Have you been shifted into buying chocolate confectioneries , aesthetically perfect roses and hopeless romance cards for your significant other once again yet? Today is Valentine’s day after all, another old pagan holiday masked in Christian taboo and modern consumerism. But were you aware that this day was a special feast day to our Germanic ancestors, before it took its modern form? It was called the Feast of Váli. Far from being an awkward attempt to rekindle passion with your lover, or have a night of abandon in casual encounter, this day long before the time when the two martyrs whom the name Valentine comes from is actually a sacred gathering. It fell on the 22 of the older calendar in the month of Sokkvabekkr, and is a.k.a. the Festival of the Kin. In the North it is also called All Heart’s Day (Allrahjartudagr /AlþrurhertudagaR). Váli was the God worhsipped and toasted to on this day, because he represented loyalty to family, friendship, and the protector of the familial group.
Váli is the son of the god Oðin and giantess Rinðr, as well as the brother of Balðr, Þórr, Höðr. In the mythos Váli was one of the Gods who survived Ragnarok, he was a light bringer, and avenged his brother Balðr when he was struck by the mistletoe by Höðr. This can be seen mytho-poetically in the sense that Baldr was a son (sun), and was full of light and virtue, alike to the broadleaf trees, who is killed at his weakest point, when Höðr attacks him with the mistletoe. The mistletoe finds the crutch of the solar tree in the time of least light, during the polar midnight, and parasitically drains its vigor. The sun is killed in the arctic for three days and everyone weeps for Balðr’s death. Váli, out of honor, avenges his killer and takes care of Höðr. So this day could be seen as the day when revenge was paid and balance restored in the world of men, when the dark resentment of the death of Baldr, was lifted by the selfless act of Vali, for rightful vengeance and the boon for the rest of his people. It would be equated to ridding a murderer from modern day society that poses a threat to your people. In old honor cultures this is how it worked, to show resilience to slight and betrayal made you a hero, and to neglect this would make you a coward or less of a man. These matters mostly concerned men, as feuding, holmgang and the Ting were the main devices to settle disputes, law, outlawry, and revenges. So today we honor Váli as a man who did what needed to be done out of love for his brother. He represents love in a broad, the love between friends and couples. Not necessarily overtly-romantic love.
In the Poetic Edda, Váli is depicted shooting arrows, much like the contemporary Cupid in Roman myths, and he has parallels with the god of love in Greek lore, Eros. So Váli is the Northern European counterpart, which has been again adopted into a religiously branded confusion. Now the modern society has made it about over indulgence in sweets, and putting on a kind of performance for your partner, or ironically for a complete stranger in an effort to get them into bed, for pleasure and selfish means, even if such relationship is not healthy to begin with. In fact I have witnessed many relationships take the opposite turn of what is intended for Valentines day. For those of heathen ilk, this is a time to invite someone over you love, or are close friends with, or maybe a cousin, family relative, member of a community you belong to, etc. and truly honor them. Offer to make them dinner, make toasts to each others bonds, have as much fun as possible, and celebrating each persons presence and empathy. It is a time to ‘make time’, and have ‘quality time’ with those people who appreciate most, even if you can just call them, for lack of geographical closeness. Unfortunately we do live in this segregated age, where social media has made us farther apart and we do not always live in close proximity of our true friends, our real tribe. If you can gather any of them to you, then you should make it a priority for today. Enjoy feasting, eating well, partake in something you would normally only do with your best company, bring out your finest ales.
Most of all put away any resentments, hatreds, or longings you have and make a ceremony of the love that does live in your current life. Even if that is just self-love, you start there, it emanates outward, and others will attract to it. For me, I’m cooking up my rainbow trout, wild rice, and sending my heightened thoughts and intentions outward to my comrades amongst me, my empowered sisters, new friends and my prodigy, my 12 year old brother. I also think of those kind women who have loved me through the years, and unveiled new depths to my being over the years. Try listening to some Norse/Germanic inspired music named after Vali, with a softer acoustical atmosphere to create a lovely evening for this occasion.