Valentine’s Day: Arthurian Edition

(Listen to this post as a podcast episode here.)

Happy Valentine’s Day! The day of love is here and there are plenty of ways to celebrate it with an Arthurian flare! And just to clarify: Valentine’s Day may be popular among lovers but I’ve always loved it simply because it’s a day about love, in general. V-Day can and should be celebrated by showing your love not just to your lover/partner/spouse but to your friends and family, and simply to yourself. ❤ And I can already think of quite a few ways to enjoy it while simultaneously getting our Arthurian fix! (The Legend’s characters went through some wild stuff for each other, okay? There’s no way you can escape love while enjoying the tales of King Arthur.) While I’ll be spending the day working, I plan to spend the entire week spreading love to my friends, co-workers, family and to myself, babyyyy. This means enjoying an Arthurian kick as part of self-care, and being my nerdy-ass self, I’ve already compiled a list of fun Arthurian-themed Valentine’s Day activities to indulge in this year. I think you guys might enjoy them, too! Have fun!


“Lancelot and Guinevere” by Ruth Sanderson
  1. Read Arthurian romances

The Arthurian legend exploded when the stories told around fires and in great halls were finally penned to paper. Why not read some of the juiciest, romantic, heart-wrenching and heart-warming classical literature out there? Cozy up with a warm blanket and chocolate-covered strawberries and a glass of rosé, and dive into your favorite Arthurian book. Here’s a quick little list of some of my top-favorite classical Arthurian romances.

  • The Knight of the Cart by Chrétien de Troyes. The first story we have on record that was penned to paper about Lancelot and his love for Guinevere. Adventurous, daring, bold, dramatic, heartbreaking and magical, all at the same time. Sword-bridges and heated battles, declarations of love that pierce the heart, steamy love-making (or as close as you can get in a 12th century Christian author’s manuscript), damsels in towers, daring rescues and romantic gestures in grand tournaments. You can’t want for much else. A classic. ❤
  • The Knight of the Lion by Chrétien de Troyes. To me, it’s a story about intensely passionate love. Sir Yvain’s obsession with the Lady Laudine, which somehow turns into an obsession with knighthood and tourneys…is countered by Gawain’s obsession with Yvain. Whether Gawain and Yvain’s relationship a super intense “friendship”, or something more, is up to the reader– but the latter is an idea that Chrétien doesn’t exactly seem to shy away from. And of course, it’s a great romance about loyalty. And adventure. Tournaments, witches, lions, dragons, demons, giants, secret castles holding hundreds of working women, a magical well that causes massive thunderstorms. You can’t go wrong picking this one up. (And for my fellow LGBT+ friends, this is about as close as you’re gonna get to bisexual representation in classical Arthurian literature, aside from Launcelot and Galaheut’s relationship. So if you’re looking for a classical romantic fix, this is it. 🙂 )
  • Le Morte D’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory. One of the foundations of the Legend. An absolute classic centering around not just the Knights of the Round Table but the to-the-death level of love between Launcelot and Gwynevere, and Trystram and Isolde. A love that in both cases wreaks havoc on the very foundation of Camelot while simultaneously remaining the thunderous and monumental, earth-shattering love that still has us talking about it centuries later in English classes. Also present is the unbreakable love between men-at-arms. The unspeakable and impenetrable bond between Arthur’s knights that stands the test of time. Again, here we are still talking about it centuries later. There’s a reason for that. ❤

2. Watch Arthurian romance movies

Lancelot, Arthur and Guinevere from “Camelot” film, 1967

There are many, though older some of them may be. They’re still great; they’re iconic and such a joy to watch. Here are a few Arthurian films that center around romance.

