St. Frances of Rome

Saint Françoise Romaine and the demon - Fresco from the Oblate Monastery of Mont-Olivet - Rome
Sainte Françoise Romaine et le démon.

St. Frances of Rome (1384-1440) was the usual female saint who discovered a vocation for religion when her parents tried to marry her off. In this case though, the parents prevailed, and she was married to the son of a wealthy family at the age of twelve.

The times were difficult, wolves roamed the streets, and two of their children died of plague. When her mother-in-law died, the management of the household fell on St. Frances — she received the keys, which was a huge thing for women in medieval times — and she turned her in-laws’ estate into a hospital. Eventually she founded a monastery for secular nuns, who could belong even if they were married. This was also a thing in Europe: semi-religious houses where vows were not required, for instance the beguines (although for some reason Wikipedia thinks they need to be lumped in with male beghards), and for a while at least they had the papal blessing. A good thing too, because she retired there, along with some other wealthy women, and didn’t have to move in with her children, assuming any of them were still surviving by then.

Here is a painting by Poussin from the Louvre of Saint Frances announcing the end of the plague in Rome.

“The painting refers to the end of an outbreak of plague that struck a number of Italian cities, including Rome, in 1656. The terrified population called on Saint Frances, reputed as a miracle worker. Cardinal Rospigliosi must have commissioned Poussin to paint this homage to the saint after 1657, when the outbreak showed signs of coming to an end.”

Unfortunately the Wikipedia article for St. Frances has a few glitches.

The Wikipedia article is, as usual, long on the hagiography – lengthy descriptions of miracles and visions etc – and short on facts, like money. But this link has a fascinating glimpse into the relationship between the women in wealthy families and the religious establishment of the day. For instance, we find out that

The Ponziani palace was in the Trastevere section of Rome, and just around the corner was the little church of San Francesco a Ripa. This church had been given in 1212 to St. Francis by the Roman lady Giacoma di Settesoli (Brother Jacoba), who in 1226 was present at the death of the Poverello. …It was at San Francesco a Ripa that Frances Ponziani was received into the Third Order of St. Francis; and one of the priests there, Father Bartholomew Bondi, became her spiritual director.

So “the Poverello” is St. Francis of Assisi, and the church San Francesco a Ripa was dedicated to him.   Giacoma di Settesoli (“Jacoba of Settesoli“) was a wealthy widow who Francis of Assisi stayed with whenever he was in town, and who gave him some property for a leper hospital and paid for its running expenses. When Francis of Assisi was on his deathbed in the friary, he expressed a wish for her almond pastries, however the friary was off-limits to women.  But Jacoba of Settesoli had already arrived with the pastries, her two sons, and an entire retinue. Francis of Assisi named her “Brother Jacoba”, she was allowed to enter with her entourage.  She stayed at his bedside until his death.

The Franciscans seem quite eager to claim her as their own:

In 1425, she and a half dozen other Roman ladies, her companions, were clothed as oblates of St. Benedict. This apparently did not cancel her membership in the Third Order; for, at this time she and Vanozza made a pilgrimage to Assisi, walking the one hundred miles from Rome to the city of St. Francis.

There is more in the link about the history of Rome, the Ponziani family and their religious patronage, also it states “John Baptist, the oldest son, was taken hostage“, while Wikipedia has a story about some miracle that prevented the son from being taken hostage.  It’s a shame really  – a nice link that can send you down several rabbit holes if you aren’t careful – but the group’s more recent websites seem to have been dumbed down.

Scorpions for removing obstacles

“…Nubchen replied, ‘Well, I have this slight power of reciting mantra,’ whereupon he displayed a threatening mudra in space and nine scorpions appeared, stacked one above the other and each the size of a yak.”  [Source]

Here are some more fried khapse scorpions for Losar, the Sherpa new year.

Today may or may not be the third day of the festival, see yesterday: “Spring hopes eternal”.  The scorpion pastry is not eaten, it is fried first and kept by the stove until at least the 15th day of the new year, which I suppose would be the full moon, since the holiday begins on a new moon.

The scorpion removes obstacles for the coming year.  It may also be kept in the traditional Tibetan kitchen year round as a chalk or soot drawing.

Here are a couple of scorpion designs taken from old Tibetan iron scorpions, just for inspiration.

The search term has now been discovered as “step by step khapse designs”.

From YouTube:

Here it is after cooking:

Here is another one from YouTube.  The cross-hatching is made with a knife. The eyes look like they are made with the heads of wooden kitchen matches.  The tail is also held up by a piece of kitchen match.

The video also shows half a dozen ways to braid designs.

The scorpion has been given a place beside the wok.

This reminds me of the chemistry professor who used to tell us “hot things don’t look hot” as we removed our crucibles from the lab oven, trying to discover Avogadro’s number, or moles, or whatever it was.

Here is a shop that makes pastry for Tibetans in India, the daughter is advertising her parents’ shop. The scorpion, or “ranya”, has a faint cross-hatch pattern across its body.


So how about some coloring?

On the left is Vajra Mamo Tsogyel Tröllö. Tsogyel Tröllö is Yeshé Tsogyel manifesting as the female Dorje Tröllö, one of the eight manifestations of Yeshé Tsogyel. “From each phurba (ceremonial triple dagger), black inferno scorpions fracture forth to exterminate the four devils of dualism.” (Full description here.)

On the right is Dorje Tröllö in his primary wisdom appearance. There are nine forms of Dorje Tröllö including Tsogyel Tröllö. Dorje Tröllö rides an upward leaping tigress which is a manifestation of the powerful spiritual consort Tashi Chhi’drèn.  The tigress has a wisdom eye on her forehead indicating Buddhahood. This manifestation of Dorje Tröllö “carries four phurbas—two in his waist sash and one in each hand—which destroy the four philosophical extremes of monism, dualism, nihilism, and eternalism.” (Description.) And once again, there are plenty of scorpions to go around.

“Each of the scorpions’ legs contain five segments, representing the five distorted tendencies and their corresponding wisdom qualities. The scorpions’ tails are made up of nine segments, representing the nine yanas or vehicles; this displays the availability of all the vehicles from Sutra through outer and inner Tantra as methods of transformation. Each scorpion displays a wisdom eye.”

“Ngak’chang Rinpoche says of the scorpion:
The wrathful symbolism of Vajrayana is often misunderstood in the West because of our cultural predisposition to polarise ‘good’ and ‘evil’. The polarity of ‘good and evil’ does not exist in Buddhism – there is only the ‘good’ of the enlightened state, and the distortion of that ‘good’. This means that no matter how negative a situation or person may have become through dualistic obsession—that situation or person can be transformed. The power of transformation is thus depicted in Vajrayana through the scorpion. The statement being made here is that: ‘If the scorpion can be transformed then anyone, and anything can be transformed.’ Everyone and everything is nothing other than the energy of the non-dual state – and therefore the power of every facet of existence can be harnessed through pure vision as a means of attainment and compassionate activity.”

So there you have it.


Ceadda (Saint Chad), the plague, and a cure from Saint Katherine

‘Ecce crucem domini. fugite partes aduerse de tribu Juda radix David. Alleluia.’

