pair of doves. The first of these—the shapely heart–is a medieval symbol, but the other two holiday symbols are much older and trace their way back to the ancient Greco-Roman world. The mischievous archer Cupid was the god of infatuation and besottment—with his phallic arrow, he is so ouvert that he is barely a symbol. In the world of Christian iconography, doves represent peace, divine revelation, and the holy spirit, however in the classical world they were the bird of Aprodite/Venus. Valentine’s Day is really Lupercalia—the fertility festival to Lupercus (Pan). In the modern world it (barely) masquerades as an acceptable holiday, but its wild roots are never far away. I get the sense these doves are really the amorous doves of Venus and not representations of peace.
To celebrate, here are some Valentine’s doves from Valentines throughout the ages.
Doves pulled the chariot of Venus and they nearly always attended to her. Their tenderness with each other and their ability to rapidly proliferate made them abiding symbols of love. Additionally, doves are uniquely beautiful and otherworldly and yet also commonplace. They can fly to the heights of heaven and yet consist on meager scraps in wastelands. Maybe doves really are a good symbol of love!
Ferrebeekeeper has long served Athena, the virgin goddess of truth and wisdom (although she is never the most popular goddess, she is certainly the BEST and is always is victorious in the end), and, in my time, I have also served Dionysus. All American are compelled to serve Hera for 8 hours every workday (except the super-rich, who serve her constantly). Yet Aphrodite has almost always eluded me. Springs come and go and the long decades pass, but love is elusive. Maybe some sacred doves will please coy Aphrodite.
In the meantime, Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone. I hope you find the love you are looking for in your life. Or at least I hope you enjoy these doves and maybe some chocolate!
It’s time for a belated Valentine’s Day Post (or maybe this is actually an outright Lupercalia post). The Seattle Aquarium has an unusual annual Valentines’ Day tradition of sponsoring blind dates for their resident octopuses. Sometimes the octopuses ignore each other or even quarrel, but other times throwing octopus strangers of opposite genders into a tank together results in multi-armed passion—a special treat for the aquarium visitors (to say nothing of the octopuses) This year the aquarium has (or had) a large mature male Pacific giant octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini) affectionately nicknamed “Kong” who weighs about 70 pounds. Divers set out looking for potential girlfriends for Kong for Valentine’s Day, but the largest females they could find (um, capture) were all under 40 pounds.
This was a problem. It was widely feared that Kong might react badly to these undersized females and just straight out eat them. Mating is the final act for giant Pacific octopuses. They are semelparous (their lives end after a single reproductive event). After mating, females lay between 20,000 and 100,000 eggs which they tenderly nurture and care for as they starve to death. Males develop white lesions on their body and wander absent-mindedly into the open where they are swiftly devoured by predators.
Pacific giant octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini) with human diver
Kong is approaching this final stage of his life, but his keepers could not find a worthy adult female octopus for him to consummate his life with…so they let him go. He went back to the ocean to look for love and death on his own. Good luck out there Kong, you handsome devilfish! Let’s hope it was all worth it.
Today is Valentine’s Day! Happy valentines to all my readers. You all really are the best and, although I don’t want to make any syrupy declarations of love, I truly do esteem you. I would bake you all a big heart-shaped cherry cake if such a thing were possible (ed’s note: logistical studies determined that baking a large delicious cake was indeed possible, but fulfillment—getting the cake to the esteemed blog readers—was far beyond the author’s shaky grasp of organization].
Having said all of that, I am not the world’s biggest Valentine’s Day fan. I dislike the slushy gray month of February when winter has long outstayed its welcome (but when spring remains far away). Corporate forces pop into one’s love life (or absence thereof) to remind everyone to buy pink plastic junk and churn out some more consumers. I can’t help but feel that they are being insincere and perhaps a bit greedy.
I was going to write about the color pink and how it became thoroughly conflated with romance and with the holiday. Unfortunately, looking up “pink romantic history” on the web resulted in me finding out lots about the private life of popular musician Pink, but little about how pink came to dominate romance, women’s products, girl’s toys, and the month of February.
Probably any intelligent adult can surmise the fundamental reasons that the color pink and the physical aspects of romance are linked. Irrespective, I really like the color pink a great deal—it is the color of sessile invertebrates, roses, animal’s noses, the sunset, and I find it frustrating that marketers overuse it because of gender stereotypes and lack of imagination.
Anyway, I’m rambling. I guess the point was that, like most single people in America, I am frustrated by Valentine’s Day. Maybe that is my fault instead of the fault of Hallmark. I should learn to appreciate what I have—like my wonderful readers. Happy Valentine’s Day! You all really are the best! Even if I didn’t bake a cake for you, come back on Monday and I’ll write a really good post! Also, as a final note, there is one good thing about Valentine’s Day—it means the winter is finally coming to its last stages. And who knows, maybe next year, despite all of the failures, we’ll finally get romance right…
Because of the incongruity between lunar and solar calendars (and thanks to the whims of the 12 year Chinese horoscope cycle) Valentine’s Day has ended up in the middle of Ferrebeekeeper’s Snake Week. At first I thought that this was a problem–since there were no snake theme valentines anywhere to be found online. I did not want to break out the magic markers and glitter to create my own valentine to serpents because it has been a busy week (and what would I do with a bunch of snake valentines? What if someone saw a grown-up making such things?). Fortunately I found that there is a medium where snakes and hearts frequently intermingle. Even better many of the designs are extremely gothic and spiky and scary.
Like evil leprechaun tattoos, snake/heart body art is very common. In fact I had some trouble finding catfish tattoos and the internet even ran short of evil leprechaun ink but I had no trouble finding snake/heart tattoos! Apparently an immense number of people have snake tattoos of all sorts. I wonder why serpents are so universally appealing as permanent body art? Do people choose snakes for tattoos because the legless reptiles are ancient symbols of knowledge, wisdom, and fertility, or is wearing a snake an announcement of edginess, moral ambiguity, and toughness? The snake inside the heart seems like it has a double meaning: not only is it an obvious metaphor for corrupted or dangerous love but it provides an outright fertility image (especially since the traditional cardioid-shaped valentine heart look less like an actual heart and more like a shapely asp).
Whatever the meaning these snake/heart tattoos are extremely impressive. Thanks to the brave souls who wear them. Also a very happy valentine’s day to all my readers: I could hiss you all…er kiss you all!
For Saint Valentine’s Day here is a collection of “sailor’s valentines”. These were ostensibly a form of nautical art—like scrimshaw–created by old sea dogs in the days of canvas and manilla. On the long voyages the grizzled sailors would tenderly glue shells together in wooden (particularly octagonal cases) to give to their family and sweethearts when they returned to port. There is something appealing about this picture–but seashells come from shore. Additionally one wonders how much craft space sailors were allowed in the age of wind.
A counter narrative has arisen that sailors would buy these shell designs from a merchant in Barbados who was responsible for most of the early examples. Once the idea became popular, artisans began to make the little seashell mosaics at home. To be honest, I can picture my great-grandmother at a table filled with shells and glue much more easily than I can sea Captain Haddock putting together something like this. Whatever the case, the carefully arranged shells create delicate and lovely little artworks. Even if they were not made by sailors or given at Valentine’s Day, I am repurposing them as a valentine to all of my readers!