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Hello, Beloveds! I wish you a glorious Feast of Love, here in the middle of February — whether you are currently experiencing romantic love or not.

If you’re like me, you have ambivalent (or maybe even negative) feelings about Valentine’s Day. Mine come from really having a distaste for the capitalist drive behind the current celebration of Valentine’s Day. The message we get is: “If you are feeling romantic love for another person, how will they possibly know unless you buy them hothouse flowers, jewelry, and candy? If you fail in any of these particulars, your love must not be real.”

Of course, your reasons for feeling iffy (or worse) about Valentine’s Day may stem from another root. Maybe you aren’t in a romantic partnership right now, and “VD” seems to be all about couples, which brings up uncomfortable feelings of loneliness, rejection, or even inadequacy.

I call bullshit.

Not on your feelings. Those are valid — including if you love Valentine’s Day and are feeling blissfully happy. 

No, I’m calling bullshit on being made to feel unloved, unlovable, or unlovely on the contemporary “Day of Love” — or being made to feel like you don’t love “right” because you aren’t buying things for your beloved.

Please allow me to propose an alternative.

Love is Bigger Than That

The ancient Greeks had many names for love.  

Philia — loving friendship 

Eros — romantic or sexual love

Storge — love between family members

Pragma — enduring love

Mania — obsessive love

Agape — unconditional, soul-deep love

Ludus — playful love

Philautia — self-love

Xenia — guest-love or love for strangers (hospitality)

I imagine that we’ll end up ruminating on all of these together eventually within the “Pandemos” column here at ev0ke. Today, though, I just wanted to point out that romantic love is not the only type of love, and we are given a glorious opportunity to celebrate all of the ways that Aphrodite and her charming son Eros (along with his siblings the Erotes) show up in our lives.

Those siblings of Eros are called the Erotes (the “Loves”), and they too remind us of the many expressions that are found even within the seemingly straightforward concept of passionate, romantic love. 

Anteros — shared (or returned) love

Himeros — impetuous love

Hedylogos — sweet talk

Pothos — yearning or longing

Hermaphroditus — non-binary beauty

Hymeneios — bridal song

When we think about the ways love is showing up in our lives, chances are good that we are being attended by at least one (and likely, many) of these various Loves. 

An Invitation to Plant the Seeds of Love

While some forms of love are spontaneous, many others are intentional and cultivated — like the flowering blooms in a gardener’s landscape. We have to plant the seeds and help them grow. 

If you feel like your life is loveless, consider this an invitation to sow love and to nurture love. Look for opportunities where you might extend care, grace, comfort, and cheer to yourself and others. 

Philautia (self-love) is real and important, and many other loving relationships stem from this most basic form of love. Try this exercise: Every day, write down one feature or characteristic about yourself that you like. It could be something physical, emotional, mental, interpersonal, or from any other category of ways that we consider our features, traits, personalities, and behaviors. They can be silly, personal, or private, and they can be very minute — things you would likely never share with others. 

For example, your list might end up saying things like:

I love …

… my hair color

… the shape of my feet

… that I giggle-snort sometimes

… that I have a million ideas

… the way I feel in my favorite sweater

… that my gray hairs look like silver tinsel

If “I love” statements are hard, try “I like” or “I value” statements. Still too hard? Try normalizing and moving into acceptance of your features and traits by writing things like: “I have a human belly” or “When I cry, that reaction is within the realms of human response.” Sometimes we have to teach ourselves how to think about ourselves with compassion. And since our feelings follow our thoughts, and our thoughts are within our control to shape, we can bring ourselves from a place of self-loathing to self-acceptance and eventually to self-love. (For more on this type of thought work, check out Kara Lowentheil’s podcast “UnF*ck Your Brain.”)

 The Feast of Love — the Erotidia

The Erotidia was the feast or festival in honor of Eros in the ancient town of Thespiae (in Boeotia). Eros had a large and devoted following among the people of this town, and every five years they held a festival in his honor.

We have an annual “Day of Love” already available to us, as contemporary Pagans. It is a secular holiday, and it can either remain secular for you — OR you might consider claiming it for yourself as a Pagan by making offerings to the Spirits of Love, giving thanks for the love in your life, and maybe even reveling in that love with your own beloveds.

I recommend using some of the following elements in your celebration, depending on how and with whom you’ll be celebrating:

  • Feast of Food — Plan a meal that incorporates Aphrodisiacs like strawberries, chocolate, oysters, sparkling white wine, etc. if you are celebrating with a romantic partner. OR … If you are celebrating with family and friends, have everyone bring their very favorite food to share with the others. It might turn out to be all side dishes and desserts, and there is  nothing wrong with  that! It should be decadent, comforting, and spot-hitting.
  • Feast of Flesh — If you are celebrating with an intimate partner(s), make a meal of each other, as  it were. Recognize that  your laughter, your love, your touches, and your passion  are all divine gifts. They can also be offerings back to  the Spirits of love and pleasure, like Aphrodite and Eros.
  • Try to indulge all  of your senses. Share with your guests (or just  yourself) things that are visually lovely, aromatic, texturally appealing, tasty, and auditorily pleasing. 
  • Write love notes. If you celebrate with others, ask everyone present to write notes of  kindness, appreciation, and praise to everyone else who is  there. They don’t have to be poetic and flowery. “Honest  and kind” is enough. And if it is a solo celebration, write one note to yourself, another to Aphrodite, and a third to  Eros.

Whatever you do,  take an intentional moment to present in the love that  you have for yourself and others, and a moment to be grateful for the love you  receive.

And in the end, the love you take is  equal to the love you make. — The Beatles

Hail Aphrodite Pandemos! Hail Eros Hagnos!

UnF*ck Your Brain podcast

[Laurelei Black is an American folkloric Witch, Aphrodite woman, and author. ]

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