Lupercalia was a sexually-charged celebration awash with animal sacrifice, random matchmaking and coupling in the hopes of warding off evil spirits and infertility.
Lupercalia, being an ancient fertility festival, was very much a day when the ancient Romans celebrated sexuality.
As a fertility rite, the festival is also associated with the god Faunus.
During Lupercalia feast, there was feasting, love-making orgies, and debauchery of different kinds. The men randomly chose a woman’s name from a jar to be coupled with them for the duration of the festival.
Although Valentine’s Day shares its name with a martyred Christian saint, some historians believe the feast is actually an offshoot of Lupercalia, we can say Lupercalia is the Pagan Valentine’s Day. By the end of the 5th century, Pope Gelasius I replaced Lupercalia with St. Valentine's Day.
No more sacrifice, sex and orgies, only love.
The festival began at Lupercal cave with the sacrifice of one or more male goats—a representation of sexuality—and a dog.
Goats are symbols of sexuality and fertility. Amalthea's goat horn brimming with milk became the cornucopia, also called the horn of plenty, was a symbol of abundance and nourishment. One of the most lascivious of the gods was Pan/Faunus, represented as having horns and a caprine bottom half.
The sacrifices were performed by Luperci, a group of Roman priests.
Afterwards, the foreheads of two naked Luperci were smeared with the animals’ blood using the bloody, sacrificial knife. The blood was then removed with a piece of milk-soaked wool as the Luperci laughed.
The Luperci than cut off strips of the skin, also called thongs or februa, of goat hide from the newly-sacrificed goats.
One particular Lupercalia tradition involved the young priests and noblemen running naked through the city streets with whips. Anyone they saw they would whipped. The women welcomed the whipping and some even “bared their skin” to receive the fertility rite.