  • Camelot: ’60s musical about Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot and their complicated relationships with each other. A classic. Great music from the golden age of musical theatre, great acting, and overall, a piece that hits the core of Arthurian legend in all aspects. The tragedy, the love, the beauty, the power, the hope. Hits all the notes. Literally. I might watch this when I get home from work tonight.
  • The First Knight: ’90s movie starring Richard Gere as Lancelot, focused on his relationship with Guinevere during a turbulent time in Camelot. Romantic, charming and popular amongst the Lance-fans.
  • Prince Valiant: One of the lesser known Arthurian films out there. The original was made in 1954, with a remake in 1997. Both are equally corny but with an interesting storyline. A Viking prince (apparently this story places Arthurian Britain in the 9th or 10th century) longs to become a knight of Arthur’s and gets wrapped up in a giant adventure. Gawain is a sort of mentor-figure to him and eventually, Valiant must not only must rescue him but gets romantically tangled up with the Princess Ilene. Romantic and intriguing. A good watch for something light-hearted.
  • A Knight’s Tale: Speaking of light-hearted, this one is extremely popular for a reason. Not entirely Arthurian through and through but it is a retelling of The Knight of the Cart‘s tournament scene. Inspired by Lancelot and Guinevere, this fun film recreates the idea of Guinevere expecting Lancelot to do her bidding in the one tournament that could boost his reputation as a knight forevermore. Also explores the concepts of chivalry, wooing women and love at first sight. With a slightly modern twist. Such a good one. ❤

3. Give loved ones flowers

“Arthur and Guinevere” by Ruth Sanderson

Aside from reading books and watching movies, there are plenty of other small gestures you can do for your loved ones– like giving them flowers! In typical chivalric fashion, the giving of flowers is a classic and for the first-time lover, completely fool-proof. (Even Percival can do it without any repercussions.) It’s also just a sweet gesture for anyone that you love, be it friend or family member. Or yourself! I usually buy myself pink roses on V-Day. 🙂 (But I was lucky enough to be given some this year by a very special person. ❤ )

4. Give loved ones personalized items

“Tristan and Isolde” by Edmund Blair Leighton

Now we get medieval. This usually happened in the form of clothing items. Lovers in Arthur’s time would have given each other beautiful brooches or pendants that meant something specific to that person. If Lancelot’s coat of arms was three red stripes over a white shield, perhaps Guinevere would have given him a heart-shaped pendant with three red stripes to fasten to his shirt or cloak when not wearing armor. Perhaps Lance would have given Guin a gorgeous silver brooch with a golden rose on it. And maybe Arthur would have given her a gold one with a crown on it, to remind her of her worth, both as an individual and as High Queen. Etsy and Armstreet have plenty of pendants and brooches you can give a loved one this time of year. Check out Armstreet’s brooches and fibulas!

Signet rings were also used daily, to mark the stamp of ones house on the back of letters and to fasten scrolls. When you sealed a letter with wax, you sealed it with the stamp of your signet ring. If not the symbol of your house, status or coat of arms, it would have been a symbol dearly important to you, so that the receiver always knew who the letter was from before they opened it. (The medieval version of the return address.) Perhaps Gawain would have given Ragnelle a signet ring with the symbol of a sage leaf for wisdom, since she was one of the wisest and wittiest women in all of Camelot. And perhaps she would have given Gawain a ring with either a pentangle (for the Green Knight quest and his coat of arms) or a hawk (since his true name, “Gwalchmai” means “May-hawk” or “battle hawk”). You can find custom-made signet rings on Etsy! Make one for a fellow medieval-fan as a heartfelt Valentine’s gift.

5. Sew hair into clothing

“Stitching the Standard” by Edmund Blair Leighton

Want to be a real Arthurianist this Valentine’s Day? Pull a Clíges and sew a small strand of your lover’s hair into your clothing. Poor young Clíges was so in love with the beautiful Fenice that he kept a strand of her hair and cried over it at night and, in the words of Chrétien de Troyes, “tossed and turned in his bed, and moaned and wept her name into the night, as he clutched the golden hair to his chest.” So. If you wanna go all out, sew a little of your lover’s hair into your shirt or favorite sweater and have them do the same. Extra spicy points if you sew a strand into any undergarments! (And hand-wash only from now on!!)

6. Give loved ones herbs of love

Herb bouquet, found online, artist unknown

My personal favorite, as is the favorite of many a pagan and witch I know, the herb bouquet is quite the thing of charm. Nothing says romance like giving your loved one a handpicked bouquet of magical love herbs. Morgan, Merlin, Morgause, Nimue and every other Arthurian character of the Old Ways would have treasured their very own gifted sprig of rosemary or thyme. If you have an earthy, plant-loving friend or lover, take some inspiration from a few of the main love herbs below and customize them into a lovely little bouquet you know your loved one will enjoy. Picked wild or from a garden is preferred, of course; part of the romance of this gift is that it was handpicked from the earth, from Mother Nature, herself, and infused with loving energy as you thought about the person you’re giving it to while you picked it. But of course, if necessary, herbs from the supermarket will do. It’s the thought that counts. ❤