Yes, the plague is still among us, there is still no vaccine, and now our president has declared that the schools must open. Oh whatever shall we do.

Fortunately we at the genderdesk have lots of readers to send us advice, and as a result, we have all the best Thoughts And Prayers to share with you, to combat the plague.

For the second time this week I have stumbled across something called the AB language, a form of 13th century Middle English first described by J.R.R. Tolkien in 1929. It is a local language found in “Ancrene Wisse and Hali Meiðhad”, an essay containing advice for women in the monastic life, (the “A” document), and the so-called “Katherine Group” of religious writings praising virginity, found in MS Bodley 34, (the “B” document).

But I am getting ahead of myself.

Saint Chad was a 7th century bishop in northern England who died when “a plague fell upon them, sent from Heaven” and “many of the Church of that most reverend prelate had been taken away out of the flesh”. His brother Cedd, also a saint and also a bishop, also died of the plague. When 30 monks went up to the monastery to pay their respects, they all died, except for a very young boy. So in a way, this Saint Chad is a sort of poster-child for Social Distancing.

So now back to the manuscripts, and this AB language.

The life of Saint Chad is found in a collection of 12th century homilies in MS Hatton 116  in Oxford’s Bodleian Library. In the notes for the manuscript, above the bibliography, we see a short section describing “additions”.  Sometime in the 12th century, someone wrote a few lines in the blank space on page 395, adding two phrases described as a “collect” and an “antiphon” for healing, both parts of a service for the feast day of St. Katherine:

  The collect ‘Deus qui dedisti legem Moisi in summitate montis Sinay. et illic / per angelum tuum corpus Katerine uirginis. mirabiliter / collocasti. tribue quesumus. ut eius meritis et intercessione ad montem qui Cristus est ualeamus peruenire.‘ and antiphon ‘Ecce crucem domini. fugite partes aduerse de tribu Juda radix David. Alleluia.’ were added slightly later in s. xii in the five lines remaining blank on p. 395. A note in Thomas Barlow‘s hand identifies the collect with that in Roman and Sarum service-books for 25th November, St. Katherine’s day, specifically concerning her reception by angels. The antiphon was used as an exorcism or healing formula. It is interesting to note this addition for St. Katherine in a manuscript associated with the region that produced the early thirteenth-century manuscript, Oxford, Bodleian Library, Bodley 34, containing the Katherine-Group of Saints’ lives and other texts.

Unfortunately the British do not see fit to actually publish this manuscript on their website, so we can’t look at it.  I guess you would have to go to England.  But at least we have an index with the words.

So the translation of the antiphon?  It means

Behold the Cross of the Lord.
Be gone all evil powers,
from the tribe of Judah,
the root of David. Alleluia”

The translation of the collect:

O God, who gave the law to Moses on the summit of Mt. Sinai
and by means of your holy angels
miraculously placed there the body of blessed Catherine,
your virgin and martyr:
grant we beseech you, that, by her merits and intercession,
we may be able to come unto the mountain which is Christ.

Here is “Deus qui dedisti legem Moysi” by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina.

Here is a version of Ecce Crucem Domini  that includes all the words from the antiphon from the feast of St. Katherine. It’s credited to St. Anthony of Padua, and is slightly longer than the one in the manuscript due to an added phrase about the lion of the tribe of Judah conquering. But this should do the trick; listen to it a few times and don’t forget to wash your hands.

I’ll throw in a cross for good measure.

This one is the Liudhard medalet.  It was found at Queen Bertha‘s Church of St. Martin in Canterbury (the Saint Martin of Tours cult was huge back then), and is the first known depiction of a cross of this type, and the earliest surviving Anglo-Saxon coin.

The other side of the coin is her bishop that she brought with her from France as part of the marriage agreement that she would remain Christian. The letters are written backwards, I’m sure it’s a very potent charm.


Selected bibliography (mostly St. Chad)

According to the Web site of the parish of St. Chad in Litchfield, Chad told the Archbishop of Canterbury: “If you know I have not duly received episcopal ordination, I willingly resign the office, for I never thought myself worthy of it; but, though unworthy, in obedience submitted to undertake it.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury was so moved by this reply that he eventually installed Chad as the first Bishop of Lichfield. Shortly after Chad died on March 2, 672, he was venerated as a saint.


And were there any women? Oh, yes, sainthood for women was much easier in those days.

Saint Eanflæd or Elfleda, (not to be confused with her daughter Saint Ælfflæd) became the second wife of King Oswiu of Northumbria, which liaison gave him some extra armies and such, and their offspring would be in line to inherit some major territory. Saint Chad’s brother Cedd arranged the marriage. After Oswiu’s death in 670, Eanflæd retired to Whitby Abbey, which had been founded by Hilda of Whitby. It seems like the women in those days would get granted a bunch of land to start churches and stuff. Eventually they did not merely steer the people away from paganism, they also championed the culture of Rome over the Celtic church culture, synchronizing the Easter holiday calendar as well as the tonsure styles with that of Rome.

Selected bibliography

Ephrem, Saint of the Vigilant

The price of freedom is eternal Vigilance.

This week, Vigilant™, one of Wikipedia’s longest-running critics, disappeared from the Wikipedia criticism constellation altogether.

Vigilant’s home base was Wikipediocracy, but he was widely quoted elsewhere, including Eric Barbour’s forum, Wikipedia Sucks, which once had no less then ten anti-Vigilant threads going simultaneously.  Most of them were created by Abd, also known as Abd al-Raman Lomax, who recently filed a pro se lawsuit against the WMF (see Lomax v. WikiMedia Foundation, Inc. ).

Vigilant recently embarked on a quest to prevent Abd from taking over the “Wikipedia in Action” sub on Reddit, as its only moderator.  My Evil Twin tossed her hat in the ring, and in her very first edit to Reddit, announced her own candidacy for moderator, since she is already has the keys to the genderdesk dungeon here.  Her candidacy was endorsed by several Wikipediocracy regulars.  (See “My Evil Twin is running for moderator on Reddit“.) The sub now appears to be irrevocably broken, after someone claimed to be Nathan Larson posted repeatedly about child porn.

As soon as Vigilant left, Eric Corbett returned in full force. There had been some unspecified animosity between them before, but whether it was due to something specific, and not just on general principle is anyone’s guess.  Corbett rarely adds anything original or witty to a discussion, preferring to add dittohead-type remarks to negative comments.  For instance, here Carrite negates the commonly held idea that Jimbo still has any influence in Wikipedia, and Corbett merely added a dittohead remark, missing the point that the style of the forum is to be witty, rather than bluntly derogatory. His response doesn’t give any indication that he caught the gist of the conversation, but any mention of Jimbo to Corbett is like waving a red flag in front of a bull.  In a way, he is a little bit like Kumioko, waiting for openings to inject remarks about Jimbo, the same way that Kumioko injects remarks about abusive admins.

An unnecessarily rude reply, but seems to be rooted in the remarks Jimbo once made at Wikimania about toxic persons, which seemed directed at Corbett.  Corbett has never commented on whether he views himself as toxic or not.  His enablers merely claim this is a taboo subject, and that discussion is off the table because he is doing fabulous and irreplaceable work, a claim that never quite holds up when you look at his actual edits.

