Feb 14, 2011

The Martyrdom of Saint Valentine (May all Your Cards Be Hand Made Ones)

According to the twelfth century Belarusian Book of Martyrology (known to acolytes as the Кніга пакутнікаў) hidden in the vaults of the Medieval History Department of Cambridge there have been an amazing number of  Martyrs who have gone by the name of St. Valentine.
To be exact, history records a whopping twenty four Saint Valentine Martyrs. And oddly enough, The Book of Martyrs records that the big common denominator of all these martyrs (apart from them all being dead) is that they all met their maker (passed on, dropped off, keeled over, kicked the bucket, cashed in, bit the dust, gave up their ghosts, croaked, bought the farm, turned  up their toes) on or around the 14th of February.
Hence we have St Valentine's day on that day.
Yet this number of deaths of people with the same name over the centuries on the same day is surely not  a coincidence. And if it is no coincidence, what exactly does this suggest?

Though the ill mannered amongst us might suggest that it indicates that the Medieval Catholic Church was too free with its Sainthoods and somehow managed to actually make money from them (I wonder how), it suggests to me something else entirely.

Now in the old Roman times if your name was either Julius or Ceaser (or even prince) then the Ides of March might have been your Bete Noir - (means 'black beast' - I always thought it meant your 'black French hat').

But in Medieval times if your name was Valentine, or even sounded like it (Ballantyne, Mallentyne or just plain old Tyne) then it would suggest to me that the Ides of February were a good time for either:

1) making sure your life insurance was alll paid up or,
2) staying locked  inside a house that was neither in a flood zone, a fire zone, had no internal      sharp objects, nor a manservant or butler with an Italian surname like Medici or Borgia.
3) dying as a martyr
Now if you were foolhardy and decided on option 3) "Death by Martyrdom",  the ways to go for a Valentine were many and varied.

Historically you had a choice of either a good old fashioned stabbing (2), beheading (5), intesterizing (dont' ask what it means - 4), drawing and quartering (1), crucifixion (1) or, most popular of all, stoning (7).

There was also the choice of 'not known' (chosen by four Valentines) if you were quiet and shy and would rather keep the manner of your death private.

So what's this have to do with these illustrations?

Good question.

These illustrations actually illustrate a little witch who has cast a spell on her 'mate.'
The mate, whose retinas' critical flicker fusion frequencies (see previous blog  post for details on this) are in fine form has just become aware that all is not right in the forest. He has suddenly decided that you can't trust cupids.

The next image is a sliver of a card I made this year.
Thanks for looking :) Have a great and wonderous Valentine's day and may all your cards be hand made ones.

PS: clicking for big enlarges the pics.


  1. Je ne m'appelle pas Psyché et Cupidon existait-il vraiment puisqu'il se rendait invisible pour aller contempler sa belle ? Ah la la !!...
    L'amour que nous fait-il faire n'est-ce pas ?!...
    Il nous fait tourner la tête bien souvent... Mais aujourd'hui en cette Saint Valentin laissons valser notre tête et notre coeur...
    Heureuse journée à vous Andrew... Bisous

  2. Oh, my dear Andrew, I must confess one thing. I have died three times martyred. but you do not believe. in my first life my name was Ballantine's Finest, in my second life I called Ballantine's 12 Years Old, and in my third life my name was Ballantine's Pure Malt. (were not very original, my parents, when choosing my name) but hey, I died happy, as it has always been with an arrow in his heart.
    In fact, when my third death occurred, I was a cowboy going through the meadows of the American Far West (and the arrow did not come precisely from an angel).
    Happy day! Beware! , crouch that there is an arrow!

  3. Oh you are so romantic! Snap out of it!!!

  4. Okay, that was just stoic me cringing at all these Valentine's day fanfare.

    Happy Valentine's Day to you and yours.

    Ah what the heck, here's a kiss.

    I shall return to read as I am on my way to work. Crud! That was a red light! Damn motorist! Okay, I am not really blogging on the road. I am in my kitchen. That was just for dramatic effect. Hahahah!

  5. Wow, those cupids are pretty scary; I don't think I want anything to do with them. Leave it to you to make Valentines creepy ;). All kidding aside, great illustration. I love it and I love the hearts in this one too! Thanks for the help on my latest piece I appreciate it so much!!!

  6. Enlightening read, Andrew.....and yup , frightening guys with arrows...but the surprise of the post is what got me...the creativity in here is refreshing...
    wishing you a happy not haunting V day.:-)

  7. Holy crappola! I had never even considered cupids before as winged little demons with knobs on their heads! EEEEK! Your illustration smells of epic tales and magic and fantasmagorical witchery. Epic, I tell you. Epic! The light filtering through the trees and the giant mushrooms are stomp-your-feet-and-applause worthy. Ohhhh, hold da phone. I get it. This is a Valentine's image to get your sweetie to cuddle with you for safety and comfort, and then you'll pull the ol' "yawn and casually put your arm around her" move. Huh? Well, I hope your sweetie swooned when she received her beautiful and romantic -- YES, I said it, RO-MAN-TIC -- card. Happy Valentine's Day to you! :D

  8. You weren't going to escape that situation out of love with all the wicked little cupids surrounding you! I like the lighting and shadows, moody.
    Are you sure all the saint Valentines were really named Valentine? Or were they given that name after they were pushing up the daisies? It's like the amazing coincidence of Lou Gehrig dying of Lou Gehrig's disease. What are the chances of that?

