The Everyday Lore Project

15 February 2020 – Lupercalia

15 February 2020 – Lupercalia

Today I have been wondering what prompted me to dream of a giant square tamale and an octopus. Today is also Lupercalia, the ancient Roman festival of fornication, animal sacrifice and general good times, which some historians believe was ousted in favour of a more sanitised St Valentine’s Day. So today, I will also be avoiding naked men running around trying to whip me with a newly sacrificed goat hide thong. Which let’s face it, can be touch and go in Brighton sometimes.

Anyhow, back to the giant square tamale and the octopus. Of course I wasn’t going to let Valentine’s Day pass without a little love divination, so last night before bed, I prepared two bay leaves by sprinkling them with rose water and putting them on my pillow. 

Had a few slight technical hitches with the preparation. The first bottle of rosewater I found was dated best before end of September 2017 and didn’t smell of roses at all. The second (I really must clean out my cupboards) was best before June 2019. This smelled a little more floral, and as I didn’t find a third bottle, I went with it. Then there was an application hitch. Using an eyedropper, I liberally sprinkled the bay leaves, which, due to being as dry as all get-out, meant the drops rolled off as soon as I moved them. 

Nevertheless, when it was time to go to sleep, I popped on a fresh inside-out nightie, and muttered:

Good Valentine, be kind to me
In my dreams let me my true love see.

I had to mutter it several times as the second line does not scan well. Then waited for dreams of some future beau to fill my night.

But all I can remember is a giant square, untied tamale on a green plate, and the impression of an octopus. The octopus is easy to explain away as I had a conversation about them on Wednesday. But for the life of me, I don’t know why the tamale. 

The Classic 1000 Dreams doesn’t even list food as one its entries, let alone tamales or plates. Irish Cures, Mystic Charms & Superstitions says that I shouldn’t tell anyone my dreams on an empty stomach and that I should always ‘tell them first to a woman called Mary’ (p58), which is a little unhelpful as I don’t know any. And I wasn’t about to spend my Saturday reading Freud. So I turned to the internet.

According to Psychologist World’s dream dictionary, dreaming of a plate means I ‘will practise economy and win a worthy husband’, but no food in general or tamale specific (or octopus) meanings.

However, Dream Moods had a whole section on food, saying that ‘dreaming about food refers to thoughts, ideas and beliefs… [that] you need to take in and digest mentally’, interesting. They also list the tamale as representing ‘the importance of learning from past generations’, even more interesting. And about octopuses, they say that ‘to see an octopus… means you are entangled in some difficult matter. Your judgment is being clouded’. Or they indicate ‘you are overly possessive and maybe too clingy in a relationship.’

Green, Aunty Flo claims ‘represents our sensations’ and is ‘a symbol of positive changes, new beginnings, and intellectual growth… [and] independence’. And finally, a square apparently is a spirit trying to communicate with me(!) telling me to ‘stop moaning and started enjoying’ stuff. Rude.

So basically, Good Valentine is saying I’m clingy, yet independent, with the need to observe good fiscal practice, learn from past generations, digest ideas, stop moaning, and improve. So, yeah, he nailed it.

Right I’m off to have some breakfast and find a woman named Mary…


Cooper, Q. and Sullivan, P. (1994) Maypoles, Martyrs & Mayhem: 366 Days of British Myths, Customs & Eccentricities, London, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

Freud, S., Brill, A. (trans) (1997) The Interpretation of Dreams, Ware, Wordsworth Editions

Roud, S. (2006) The English Year: A Month-By-Month Guide To The Nation’s Customs and Festivals, From May Day to Mischief Night, London, Penguin Books

Wilde, Lady (1991) Irish Cures, Mystic Charms & Superstitions, New York, Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.

The Classic 1000 Dreams (1991) Berkshire, Foulsham

Published by Liza Frank

Author of My Celebrity Boyfriend. Obsessed with hula hooping, sons of preachermen and fresh dates, sometimes all at the same time. Curator of Folklore Agony and The Everyday Lore Project.

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