If Wikipediocracy thought that making Corbett a member would mean he would be “pissing out of the tent”, instead of inside, they miscalculated badly:

Corbett is doubtless socking on Wikipedia right now, without adding that kind of odor to Wikipedia.

This is not the first time Vigilant has disappeared. Back in 2016, he left after the election, but eventually returned. Where he has gone this time is anybody’s guess, but after his ordeal on Reddit and elsewhere, which my Evil Twin only experienced a fraction of, he will probably need some saintly blessing and protection. Sooner or later, Vigilant may decide to stop burning bridges, and settle down somewhere.  If he decides to write his own blog, I will certainly read it.  But in the meantime, I am reluctantly emerging from my seclusion to offer some saintly inspiration and protection for his walkabout.

Saint Ephrem

The main patron saint for the vigilant (and by extension for vigils) is the 4th century Ephrem the Syrian, sometimes spelled Ephraem.  Oddly enough, the feast day of St. Ephrem is observed around about June 9, which is also roughly about the time when our own Vigilant disappeared.

The tradition of the Syriac church is frankly weird.  They observe different feast days from everyone else, and in general do not blend in, in a part of the world where most Christian groups try for some kind of cooperation, in the face of a sometimes militant Moslem majority. But this Saint Ephrem is well-regarded by denominations as diverse as Roman Catholics as well as Episcopalians –  who include his hymn From God Christ’s deity came forth,” as Hymn 443 in the 1982 hymnal – stretching back to the 4th century and up to the present day.  Ephrem was a prolific hymnographer, and wrote hymns specifically for choirs of women.

If you want to see images of him, check this YouTube video (it may only work with Chrome browser?).  I may make screenshots later, if I have time, haha, but the images and maps are very nice, even if there are some gratuitous explosions.  The video is far from boring.

Saint Ephrem

As a youth, Saint Ephrem was quite rambunctious.  He was accused of stealing a sheep and thrown in prison, which he thought very unfair, but God revealed to him that he was being punished for hubris, and if he got out of prison he was expected to reform.  Does one sense a plea bargain here?  In any case, on his exit from prison, he joined a religious group, was mentored by another saint, and eventually became regarded as a church pillar.  He did a number of hymns on Mary which all come from his exegesis of Luke.  Several stories are told about him in retrospect, and people mimicked his work, some of which is incorrectly attributed to him, as was considered proper in those days, before copyrights were invented.  St. Ephrem died of the plague, but not before he caught the rich hoarding food supplies. In response, the populace entrusted him with the food warehouses, and he was trusted to ration the food fairly to all.  He was ordained a deacon, but when an emissary came to ordain him bishop, he feigned madness and the emissary left.  He was also said to be dissolved in tears, and known to weep constantly, his acuteness of vision seeing both the goodness of God and mourning over the fallen human state of sin.

But where are the poems, where are the songs?  We want art, and we want it now.

Okay, here is part of a hymn about vigilance, composed for the vigil of Christmas-Epiphany.  Who are the vigilant? The Christians were very vigilant, obviously, as anyone who has witnessed their all-night rites can tell you, but there are also a bunch people keeping vigil who are awake because they are up to no good, starting with the devil.  This translation (full text)  is by Dr. Kathleen E. McVey (1944 – )(red link) (WorldCat) (OCLC)(LOC)(WikiData):

61    Today the Watchers were rejoicing that the Awakener came to awaken us; who will go to sleep on this night on which all Creation is awake?

62    Since by sins Adam let the sleep of death enter Creation, the Awakener came down to awaken us from the slumber of sin.

63    Let us keep vigil as do the greedy who contemplate money lent on interest, who stay awake often at night to calculate principal and interest.

64    Awake and thinking is the thief who dug a hiding place in the ground for his sleep; his wakefulness is all [for] this: to increase lamentation for those who sleep.

65    Keeping vigil also is the glutton in order to eat more and to suffer agony; his vigil was torment for him since he did not eat with moderation.

66    Keeping vigil also is the merchant; at night he wearies his fingers to calculate how much [interest] came [in on] his mina and whether he doubled and tripled his obol.

67    Keeping vigil also is the rich [man] whose sleep mammon pursues; his dogs are sleeping, but he is keeping his treasure from thieves.

68    Keeping vigil also is the worrier whose sleep has been swallowed up by his worries, whose death stands at his pillows, and he watches, worried, for years.

69    It is Satan who teaches, my brothers, wakefulness for the sake of wakefulness, so that we might be asleep to virtues, vigilant and wakeful to vices.

70    Even Judas Iscariot kept vigil an entire night, and he sold the blood of the just One Who purchased the entire creation.

71    The sons of darkness, who stripped off and shed the Shining One, put on darkness, and with silver the thief sold the Creator of silver.

72    Even the Pharisees, sons of darkness, were awake an entire night; the dark ones kept vigil to conceal the incomprehensible Light.

73    Keep vigil as bright ones on this bright night; for even if its color is black, still it is splendid in its power.

74    One who splendidly watches and prays in the darkness is wrapped in hidden brilliance in the midst of this visible darkness.

75    The way of life of the hateful one who stands in the daylight is the way of a son of darkness, so that even if clothed by light without, he would be girt by darkness within.

76    Indeed, my friends, let us not forget in our wakefulness: illicit is the vigil of one who does not watch as he should.

77    Deep sleep is the vigil of one who watches unworthily; its opposite, too, is the vigil of one who watches unchastely. [note: “chastity” in translating St. Ephrem does not mean sexual chastity but a more broader sense of self-control ]

78    The vigil of a jealous man is an abundance full of emptiness, and his watch is a matter full of scorn and disgrace.

79    If an angry man keeps watch, his vigil is disturbed by anger, and his watch itself becomes full of wrath and curses.

80    If a garrulous man keeps vigil, his mouth becomes a thoroughfare useful for the destroying  [spirits] but wearisome for prayers.

81    If a discerning man keeps vigil, he chooses one of two: either he sleeps sweetly, or he keeps vigil righteously.

82    Serene is the night on which shines forth the Serene One Who came to give us serenity. Do not allow anything that might disturb it to enter upon our watch.

83    Let the path of the ear be cleared; let the sight of the eye be chastened; let the contemplation of the heart be sanctified; let the speech of the mouth be purified.

84    Mary today has hidden in us the leaven from the house of Abraham; let us, therefore, love the poor as Abraham [loved] the needy.

85    Today she has cast rennet into us from the house of David, the compassionate one; let man have mercy on his persecutor as the son of Jesse on Saul. [note on rennet: Cheesefare Week is a reference to a sort of Fat Tuesday for some type of orthodox, who observe a fast from eggs, milk, cheese and other dairy products ]

86    The sweet salt of the prophets today is scattered among the peoples; let us acquire by it a new taste by which the former people would lose its flavor.

87    On this day of redemption let us speak a speech of interpretation; let us not speak superfluous words, lest we be superfluous to [the day].

88    This is the night of reconciliation; let us be neither wrathful nor gloomy on it. On this all-peaceful night let us be neither menacing nor boisterous.

