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Ancient Roman festival held each February 15. Its origins are uncertain, but the likely derivation of its name from lupus (Latin: wolf) may signal a connection with a primitive deity who protected herds from wolves or with the legendary she-wolf who nursed Romulus and Remus. Each Lupercalia began with the sacrifice of goats and a dog; two of its priests (Luperci) were then led to the altar and their foreheads were anointed with blood. After all had feasted, the Luperci cut thongs from the skins of the sacrificed animals and ran around the Palatine hill, striking at any woman who came near them; a blow from the thong was supposed to bestow fertility.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Lupercalia, visit Britannica.com.