The origins of Valentine's Day are quite intriguing. How many people really know the history and traditions of where and how Valentine's Day came into existence? I would have to guess not too many. Some may know tidbits of information about St. Valentine, but I doubt that many know that before the day was named after a Christian martyr, it was a pagan festival of Lupercalia. Lupercalia was celebrated in ancient Rome from February 13-15, to avert evil spirits and purify the city, releasing health and fertility. Pope Gelasius I (492-496) abolished Lupercalia. If you want to learn more on Lupercalia check out this link for some interesting information.
Another interesting fact that I found on Wikopedia is that during the Medieval period and the English Renaissance that a "High Court of Love" was established in Paris on Valentine's Day in 1400. The court dealt with love contracts, betrayals, and violence against womyn. And the judges were selected by womyn on the basis of a poetry reading.
It is interesting to me that this holiday started as a celebration fertility and new life. A celebration of the uterus and the vagina; a celebration of womyn. Now, I know I may be stretching this a bit, but I do so because this is what I have spent the last eight years celebrating during the week of Valentine Day. I celebrate vaginas. I celebrate The Vagina Monologues. I celebrate womyn's lives. I celebrate V-Day.
The Vagina Monologues, are a series of monologues based on interviews with more than 200 womyn written by an amazing womyn named Eve Ensler. In the monologues the female voice is used to explore issues related to the female body and sexuality. Using humor, anger, and pain, the monologues deal with a variety of issues pertaining to womyn's experiences with their vaginas.
In response to an overwhelming amount of support and interest in The Vagina Monologues Ensler birthed the V-Day Movement in 1998. With the help of activists from Feminist.com, Ensler started this non-profit organization with the mission to end violence against womyn by increasing awareness and raising funds to support organizations working to ensure womyn's safety. In 1999 V-Day established a college initiative, which gave universities and colleges permission to perform the production and use the proceeds in their communities. In ten years they have raised over $60 million to support their cause.
In 2002 I had the opportunity to do a vagina workshop with Ms. Ensler and then lead a group of womyn on my college campus in participating in the V-Day movement by doing our own performance of the Vagina Monologues. Being involved in such an event impacted my life on numerous levels. Personally, it helped me deal with and start to recover from an abusive relationship from my past. It also empowered me to be able to discuss taboo topics surrounding female sexuality and vaginas (there is a reason why I performed the monologue "CUNT"). And it helped me connect with a larger community of womyn who were also concerned about vaginas. Not only about the violence towards them, but also the lack of love; the lack of education and the lack of respect that vaginas endure. Along with this connection came a commitment to the womyn of our campus, of our community and of our world to do all we could to stop the violence against our fellow sisters.
A commitment that more of us need to make in our lives; myself included. I look at my daughter and daily remind myself that I must make this world a safer place for her along with all of the other young girls, sisters, cousins, moms, aunts and grandmothers who walk this earth. I encourage you to do the same, in whatever way you can. Educate, volunteer at a domestic violence shelter or a girl empowerment organization, donate money to a worthy cause, love a vagina. Even if you don't have a vagina, you are still intimately connected with one, whether it be a mother, sister, lover or daughter, there is much you can also do to support womyn and end the violence. For starters educate yourself and others and join the white ribbon campaign.
On a day where we focus and meditate on the people that we love, I do so as well as meditate on vaginas. I manifest for all vaginas everywhere that they are safe, happy, and full of life and love. So on this day dedicated to love, fertility and health I say to you: Happy V-Day...Happy Vagina Day!
*For more information on V-Day or to locate a local performance of The Vagina Monologues please visit the websight at http://www.vday.org/
*For those of you who are in SE Michigan, The Oakland University's performances are on March 7th at 8 p.m. and March 8th at 2 p.m. You can get more information at www.oakland.edu/gsc