89    This is the night of the Sweet One; let us be on it neither bitter nor harsh. On this night of the Humble One, let us be neither proud nor haughty.

90    On this day of forgiveness let us not avenge offenses. On this day of rejoicings let us not share sorrows.

91    On this sweet day let us not be vehement. On this calm day let us not be quick-tempered.

92    On this day on which God came into the presence of sinners, let not the just man exalt himself in his mind over the sinner.

93    On this day on which the Lord of all came among servants, let the lords also bow down to their servants lovingly.

94    On this day when the Rich One was made poor for our sake, let the rich man also make the poor man a sharer at his table.

95    On this day a gift came out to us without our asking for it; let us then give alms to those who cry out and beg from us.

96    This is the day when the high gate opened to us for our prayers; let us also open the gates to the seekers who have stayed but sought [forgiveness].

McVey’s translations are most excellent, although many remain behind a paywall.  The free translations available on the Internet Archive are unfortunately written in a more archaic form of English:

There is also a prayer for the vigilant, prayed during the Great Lent weekday services. Here is the Orthodox English language version.

O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power, and idle talk.

But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to Thy servant.

Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge my brother, for blessed art Thou, unto ages of ages. Amen.

Again “chastity” here is not sexual chastity, heaven forbid, but Greek “σωφροσύνης” or sophrosyne.  Wikipedia translates this as “sober-mindedness“, and again, heaven forbid, Strong’s calls itsoundness of mind“.

There is a chant of the prayer here, in an unidentified language, probably Greek (Απολυτίκιο Αγίου Εφραίμ του Σύρου – this would be your search term for more chants) : “The Apolytikion of St. Ephraim the Syrian”:

Here is St. Ephrem’s hymn to the Light from the Marionite tradition, in Arabic:

The refrain is the first verse which says: “The Light has dawned, rejoice, O, earth and Heaven”. English translation here

أشـرَقَ النُورُ فَافرَحي أيُّهـا الأرضُ وَالسَماء ) – أشــــرقَ النــــور أشـرَقَ النُورُ فَافرَحي أيُّهـا الأرضُ وَالسَماء، طُرِحَ الليـــلُ خارِجـَاً وَخَرَجْنـا إلى الضِيــاء. إِنَّ يَســـوعَ رَبَّنـا غَمَـر الكــونَ بالبَهـاء نُـورُهُ طَـارَدَ الأَسَــى في حِمـىَ المـوتِ والفنَـــاء. مُـذْ تَجَلَّـى بأرضِنَـا سَقَطَت سُــــلطَةُ الظَـلاَم فــي مَطَامِيــرِ الثَــــرىَ كُسِـرَتْ شَـوكَةُ الحِمَــام. وَاجَـهَ الليــــلَ وَاطِئــاً مَجــدَهُ صَخـرَةُ الجَحِيــمْ، فالدفِينـونَ هَللـوا، إذ رأوا مَجـدَهُ العَظِيــمْ. وارتَقَــى الحَـيُّ لِلعُلَـــى حَيثُمـا كَانَ مِـنْ أَزَلْ، وَالمَصَابيـــحُ شَــعْشَعتْ وَالعَذَارى نَثَرْنَ طِيب. وَسـَيأتي بِمَجـدِهِ عِندَمــا تنقَضِــي الدُهـــورْ فَيَلْبَــسُ الأَمـوات فـي لِقَائِــهِ أَجسَــادَ نُـــورْ. يـا أحِبَائِـي أسـهَرُوا ليلَـةَ العُمــرِ في إنتِظَــارْ، فَمَوعِـدُ الآتـي دَنــا ووَعــدُهُ نــورٌ وَنـار. يـا مَلِيكـــي مُخلِّصـي وبَاعِثِي مِـنَ الممَـات لِـي مِن مَوتِــكَ الرَجَـاءْ وَلِــي مَحَبَــةُ الحيَــاةْ. أَعطِنِـــي أَن أَكُـونَ في وَليمَة العشَـا مَعَكْ حَيْـــثُ أُمسِــي وَيُصبِــحُ الحُــبُ فينَـــا هُـــوَ المَلِــــك.

Here is another chant, this one in Ukrainian, “Come and bow to Christ Our King and God”, with English subtitles.


So who are the academic experts on Syriac studies and early Christianity? According to Dr. Catherine Tkacz (red link) (profile) (WorldCat) (OCLC), in this video:

And where are these hymns, and the information about this saint?

patrologiae_cursus_completus_gr_vol_046_0416 - Saint Ephriam text imageHagiography

  • Vita Ephraemi (bibliography listing)
  • Gregory, Vita Ephraemi, De Vita S. Patris Aphraem Syri, Patrologia Graeca 46. 820-849. A translation into Latin. Listed. [Patrologiae Cursus Completus – Series Graeca – Volume 46, 1863, (in Latin and Greek side by side), Internet Archive (full text, De Vita Patris Ephraem Syri  begins on p.417 (page 820 of the original text) ]



Icelandic brynja for protection

As our modern-day plague continues, we also continue to search for religious and magical remedies for the protection and amusement of our devoted readers.

Another brynjubaen dead end

A few weeks ago we noted the existence of Icelandic brynjubaen as precursors to the Irish lorica, a type of poetry for protection. Lorica is Latin for “breastplate”, as in a light type of body armor or coat of mail.  The Irish word is lúirech.

The first occurrence of the word brynjubaen in print seems to be in Jón Árnason‘s classic collection of Icelandic folklore. There he prints three prayers entitled brynjubaen [singular: brynja], giving as his source manuscripts (kver) from western and southern Iceland.

This appears in a journal article, “Some Icelandic Loricae”, by Gearóid S. Mac Eoin in the journal, Studia Hibernica No. 3 (1963), pp. 143-154, which is unfortunately behind a paywall.

But our goal is not necessary to read the journal article itself, but to find the actual medieval poems, and determine whether they have any use for our current predicament.  A number of sources are given in the preview, so let’s see if we can track down the footnotes.

The first is the much-cited “Étude sur les loricae celtiques et sur les priéres qui s’en rapprochent”, by Louis Gougaud. It was published in Bulletin d’ancienne littérature et d’archéologie chrétiennes. The pages we are interested in are Volume 1 (1911) 265-81 and Volume 2 (1912) 33-41, 101-27.

And here we have a complete copy of Volume 1 at Hathitrust, digitized by google, the original at Princeton University.  But unfortunately it is not in a form that can be copy-pasted, so it’s not possible to use Google Translate for reading it. It does appear to contain lists of various loricae, and the institutions that hold them, including Latin, Irish and Welsh.

Here is another scan digitized by Google, this one from the University of Michigan has both Volume 1 and 2.  The lorica material starts on p.371 in the Hathitrust numbering, and continues again on 441.

But unfortunately, either my Latin is not up to the task, or the author completely forgot to mention Iceland, because I can find nothing of Icelandic loricas, lúirech, or brynjubaen in all of that.

It’s got other stuff though.  Lorica du livre de Taliesin, anyone?

Or the Hymne de Broccan sur Sainte Brigid?