  • Rosemary: Thought to be a popular plant representative of love in Celtic lands. (Besides flowers, of course.) Represents loyalty and remembrance of loved ones.
  • Thyme: Another herb associated with love in Celtic lands. Thought to promote affection and deep love between friends. An herb for platonic love. Parsley was thought to do the same!
  • Basil: Thought by the Romans to be the main herb of love. Smoked over potions, burned (leaves only) or used dried in love spells.
  • Bay Leaf: Considered a love plant by the Romans and Celts. Smoked over a fire, boiled in bathwater or carried in ones pocket to attract love.
  • Fennel: Associated with fertility by the Romans, Greeks and Celts. Used in love spells to attract love and encourage flattery and ease in relationships.
  • Anise: Thought to be useful for arousal. Anise seeds were often baked into wedding cakes to promote a very enjoyable evening for the bride and groom (and for the guests!) I bake some in my seed cake at Imbolc each year in honor of the Earth’s fertility for the light half of the year.
  • Lavender: Used to promote romance, gentle love and devotion. Burned in a fire to attract a mate or dried to attract eternal love.
  • Oregano: Associated with love and fertility by the Greeks. Considered the goddess Aphrodite’s herb. It’s an aphrodisiac and has soothing properties (as well as antiviral and antibacterial properties) so it’s perfect for relaxation and ease in love. Great for self-love, too. (I make oregano tea multiple times a week and it immediately relaxes and softens any agitation I have. Makes a woman feel sensual and confident, if I do say so myself. 😉 Tastes so good, too. Add a few leaves to your tea and boom, you’re in a great mood for most of the day!)
  • Saffron: Another aphrodisiac. Used by the Egyptian goddess, Cleopatra, as a love spice. Also tastes amazing and acts as an arousal. (Use it in cooking or use it in tea and pair it with dark chocolate! Chocolate does the same, so adding saffron tea would make it a double whammy!)
  • There are several more plants/herbs I could mention, especially spices which I find even more romantic. (Cinnamon, cardamom, paprika, ginger; they’re all associated with love!) Find which ones call to you and add those to your herb gift you give your loved one. 🙂

7. Make rose tea

“Two Cup Rose” by Chris Hobel

Last but not least, as a tea enthusiast, I have to insist on rose tea. The rose is the flower of love and a flower long associated with Guinevere and even Lancelot. What better way to end a perfect Valentine’s Day than with a delicious rose petal tea? (Guinevere would highly approve!) If you have some dried rose buds or petals, or even a store-bought rose tea, steep them for a good five minutes with some soothing chamomile in boiling water. Then strain, add a spoonful of honey and enjoy. And if you’re a black tea fan, like myself, rose goes great with Ceylon. You can even add a few petals to a decaf black tea if you’re taking a cup in the evening. And if you don’t have any rose tea at all, there are plenty of places to find some!

I highly suggest Fortnum and Mason’s Rose Pouchong tea available on Amazon. It’s on the pricier side but it’s some of the best rose tea you will ever have in your life. I swear it. However, times are hard and wallets are hurting, so you can also find a decently priced one in Downton Abbey’s English rose tea. It’s herbal and is blended with hibiscus and raspberry. You can even find Whittard of Chelsea’s rose blend on Amazon. It’s fairly cheap and said to be the same brand served at Harrods’ tea room in London! Also, I can’t miss out on a shameless plug moment and remind you that you can buy a sophisticated Arthurian rose tea from me at my Etsy shop! There’s an herbal one for Guinevere blended with rose, Egyptian chamomile and French lavender, and a black tea for Lancelot with rose, bergamot and lemongrass. (Think Beltane-inspired Earl Grey.)

I hope some of these ideas spark some creative energy! There are so many possibilities in the ways of nerding up your Valentine’s Day in a perfectly Arthurian way! And of course, Of Swords and Magic wishes you a most happy and joyous Valentine’s Day. Sending you all lots of love. ❤

Published by arthuriananerd

Arthurian enthusiast, podcaster of "Of Swords and Magic". Writer, actor, tea-fanatic, kitchen witch. Instagram: @ofswordsandmagic.podcast or @lj_bertini

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