  9. Wow!! Maravillosas ilustraciones, presentas un mundo muy creativo. Saludos desde Heidelberg.

  10. Does my husband raiding my box of samples for a Valentine card count as handmade? Handmade by who? Oh, right, me, before the commercial manufacturing. Maybe he did better last year when he actually stole the design right off my computer and printed it out. I threatened him with copyright infringement, but that just ruined the moment. Hard to be mad, really when he goes on and on, even after 18 years putting up with me. And it was a beautiful card... :)

    Wow, your valentine is really sentimental, all those arrows pointing at them and all. Is this really how we fall in love? Shot through the heart? Whoa...

  11. Martine:) à Heureuse Journée Vous Martine:) .. Bisous de moi aussi. Voir mon français se dégrade. Mais dites-pas-un:) Bientôt c'est mon anniversaire. Ai-je vous dire que je suis venue en France à prendre des leçons de peinture chez vous?

  12. Hey Laura, thankyou but not so beautiful as your flowers!!

  13. Hola Dr Ballintyne, that is very funny. It is too late for me, the arrow is firmly embedded - I think it hit an artery :)

    see you soon !

  14. Haha Ces, you had me convinced :) Me Romantic? you know I am a fruad and a shyster and a sybbilant (does that mean I can't say 's'?) and will tell you anything (doesn't it say blatant lies somewhere :) )

    Hope you had fun at work -

  15. Cathyann sorry I hit post buton, Oh I tried to make them scary, I read there was an anti valentine's day push somewhere - then found out hallmark was trying to sell anti Valentine's day cards so I decided not to join ...

  16. Heh Karen, yes I hope Heaven doesn't have cupids like these. It was a pleasure to help you but you know what? You didn't need any!

  17. Haha Bella, why wouldn't Cupids have horns on their heads? They probably have them on their wings as well. Thank you for being so kind about my work! And for your well wishes. That's a funny expression eh? Lot throwing coins in a well and wishing.

    see you

    give you the secret handshake ;)

  18. Heh Heidi Lou Gehrig I am off to google, Oh yes I am sure they were all called Valentine :) Would I ever make something up like that? Who me?


  19. Lanita, well I just saw your work, it is amazing! Thank you for coming to visit me :)

  20. Krista that is very funny, he is a brave man your husband - and obviously lucky to have such a talented wife :) eh? Oh is that how we fall in love, oh yes, I was going to write a ten page essay on it but unluckily I had to work so I only did a few paragrpahs :)

    see you soon!!
    Tonight I am actually going out sketching on location - yuck!

  21. Hey, Andrew, I came 100 times to see what happens with the last ball of red wool ... but I can not know ?????
    Buaaaa!! (crying) I should go to sleep without knowing :(((((
    I feel like the child who must go to bed without dessert ... I behaved well :((((

  22. Heh. If cupids looked like them, then I wouldn't trust them either. By the time they're done with him, he'd probably be a better use in the kitchen for sieving flour and castor sugar. :D :D

    Well, I do like your way of showing romance. Although it's probably just a cover to hide your true gooey self? Sorry mate, some things are hard to cover up. Hahahaa...

    Anyway, it's nice to have stolen a few minutes to visit you. A blast each time. :)

  23. If I were a Valentine, I’d choose “drawing and quartering”. I love drawing and quarters probably don’t hurt that much....:o) Another wonderfully twisted post my friend... and so informative. You burst the cute little cupid bubble and confused us like crazy about who the real St.Valentine was. If I was born as a Valentine in the midieval days.... I’d tell everyone to call me Joe! Love your words of wisdom and your works of wonder! Great post Andrew!

  24. oh love love love, my love.
    i dont do valentinesday.
    My love said that dying wasn't like falling asleep, it was more like waking up for the first time, and being so awake that it hurts.
    I never write down my dreams my love, i’m afraid it will encourage them.

  25. the cupids look okay, Andrew, im a brave witch who makes friends with the beasts in the closet
    and the monsters under the bed.

  26. Heh Roberto sorry my friend I made a ballsup and posted an image that had lots of mistakes in it so I buried the post - but not well enough. That will teach me as I am an imperfectionist. In other words, if its spelt right I feel a need to change it so it is not spelt right - the same with images :)

  27. Amalia :) i hope things are working well for you. We have been missing your delightful prescence (hmm can't spell presence ) Me Gooey? :) Oh I am like a chocalate coated rock. Sweet on the outside - sedementary on the inside ... see you!

    Hah that's funny about the sieve - yes I was going to have a few arrows in his back but self pre-severation took a hold

  28. Oh Mita, I have a feeling I have a cat for you, to replace the other one. He could be coming in the next post. Yes I have heard that death is like sleeping but I like your version better.

    You know, I don't mind getting old, it's the dying part I'm not so keen on :)

    As always you are a poet. Have you seen Ces's last work - oh boy am I jealous.!

  29. Haha Jack, you know, your words make me laugh as much as your imagery. You have a rare talent for making people feel good - and giving them facial wrinkles at the same time .... :)

  30. Oh, I LOVE the posts that come under the 'blatant lies' tag!!

    I also love hearing about manners of death, unless they make me feel sad. These are very far away, though, so I'm entertained. I'm so far behind. I want to read more and more, and I apparently missed the retina FFF story, so I'm going back further now.


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