…hmm, Brigid…

Saint Brigid – Brocca’s hymn

Ah yes, this appears to be Broccan’s hymn to Saint Brigid, a translation at least, the original is in Latin and Irish. And here is the part that would seem to be the lorica–it does contain the word “shield”:

May they be between me and pain,
(that) my soul come not to ruin.
The Nun that used to run over (the) Curragh,
may she be a shield against sharp weapons :
She found not her like save Mary :
we put trust in my Brige !
We put trust in my Brige —
may she be a protection to our host !
May her patronage work with me !
may we all deserve escape !
Christ’s praise, a glorious utterance,
adoration of God’s Son, a gift of victory,
Of God’s kingdom without denial be
every one who has sung it, who has heard it.
Whoever hath heard, whoever hath sung,
let Brigit’s blessing be on him :
Brigit’s blessing and God’s
be upon us together.
You can have the entire thing read out loud in English here:
Or here it is by Whitley Stokes, 1872, from the Irish Liber Hymnorum, on Google Books.

St. Brigid – Brigit Bé Bithmaith

Here is another Brigid protective chant, this one attributed to St. Ultan of Ardbraccan, who collected the material that later was made into Broccan’s hymn, the one that tells the story of her miracles.
The hymn was traditionally used as a powerful lorica (a prayer recited for protection in Christian monastic tradition) and shows Brigid’s pagan origins in her aspect as Goddess – linked to the sun and fire -and as a pillar of Irish spirituality together with St Patrick. The reference to her as the Mother of Jesus is folkloric – legend claims her to be the midwife to Mary and foster mother of Christ.
In Ireland Brigid was associated with Mary; as Saint Patrick was the father of all the saints, Saint Brigit was the mother.
Brigit, ever good woman
a sparkling golden flame
may she lead us to the eternal realm
the shining bright sun
Save us Brigit
from hordes of demons
may she win for us
battles of every hardship….

This chant in Irish…

And finally finally finally we have the a manuscript. The hymn Brigit Bé Bithmaith (‘Brigit ever good woman’) from the hymn book  Liber Hymnorum, written in Old Irish.  Manuscripts at Trinity College Library TCD MS 1441, 16v and  TCD MS 1441, 17r

More manuscripts here:


Mortalitas hujus anni, or Incantations to avoid plague

The “impetus” for creating this protective text…
was apparently the same epidemic of the plague of the 60s of the 7th century,
or some other, more local epidemic,
which an anonymous author calls mortalitas hujus anni
“the pestilence of this year.”

So we are in the midst of a modern day plague.

And we have no cures, no vaccinations, and no toilet paper.

Can we look to the magic of antiquity for answers?

Why not.

There were two basic responses to the medieval plague, and they were NOT handwashing and social distancing.

They were of course religion and magic, and the two did overlap from time to time, although how much is now a matter of conjecture.


The most obvious form of religious protection was the lorica, (meaning “breastplate” armour) a protective incantation with Irish roots and still well-beloved among our British cousins, over at the Church of England.

The most well known lorica is perhaps the Deer’s Cry, Faeth Fiada, part of the larger Breastplate of St. Patrick.  The backstory of this incantation is that it was intoned by Saint Patrick to hide his party of monks from heathen soldiers as they were passing nearby in the fog.

Here is a particularly beautiful one, composed by Arvo Pärt, which unlike some notable women, even has its own Wikipedia article:The Deer’s Cry (Pärt).

And if you liked that one, you will really like what their incredible sopranos do with Barber’s Agnus Dei.

But back to incantations for plague….

There is really a wealth of information in this Russian-language link, but at this point I am just going to mention it in passing, and let the google algorithm magic do its thing.

According to this Russian website, courtesy of Google Translate:

The “impetus” for creating this protective text, as suggested by M. Herren and on what he bases the dating of the text, was apparently the same epidemic of the plague of the 60s of the 7th century, or some other, more local epidemic, which an anonymous author calls mortalitas hujus anni “the pestilence of this year” (see [Herren 1973]). Latin loriks, of course, are usually attributed to the early Irish scholarly monastic tradition, and the transfer of this type of poetry to the vernacular soil is usually dated to a somewhat later time.

This is what everyone says.  You will find some version of it all over the internet.  The Lorica (the Saint Patrick one) is attributed to 8th century Irish manuscripts, written and preserved by monks, but I have yet to see one. The earliest one in use is easy enough to find though.

The copy-text for the original poem in 8th-century Irish was Thesaurus Palaeohibernicus: A Collection of Old-Irish Glosses, Scholia, Prose, and Verse, Vol. II, edited by Whitley Stokes and John Strachan (Cambridge, 1903). The poem appears on pages 354–358.

Here it is on Internet Archive.  With tons of footnotes.

And a beautiful thing it is.

This is not Latin, it is some kind of Irish.

And this is not the only place you will find it.  When Seamus Heaney (see my sidebar) and Ted Hughes (of Sylvia Plath fame) set out to compile a collection of all the poetry that they considered part of the necessary British heritage, but that they had not been taught in school, they included a translation of this protective poem in their anthology The School Bag, Faber & Faber, 1997.

How to make this into a search term…hmm…could try to copy it out…Crist lim, Crist reum, Crist in degaid ... and take it to YouTube…I bet someone has done it. Or try the Gaelic word lúirech as your search term.  Oh, it’s on Wikisource. We have the entire text.

A short digression and rant…

But we are still very firmly in sausagefest territory here. And looking at the translators listed by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes in their book doesn’t help any. One translator was Whitley Stokes, who first married Mary Bazely, the daughter of Col. Bazeley, Bengal artillery, and later married Elizabeth Temple, daughter of William Temple;… they had a daughter….

One of his daughters, Maïve, compiled a book of Indian Fairy Tales [WikiSource] in 1879 (she was 12 years old) based on stories told to her by her Indian ayahs and a man-servant. It also included some notes by Mrs. Mary Stokes.

Who is that, Maïve’s mother? Or Whitley’s mother? Accuracy, please. His sister, Margaret Stokes, was an artist and wrote two books on early Irish saints.  Where are they?  We need moar saints.

Okay, moving on…


We know the monks did not pull these invocations or loricas or whatever out of thin air, they were based on something, probably druidic and even Icelandic stuff. We just have to go back further in history, before the monastery stuff.  Just list, and see what comes up in the algorithms.  Everything plague is trending right now, we should be able to find plenty.

Ha!  Vikings!  Good.

Two nineteenth century collections of Icelandic folklore contain folk-prayers bearing the title brynjubaen. This word is a compound…. The first occurrence of the word brynjubaen in print seems to be in Jón Árnason‘s classic collection of Icelandic folklore. There he prints three prayers entitled brynjubaen [singular: brynja], giving as his source manuscripts (kver) from western and southern Iceland. These are violent incantations aimed at banishing the petitioner’s enemy to the…

This Icelandic brynjubaen is promising.
But we didn’t count on the libraries being closed in time of plague, so these things are probably locked up tight behind a paywall, waiting for the results of the Darwin Award competitions.  Anyone who is still standing afterwards with library card intact, gets to read it.
So we will leave this for later…

Names for plagues

So if you have a kind of plague or disease, what kind of name do you call it?  And do you use Latin or what.

