Celebrating Lupercalia with William Blake Lodge

An artist's portrayal of Lupercalia, showing scantily clad Luperci flogging a crowd

Would you believe that our romantic Valentine’s Day celebrations are rooted in animal sacrifices followed by floggings? NPR says, “From Feb. 13 to 15, the Romans celebrated the feast of Lupercalia. The men sacrificed a goat and a dog, then whipped women with the hides of the animals they had just slain.”

While scheduling constraints require belated festivities, William Blake Lodge in the Valley of Baltimore will bring a modern twist to Lupercalia on Saturday, March 2. There won’t be animal sacrifices, but there will be a ritual followed by a feast. At least two Luperci will be present — maybe more!

“Luperci were the priests of the god Lupercus. They formed a college (sodalitas, ἑταιρία), the members of which were originally youths of patrician families, and which was said to have been instituted by Romulus and Remus (Plutarch. Rom. 21). The college was divided into two classes, the one called Fabii or Fabiani, and the other Quinctilii or Quinctiliani (Fest. s.vv. Quinctiliani Luperci and Fabiani). These names, which are the same as those with which the followers of Romulus and Remus were designated in the early Roman legends, seem to show that the priesthood was originally confined to certain families (Ovid. Fast. II.378, who, however, confounds the Potitii and Pinarii with the Quinctilii and Fabii.)” [Source: Article by Leonhard Schmitz, Ph.D., F.R.S.E., Rector of the High School of Edinburgh on pp. 718-719 of William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.: A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.]

Celebrants will enjoy music, poetry, dancing, revelry, and love under will. Goat stew will be served as part of a potluck meal. The recipe below is similar to what ancient Romans might have enjoyed.

Moroccan Spiced Goat Stew Recipe


Roasted Spice Mix:

  • 1 tbs cumin seeds
  • ½ tbs caraway seeds
  • 1 tbs fennel
  • 4 cloves
  • ½ tbs cardamom seeds
  • 3 tbs Ras al Hanout spice mix


  • 2 lbs/900 grams/goat shoulder, cut into large chunks
  • 1 small pot natural yogurt
  • Small handful of fresh mint leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 oz /55 grams butter
  • 6 tbs vegetable oil
  • 2 medium red onions, finely chopped
  • 2 tbs freshly grated ginger
  • 3 tbs roasted spice mix
  • 2 tbs tomato paste
  • 3 cups/750 mL beef stock
  • Handful fresh coriander/cilantro


  1. Gather the ingredients. Mix all the spices including the Ras al Hanout together in a small bowl. Heat a large frying pan, sprinkle spice mix in and cook for one minute, shaking the pan constantly and taking care not to burn. Once cooked tip the spice mix into a screw-top jar and put to one side.
  2. Dry the shoulder pieces with a little kitchen paper, place into a bowl, add the yogurt, mint, garlic and stir well. Cover with a tea towel, place in the fridge and leave to marinade for a minimum of three hours, even better, overnight.
  3. Heat the butter and 4 tbsp. of the oil in a heatproof casserole dish, add the onions and cook gently for 5 mins until soft. Add the ginger, 3 tablespoons of the spice mix from the jar you made earlier, and stir, add the tomato paste and stir again.
  4. Add the stock, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Pour the sauce into a food processor and blend thoroughly. Pass the sauce through a fine sieve into a jug and keep to one side. Preheat the oven to 325 F/160 C/Gas 3
  5. Remove the meat from the marinade onto a plate. Reheat the casserole dish on the stove, add the remaining oil and once hot, add the shoulder meat and fry for several minutes until the meat is lightly browned.
  6. Pour the sauce over the meat, bring to the boil and cook for 5 minutes. Cover the casserole with a lid and place in the middle of the preheated oven. Cook for 4 hours, stirring occasionally and making sure the meat is always covered with the sauce. If the sauce is drying up, add a little boiling water and lower the heat.
  7. After the 4 hours, remove from the oven, the meat should be soft and tender (if not, return to the oven for a little longer). Check the seasoning and leave to stand for ten minutes. Before serving, chop the coriander and add to the stew. Serve the stew with grilled flatbreads and/or plain boiled rice to soak up the sauce.
    (Source: The Spruce Eats)

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