Lupercalia: The History & Traditions

Andrea Camassei Lupercalia painting

As we bid farewell to the frosty embrace of winter and welcome the promise of spring, the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia emerges as a beacon of renewal and rebirth. Rooted in centuries-old traditions and rich symbolism, Lupercalia offers us an opportunity to honour the cycles of nature, celebrate love, and embrace the awakening energies of the season.


What is Lupercalia?

Lupercalia is an ancient Roman festival celebrated annually on February 15th. Dating back to pre-Roman times, Lupercalia was originally a pastoral festival dedicated to the Roman god Faunus, as well as the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus. Over time, it evolved into a celebration of fertility, purification, and the coming of spring.


The History of Lupercalia:

The origins of Lupercalia are shrouded in myth and legend. According to Roman mythology, Lupercalia was established by Romulus and Remus, the legendary founders of Rome, in honor of the she-wolf (lupa) that nursed and cared for them in their infancy. The festival also paid tribute to Faunus, the god of agriculture and fertility, and Lupercus, the god of shepherds.


The Festival of Lupercalia:

Lupercalia was a joyous and raucous affair, characterised by feasting, music, and fertility rituals. The festivities typically began with a procession to the Lupercal, a cave on the Palatine Hill in Rome, where priests known as Luperci conducted rituals to purify the city and ensure fertility for the coming year.

Lupercalia Traditions:

One of the most well-known traditions of Lupercalia was the ritual of the Lupercalia Run. During this ceremony, young men known as Luperci would run through the streets of Rome, clad only in loincloths made from the skins of sacrificed goats. As they ran, they would strike bystanders with strips of goatskin called februa, believed to impart fertility and ward off evil spirits.

Another tradition associated with Lupercalia was the matchmaking lottery. Unmarried men and women would place their names into a jar, and pairs would be randomly chosen to be romantic partners for the duration of the festival, and sometimes longer. Want to Know  know the Darker side to Lupercalia? Check out History’s recount of Ritual Sacrifice. 


How to Celebrate Lupercalia: 

Today, modern practitioners of witchcraft and pagan traditions celebrate Lupercalia with rituals focused on purification, fertility, and the awakening of the earth from winter slumber. Here are some ways to celebrate Lupercalia:


1. Create a Purification Ritual: Purify yourself and your space by smudging with sage, cleansing with saltwater, or performing a ritual bath with herbs like rosemary or lavender.


2. Honour the Gods and Goddesses: Invoke deities associated with love, fertility, and nature, such as Venus, Aphrodite, Pan, or Faunus. Offerings of flowers, herbs, or honey can be made to honor these divine beings.


3. Embrace Love and Passion: Connect with your romantic partner or loved ones through acts of affection, such as exchanging gifts, sharing a romantic meal, or engaging in intimate rituals together.


4. Connect with Nature: Spend time outdoors, connecting with the natural world and observing the signs of spring's arrival. Take a nature walk, tend to your garden, or simply bask in the warmth of the sun.



As we honor the ancient traditions of Lupercalia, we are reminded of the cyclical nature of life and the eternal dance of light and dark, winter and spring. Let us embrace the spirit of renewal that Lupercalia embodies, celebrating love, fertility, and the promise of new beginnings. May this festival inspire us to nurture our connections with one another and with the natural world, as we journey through the ever-turning wheel of the seasons.


Blessed Lupercalia to all!




Image Credit: Andrea Camassei circa 1635 

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