There are a ton of these in the Irish literature.

The “jaundice of Conallus,” is a type of localized plague. (See Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland, Dublin, Hodges, Smith, and co. 1856)

Then there’s flava ictericia, “yellow jaundice”, mortolitas magna (the great mortality), and the great pestilence called “The Boye Conneall.”

I’m just going to put these out there, with their sourcing, and move on.

Neimhidh afterwards died of a plague, together with three thousand persons, in the island of Ard-Neimhidh”, in Crich Liathain”, in Munster. …  … This is translated Flava Ictericia, the yellow jaundice, by Colgan.

Cron-Chonaill.  This is translated Flava Ictericia, the yellow jaundice, by Colgan. Acta Sanctorum, p. 831, col. 2 : “Mortalitate Cron-chonnuill (id est flava ictericia) appellata, hi omnes sancti, præter S. Kieranum et S. Tigernachum extincti sunt.”

“Colum of Inis-Cealtr is also mentioned in the Annuls of Ulster as dying of the Mortolitas magna in 548, and in the Annals of Clonmacnoise, at 550, as dying of the great pestilence called “The Boye Conneall;” but the Editor has not been able to discover any further account of him


Cétnad nAíse
, a pre-Christian Irish lorica with seven sea daughters

Let’s go back and look at again.  This is in Russian, but it has some great stuff, if you can get past the translation barrier.

First, we find a reference to the Cétnad nAíse, (see here for dicussion of the various translatons), subtitled “A Chant of Long Life” (Admuiniur secht n-ingena trethan).   This is very exciting, because finally we have something with women in it – seven daughters of the sea.  The text also seems to be much earlier than the 8th c stuff, and it is a type of lorica, but it does not seem to have so much of the trappings of Christianity as Faeth Fiada (the “Deer’s Cry”).  The original is found in only one copy of a Middle Irish metrical treatise.

Translations of Cétnad nAíse:


The Song of Amergin

Here is a similar poem:

When Amairgen G lúngel, son of Míl’s, first steps upon Ireland, with his right foot, (obviously some kind of ritual meaning) he composes a poem with a series of thirteen “I am…” lines,  from the Lebor Gabála Érenn (The Book of Invasions).  There seem to be a lot of these floating around, with no indication of which is canon.  More versions here, and invocations.  Another one here. This is nice.

I am a stag of seven tines,
I am a wide flood on a plain,
I am a wind on the deep waters,
I am a shining tear of the sun,
I am a hawk on a cliff,
I am fair among flowers,
I am a god who sets the head afire with smoke.
I am a battle waging spear,
I am a salmon in the pool,
I am a hill of poetry,
I am a ruthless boar,
I am a threatening noise of the sea,
I am a wave of the sea,
Who but I knows the secrets of the unhewn dolmen ?


The Celtic saint Brettifa / Brettiva / Brigid, or whatever (see the notes at December 21: the feast day of Thomas the brewer), another one of these Icelandic connections,  also had something to do with plague, but now I have forgotten where I saw it, it’s probably in that Russian text somewhere.

According to Wikipedia, Bridget of Sweden made a pilgrimage to Rome in 1350, at the peak of the plague, so this might prove a promising path of inquiry.

There is also a Saint (and Celtic goddess) Brigid of Ireland. And a cross of St. Brigid. Here is the cross and how to make it.

Since there are a lot sheltering at home right now, here is also the St. Brigid house blessing.

May Brigid bless the house wherein you dwell
Bless every fireside every wall and door
Bless every heart that beats beneath its roof
Bless every hand that toils to bring it joy
Bless every foot that walks its portals through
May Brigid bless the house that shelters you.

How to make a cross of St. Brigid

And here is how to make the three-cornered Brigid cross.

Another tutorial on making the three-armed Brigid cross. The rushes are pulled, not cut.  Ha, no iron that would interfere with magic spells.  Similar to the triskelion or Manx three legs symbol.
Here is a Brigid ‘lúireach’ or lorica, a modern one, Lúireach Bhríde, written by poet Annemarie Ní Churreáin (tsk, her Wikipedia article has a nasty template on the top)


Saint Honorina, hope of the captives

« Sainte Honorine, l’espérance des captifs et des matelots, obtenez-nous la délivrance de nos périls et de nos maux. »
[St. Honorine, hope of captives and sailors, deliver us from peril and evil.]
1875 prayer for the Sunday after February 27, Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, commune of Yvelines.

February 27 is the feast day of Saint Honorina (French: Sainte Honorine), patron of sailors and liberated prisoners. The saint’s influence was “most extraordinary in releasing prisoners from fetters” and her altars “were accordingly hung round with an abundance of chains and instruments of torture”.

At the same time let us take time to remember all the women still in Middle Eastern prisons for the crime of driving while female, as well as those subjected to the whims of kangaroo courts that are enforcers for the privileged.

It has been said that Medieval sainthood is based on the curation of bones, since the bones of saints are said to be incorruptible.

The bones of Saint Honorina first appear in Normandy prior to the Norman invasion, with the convenient backstory of having been executed by pagans and pitched into the Seine during the 4th century Diocletian persecution.  Did the Seine even exist in the 4th century?  Did the French even know anything about Rome?  Whatever.  She had quite a following in the area.

…ooh, checking email…

Fear not, O Devoted Reader, this mere hyperbole.


The Seine is fine.  Do not panic. 

The Seine is NOT UNSTABLE.  As it was in the beginning – hidden far, far back in the mists of time – is now and always shall be – far, far into the unforeseeable future.  Forever and ever and ever. 

all things merge into one...
and a river runs through it.

Okay, carry on.

Although Petrus de Natalibus snubbed her completely in his 12-volume 1493 Legends of the Saints, Arturo du Monstier described a number of her post-mortem miracles in Neustria Pia.  The miracles extended to her horse: after the animal’s demise, dogs refused to eat the beast, so the horse hide was used to cover the chapel door.

Her original spiritual center of influence was centered in Normandy, at Grâville, before her devotee monks carried her relics further inland to Conflans upon the Marne in 876 to protect them from Viking raiders.

Honorina is believed to be part of the Gallic people of Caletes. The Caleti, or Belgae, was one of the last groups of Celts to migrate to the Atlantic coast of Normandy, around the 1st or 2nd century BC, and settle around the river Seine. They were part of a confederacy that opposed Rome in 57 BC, but were absorbed into the Roman empire after Vercingetorix surrendered to Julius Caesar at the siege of Alesia in 52 BC. (Pretty sure I saw this in an Asterix comic, so it must be true.)

In any case, Le Havre is a good choice for a saint who breaks chains, since Wikipedia tells us that city first took off with the slave trade.  In medieval times, slavery had just started its decline in Europe, and the Vikings arrived in Normandy just in time to embrace the new custom.  And after the Norman arrival in 1066, England in turn experienced a huge decline in slavery .

