Many ancient festivals had elements that were far from innocent, often involving rituals, practices, and customs that might seem strange or even disturbing by today’s standards. From bloodletting, to stoning outcasts, all the way to sacrificing many animals, these festivals were anything but festive. But even so, they had special meaning for the ancient people who practiced them. Here are 10 ancient festivals that were far from innocent.
1. Lupercalia (Roman Empire)
Lupercalia was an ancient Roman festival celebrated annually on February 13th-15th. This peculiar festival was dedicated to the Roman god Lupercus (often associated with Faunus) and celebrated fertility and purification. The festival had a unique blend of rituals, some of which might seem bizarre by contemporary standards.
One of the central activities of Lupercalia involved the sacrifice of goats and dogs. After the sacrificial offerings, young men known as “Luperci” would strip naked and use strips of goatskin to whip women and crop fields. This act was believed to promote fertility and protect against evil spirits. It’s important to note that women willingly participated in this tradition, as they believed it could enhance their chances of conceiving.
The Lupercalia Festival in Rome: Cupid and Personifications of Fertility encounter the Luperci. (Public Domain)
Lupercalia’s association with fertility and purification was further evident in the custom of matchmaking. During the festival, young men and women would draw lots to form…