Although Valentines Day has been designated as a day to celebrate love, its roots date back 100,000 years before St. Valentine lived. Loren Eiseley alluded to this:
… “in the dim morning shadows of humanity, the inarticulate creature who first hesitantly formed the words for pity and love must have received similar guffaws around a fire. Yet some men listened, for the words survive.” (The Immense Journey)
Three of the greatest mysteries associated with human evolution are the origin of love (Darwin had no clue), the roles of human sexuality, and the physical, mental and spiritual importance of the marriage commitment. What makes humans unique is that millions of other plants and animals engage in sexual reproduction (with or without body contact) but, as far as we know, none involves the mystery, passion and drama associated with being “married.” There are various forms of marriage that pre-date recorded history, but the essential biological importance is mixing gene pools, creating more variety, which enhance evolution and thus survival. Charles Darwin brilliantly figured this out, but his work is incomplete.
Written records are lacking, however, many Native American cultures developed marriage ceremonies, perhaps beyond 10,000 years ago. It is intriguing that in order to avoid a limited gene pool they intuitively understood that it was important for males (or females) to marry outside their clan.
Hindus perceived that there was a spiritual connection to marriage 3000 years BC, and about the same time Egyptians began “double-ring” wedding celebrations. About 1200 BC, Moses described the spiritual connection of marriage in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). Oddly, however, as brilliant as Greek scholars have been portrayed, most regarded women as second class citizens, primarily necessary for procreation.
I am not a Biblical scholar, but find it intriguing that the first miracle that Jesus has been credited with was making wine for a wedding celebration; a fact that 400 wineries in the Napa Valley are eager to share. 😉
“For the Anglo-Saxons and Britain’s early tribal groups, marriage was all about relationships – just not in the modern sense. The Anglo-Saxons saw marriage as a strategic tool to establish diplomatic and trade ties. ‘You established peaceful relationships, trading relationships, mutual obligations with others by marrying them.’” Stephanie Coontz, author of Marriage, A History: How Love Conquered Marriage.
During the 11th Century, marriage was about securing an economic or political advantage. The wishes of the married couple – much less their consent – were of little importance. The bride, particularly, was assumed to bow to her father’s wishes and the marriage arrangements made on her behalf.
However, for the Benedictine monk Gratian the consent of the couple mattered more than their family’s approval. Gratian brought consent into the fold of formalized marriage in 1140 with his canon law textbook, Decretum Gratiani. The Decretum required couples to give their verbal consent and consummate the marriage to forge a marital bond. No longer was a bride or groom’s presence at a ceremony enough to signify their assent. The book formed the foundation for the Church’s marriage policies in the 12th Century and “set out the rules for marriage and sexuality in a changing social environment”, says historian Joanne Bailey of Oxford Brookes University.
“As early as the 12th Century, Roman Catholic theologians and writers referred to marriage as a sacrament, a sacred ceremony tied to experiencing God’s presence. However, it wasn’t until the Council of Trent in 1563 that marriage was officially deemed one of the seven sacraments,” says Elizabeth Davies, of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.
Whether or not the allegory of Adam and Eve represents the “first spiritual marriage,” as man’s sense of spirituality grew, so did his understanding that a man and woman joining in wedlock was far more complicated and profound than mere physical contact. As the length of time to successfully raise children increased, so did the time of mutual support and cooperation between mates. As the human concept of love grew, so did the need to develop rituals and symbols that were outward signs of an inner transformation. The marriage success rate in the US is a disappointing 50%, however, there are still millions of couples who are enjoying long, productive, loving marriages.
One of my very favorite “folk” songs is titled, Wedding Song (There is Love). It was made famous by Peter, Paul and Mary and I recently decided to Google a UTube version. In a wonderful synchronicity, I not only found the song, but an extraordinary story.
Evidently, Peter Yarrow asked his friend and singing partner, Noel “Paul” Stookey, to write a song for his upcoming wedding ceremony. Noel was deeply honored but equally frightened about the request. He thought that writing and singing a song for a couple’s wedding must be one of the most intimate and profound things a friend could do. However, the possibility of it falling flat or missing the mark was daunting to say the least.
He did what he had learned to do in crisis moments and prayed. He described the feeling of being guided to use a quote from the Gospel of St. Matthew:
“For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”
However, he worried that some guests might find the verse too religious and so he changed the passage to read: “For wherever two or more of you are gathered together in His name, there is love.”
The song was completed the day before the wedding. As he performed it for the first time, the wedding party, and many guests, described an amazing spiritual aura filling the room. Later, however, a problem arose. Noel was recording Wedding Song for an album and the issue of copyrighting came up. He believed that the lyrics were “the words of God” and he should not plagiarize. On the other hand, if he did not copyright it, unscrupulous record dealers would surely profit from the omission. Again, he felt guided and set up a special copyright domain that directed all royalty fees to worthwhile charities. The song has spread world wide, been enjoyed by countless millions and been sung at thousands (?) of weddings.
When I finished reading the account, I was reminded that, in spite of protests from many of his friends, John Muir refused to take out patents on any of his (over 50) inventions. He believed that all of them were inspired by God and, therefore, belonged to all mankind. This being so, he reasoned that he had no right to profit from them.
Two amazing men, each influenced millions of people, and they gave all credit to their Higher Power. Stories like these give me goose bumps.
Hoping that your Valentines Day is a celebration of love and life.