The Normans had been extremely keen on the slave trade, as you might expect, given that the Normans had once been Norsemen, Vikings who had settled in the area around France’s Seine estuary from the late ninth century. The Vikings, as their reputation suggests, were among the foremost exponents of the medieval slave trade, seizing men and women from the vulnerable shores of Europe and selling them on to Scandinavia or the Middle East. But in the course of the 10th century the Normans gradually abandoned their Viking roots and began adopting the culture and customs of their Frankish neighbours, embracing, for example, Christianity, the French language and also the Frankish art of fighting on horseback. Eventually, as part of this same process of acculturation, they also abandoned the slave trade. In the tenth century the Norman capital at Rouen had flourished partly as a result of the import and export of human cargoes, but references to the city’s slave market dry up around the turn of the first millennium.

So, although Honorina seems to be originally of Celtic background, and is credited with pagan roots, by the time she emerges (or rather her bones) in the 9th century, she is very Frankish in her Christianity, opposition to slavery, and use of a horse.

According to Architectural Antiquities of Normandy, the church of Grâville was dedicated to her. The area is now Graville-Sainte-Honrine, a quarter of Le Havre .  In the 6th century, the site was a hermitage, then in the 9th century became a pilgrimage destination when it housed the relics of Saint Honorine. Although the bones remain elsewhere, the church remains as the Graville Abbey, having been restored by Guillaume Malet de Graville, a companion of William the Conqueror, after returning victoriously from the Battle of Hastings.


In 1080, the Benedictine monks of Bec-Helloin Abbey (Eure) founded a priory in Conflans, at the confluence of the Oise and Seine rivers. The town associated with the confluence, Auvers-sur-Oise, has been associated with famous Impressionists Cezanne, Pissarro, Daubigny, and van Gogh,
The relics of Honorine were then carried in procession to the monastery, in the presence of Saint Anselm, who would later become Archbishop of Canterbury. The event is still commemorated by a yearly procession with the relics.
« Par vos bontés, que notre foi s’accroisse, au Tentateur nous saurons dire : “non !”
De ce Conflans qui garde votre nom, contre tout mal, protégez la paroisse ! »

[The verse of the hymn the protection of Sainte Honorine:
“By your kindness, may our faith increase, To the tempter we will be able to say: “no!
From this Conflans that keeps your name, Against all evil, protect the parish! ]

The relics are now at the Saint-Maclou church of Conflans Sainte Honorine.  Above the river there is a Romanesque dungeon about fifteen meters high from the 11th century (sometime after 1085) built by Mathieu de Beaumont. The lords of Beaumont sur Oise were then lords of Conflans.  The tower /dungeon was built in the place of the wooden tower used to house the relics before the building of the church.

But wait, back at Grâville they went to all that trouble to save Honorine’s relics, and rebuild the abbey, and then they lost the tomb? Indiana Jones would be pleased. Via google translate:

The founding of the Canon de Graville took place with the participation of the Abbey of Sainte-Barbe-en-Auge (Calvados) and soon became a house of importance. The priory suffered the effects of the Hundred Years’ War (1415) and the Religion wars already in the 16th century. In the 17th century it joined the congregation of France, remaining active until its suppression in the wake of the Revolution. During the nineteenth century it was the subject of studies and restorations, and in 1867 the primitive tomb of Santa Honorina was discovered. The site was again damaged during the Second World War and restored later.

So the 9th century monks left in a big hurry, taking their assets with them – including the bones that were the income-producer that could typically free a monstery from dependence on back-breaking agricultural labor – also taking with them the insitutional memory of where the bones had been stored.

Honorina must have been immensely popular.  In spite of all the local Norman saints losing their appeal after the Norman conquest, St. Honorina kept a place at February 27 on the Augustine Calendar, as discovered by an academic named Cochet (see footnote on The Bosworth psalter: an account of a manuscript formerly belonging to O….).

Now, the more things get explained the more confusing they get.  Canterbury Calendar? Augustine Calendar?

Church calendars

Here is an essay about Norman Calendars by T.A. Heslop (p. 53), which also mentions Honorina’s feast day.  Unfortunately the comparison tables between calendars, have not been reproduced, but at least is is something to go on.  The post-conquest Canterbury Calendar document is Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Add.C. 260 (Plate 1), probably dating from the 1120s. This can be compared to a pre-conquest calendar at the front of a psalter at British Library MS Arundel 155 c 1020 written by Christ Church monk Eadwig Basan, which probably defines liturgical observance at the Canterbury Cathedral early in Cnut’s reign. There is no surviving calendar as such from St. Augustine’s Abbey, but one can be reconstructed from a missal now at Cambridge, Corpus Christi College MS 270 dating soon after 1091. So the answer to the calendar question is Canterbury Cathedral and St. Augustine’s Abbey.

So back to Honorina’s lost tomb.

Here we find out in a footnote that “her tomb at Graville in the Pays de Caux and diocese of Rouen was the centre of her cult and object of pilgrimage (Cochet, Le tombeau de Sainte Honoine a Graville pres le Havre, Rouen, E. Cagniard, 1867).”  So it looks like this Cochet person is the one we need.  And sure enough, here he is, Jean Benoît Désiré Cochet (1812-1875), with his own page in a French library. I think I’ll download a copyArchéologie chrétienne. Le Tombeau de sainte Honorine, à Graville, près Le Havre, par M. l’abbé Cochet,… (1867) ”  It has pictures and drawings of the tomb.   Here you go: [Download PDF] Archéologie_chrétienne_Le_Tombeau_de_[…]Cochet_Jean_bpt6k32142112But who was she before she became a model modern Frankish woman, who rode a horse and freed slaves?

Here is a statue of St. Honorine from the 11th century Église Saint-Hilaire in Le Neufbourg, France (population 414). It does look like it’s been around for a while.

First of all she does not look like a typical virgin saint, or at least like someone who has taken a vow of poverty.  Her right hand is broken off, but seems to hold a pastoral staff, a typical religious symbol of the day.  More modern statues often show her with a palm branch, symbol of victory (over the devil, one would assume).  In her left hand is a book, with holes that show something has been broken from it, perhaps an expensive binding, or something of metal that could have been recycled?  A close look at her face shows a nostril piercing, likewise empty.  Did it have some jewelry at one time?  She is sometimes described as holding a book and a jewel.  Her left hand also shows a ring, again not the sort of plain iron ring one would expect from a nun, but perhaps with some sort of stone setting.  And sources say she was burned, as a magician, and the reason for her body being consigned to a river was to avoid desecration–that magic again? Might she have been the type of magician who turns base metal into gold, using a philosopher’s stone? There are two abstract knots that I have not seen before, one around her waist, cinching in her bliaud with the long sleeves, and the other above the book.  A symbol of marriage, or just a stylized knot?

