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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Legend, Lore and Love

The traditional gifts for Valentine's Day are usually a heart of some sort, chocolates and perhaps a rose. Where did all this begin? Why do we do the things we do?
Valentine's Day itself is steeped in legend. During the third century, the Roman Empire was ruled by the cruel tyrant, Emperor Claudius II Gothicus. He involved his kingdom in so much turmoil that he began to have trouble recruiting enough soldiers. The twisted thinking of this man interpreted  the problem as one of distractions caused by the desire for love and family.  Therefore, this tyrant relieved men of all family commitment by canceling the practice of the marriage ceremony in Rome.
A Christian priest, Valentine, fought back by secretly marrying soldiers before they went off to war. Claudius found out about it in 269 AD and threw Valentine in prison, sentencing him to death. While in jail, the story has it that Valentine met and fell in love with the jailer's blind daughter. He used ink squeezed from violets to write her a sonnet so beautiful the words restored her sight. 
The romance was brief, as Valentine did indeed die by clubbing at the hands of the Roman executioners. The spirit of this man became such a passed down. beloved story of love and self-sacrificing commitment, that eventually the Catholic Church granted Valentine Sainthood and a feast in his honor. They picked February 14 as the day of celebration because of the ancient belief that birds began to mate on that day. 
The rose is the one flower most steeped in folklore as the symbol of love. If you look at the letters in the word ROSE you can jumble them and get EROS, the Greek God of Love. The color red is associated with strong emotions, and all the different shades and hues of red can be romantically associated with the emotional roller coaster of lovers everywhere.
 According to Greek mythology, the rose was born and crowned the Queen of Flowers by Chloris, the goddess of flowers.
Upon finding the body of a beautiful nymph, she asked the Three Graces, Aphrodite, Dionysus and Zephyr to create a flower in her honor. The Graces added joy and charm, Aphrodite gave the flower its beauty, Dionysus added a special nectar, and Zephyr, the wind god, blew away the clouds so the sun could kiss the petals.
Roman mythology tells how the color was obtained when Jupiter caught Venus bathing and her blush turned the white rose to red. The Greeks claim the deep color stems from when Aphrodite scratched herself on a rose thorn and in sympathy red roses sprung up from the blood.
In Eastern traditions, when a soul knocks on the door to the next world, only the rose is allowed to follow, leaving all other possessions behind.
 Early Christians symbolized the red rose with martyrs' blood and life after death. The white rose portrayed the innocence and purity of the Virgin Mary.
The cultivated rose was most likely from Northern Persia or what is now Iran. From there it traveled to the Mediterranean where we so often hear how the Romans lavishly used rose petals in their baths, banquet halls, marital beds and funerals.
Avicenna in the 10th century was the first to make rosewater. Pliny listed 32 medicines prepared from roses. Otto or attar of roses was discovered in the 16th century in Persia and is now a major ingredient in perfumes and the world of aromatherapy.
Chocolate comes from the seeds of the tropical cacao tree. The Swedish naturalist, Linnaeus, named the tree in the 17th century. The Greek term theobroma means "food of the gods".
The Aztecs used cocoa beans to prepare a hot beverage reserved for warriors, nobility and priests. It was said to contribute to one's wisdom and vitality. Believed to be an aphrodisiac, cocoa was associated with the goddess of fertility, Xochiquetzal. 
The reason for it being the symbol of love is that eating chocolate releases chemicals called Phenyl ethylamine and Serotonin into the system. Such a mood elevator earns chocolate the reputation of being not only an energy booster but adds to the desire for intimacy.

And why is everything from candy hearts to cards to chocolates made into the shape of  a heart?  For thousands of years the heart was the soul, therefore love must come from the heart. Signifying life itself, if you give your heart to someone it means you are handing over your very existence to that other person. Cupid, a god during Roman times, would shoot an arrow into the heart of one person and then into the heart of another, thereby a union as one is created.

Have a little fun with this Holiday. Don't get caught up in all the commercial hoopla. Enjoy the company of the positive energy within and around you. Give out plenty of hugs and you'll get just as many in return. As Forrest Gump said, "Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get".  Perhaps the same can be said about Love. You never know what you're going to get till you take the chance. Maybe you will find "the one", the chocolate with the perfect center. Or maybe you'll bite into a hopeful whose center is just a gooey drip.  
Holistic, all natural, homemade gift ideas for the special people and pets in your life are available at:

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