Honoria’s miracles

So far, just sources, in Latin….(grrrr)

  • There is a footnote on page 5 of the introduction about further manuscripts of the translations and miracles of Saint Honorine: Three Treatises from Bec on the Nature of Monastic Life, edited by Giles Constable, Free e-book.
  • Incomplete edition of Miracula, s. Honorinae in Analecta Bollandiana, 9 (1890), 135-46; BHL 3983. [Indexed here in vol 19-20 as Translatio S. Honorinae virginis et martyris et eiusdem miracula. -Tomus IX (1890)] Free E-book: Analecta bollandiana, Volume 9.
  • Sections of it are printed, from MS, Paris, Bibliotheque nationale, Latin 13774, in J. Depoin, Les comtes de Beaumonst-sur-Oise et le prieure de Sainte-Honorine de Pontoise (Pointoise, 1915) (This is Depoin, J. (Joseph) 1853-1924 on WorldCat)

Some other details about related stuff:

Priorat de Sainte-Honorine de Graville

“The founding of the Canon de Graville took place with the participation of the Abbey of Sainte-Barbe-en-Auge (Calvados) and soon became a house of importance. The priory suffered the effects of the Hundred Years’ War (1415) and the Religion wars already in the 16th century. In the 17th century it joined the congregation of France, remaining active until its suppression in the wake of the Revolution. During the nineteenth century it was the subject of studies and restorations, and in 1867 the primitive tomb of Santa Honorina was discovered. The site was again damaged during the Second World War and restored later.”

Cult of Sainte Honorine in Calvados.

From the French, oh this is some good stuff:

“Sainte Honorine (February 27): Sainte Honorine is better known by her worship than by her life, a common fate for many saints of the first centuries. There remain two centers of devotion to this virgin: a corner of the Normandy Bocage, where she probably lived, and the banks of the Lower Seine where her relics wandered. Only one authentic document remains from its history: the old Normandy-Senonnais martyrologist kept at the National Library. [“le vieux martyrologe Normand-Sénonnais conservé à la Bibliothèque nationale”] We read there: “The six of the calendars of April, at the pagus of the Bajocasses, in a vicus [Roman settlement or neighborhood] called Colonica, dead on the virgin Honorine“. Various authors translate this word as Coulonces [former region on Normandy]. In the 14th century, a neighboring parish, Saint-Martin-de-Tallevende “had a chapel dedicated to Sainte-Honorine. In a more or less distant neighborhood we find the churches of Sainte-Honorine-de-Bény, Sainte-Honorine-la -Chardonne, Sainte-Honorine-la-Guillaume, Sainte-Honorine-de-Chailloué, these last three in the diocese of Séez. A difficulty arises: Coulonces was not part of the old Bessin. By admitting a copyist fault we could read Bolonica, that is to say Boulon, whose neighboring parish, Mutrécy, is under the name of Sainte-Honorine. During the persecution of Diocletian who opened in 284 the Era of Martyrs, officers of the emperor seized the virgin Honorine and summoned her to sacrifice to the idols. On her obstinate refusal she was condemned to fire, a punishment then reserved for magicians. In the eyes of these pagans the holy miracle workers were reputed as such. Her charred bones were transported to Honfleur and thrown in the Seine to avoid desecration. The rising tide carried them to Graville, where they were collected and placed in a stone coffin. Around 841 the Normans went up the Seine, sowing devastation. The Graville clergy removed the relics from the sarcophagus and transported them to Conflans, where the monks of the Bec erected a magnificent church in the 10th century. A chapel built at the bottom of a valley, dominated by a hill called Sainte-Honorine, in the parish of Mélamare, on the old way from Lillebonne to Harfleur, made this place, without other reasons, consider the theater of its martyrdom. We still find his patronage in Sainte-Honorine-des-Pertes, Sainte-Honorine-du-Fay, Sainte-Honorine-de-Ducy, Sainte-Honorine-la-Chardonnette and Ammeville, in the diocese of Bayeux, and in Andreville-la -Hubert in the Diocese of Coutances. The peasants of Bessin once invoked Saint Honorine against fever. A 12th century seal represents the standing saint, bare head, in a tight fitting bliaud with long sleeves, holding in its hand a jewel and an open book. “

in Fifty Norman Saints, historical and archaeological study by Frédéric Alix; Impression Society of Lower Normandy, Caen 1933. [Cinquante Saints Normands, étude historique et archéologique de Frédéric Alix ; Société d’Impression de Basse-Normandie, Caen 1933.] (Worldcat)

Breviary for Sainte Honorine. % 20a% 20sainte 20honorine 20martyre% & f = false dead link (in French)

Roman missal for the memory of Sainte Honorine. Prayer% 20a% 20sainte% 20honorine 20martyre% & f = false free ebook  Missel de Paris, latin et françois.

Saints for survivors of child abuse

To all those whose childhoods were marred by violence, abuse, neglect, and pain.

There has been some backchanneling lately about child abuse, and while I do not wish to shrink from tikkun olam, the moral obligation to remove harm from the world, I also find myself in need of some saints, as a sort of palate cleanser.

Here are a few, specifically associated with child abuse and sexual abuse.

  • Maria Goretti (1890 – 1902) An 11-year-old girl who died as the result of an attempted sexual assault.  Her attacker later repented after visions of being burned by lilies.  She is patron saint of both attackers and those who fall prey to sexual predators.

“St Maria Goretti was mortally wounded with 14 stab wounds. The majority of victims of paedophilia, however, are lacerated within. They are condemned to a slow death – a long haemorrhaging of the spirit – by the interior disfigurement caused by the abuse.

“The victim is disfigured in his/her own eyes. Others might look and see a beautiful, gifted person; but the person who is abused views him/herself with intense and often violent self-loathing. The spirit weeps and the soul bleeds. This can go on for many, many years.

“St Maria fought back against her attacker. He demanded her complicity and she refused….

Lies of the abuser
“Many abused children did not have the strength, or the ability, to resist an abuser. That is no reflection on them whatsoever; but the important thing to remember is that now that they are older and stronger, they can fight back against the abuse. They can close their ears to the terrible lies that the abuser told them about themselves.”

But all of this seems quite medieval, especially when we are talking about people who are using Wikipedia to work out their personal traumas, and sometimes disrupting other peoples’ work flows in the process. Somehow it doesn’t seem quite strong enough.

How about an Amazing Grace, that is both strong and gentle enough to overcome anything.

Amazing Grace

The song was composed by a former slave trader, John Newton, who would have fit right in on Commons.  According to Wikipedia,

“In a culture where sailors habitually swore, Newton was admonished several times for not only using the worst words the captain had ever heard, but creating new ones to exceed the limits of verbal debauchery.”

But Newton turned his life around.  He even tried to become a priest in the Church of England, but was turned down for something even worse than slaving and swearing:

“…his leanings toward evangelism and tendency to socialise with Methodists.

But Newton persisted, and was eventually not only ordained, but married the woman of his dreams. And of course he also wrote Amazing Grace, which “became a popular song used by Baptist and Methodist preachers”. What goes around, comes around.

Here it is sung by Judy Collins. And there is another version by her, performed on the steps of the nation’s capitol in 1993, with the Boys’ Choir Of Harlem.

But what about the doodz, my loyal readers may ask, because by now they know that it’s not just a rhetorical question here, and that we do indeed say stuff about the dudes, sometimes even nice stuff. And boys do get assaulted; and sometimes in a sort of Stockholm syndrome, they may even develop a “betrayal bond” or psychological alliance with the abuser, and continue the cycle of abuse.

So I have scoured the internets and listened to untold numbers of unacceptable renditions of Amazing Grace, to bring you only the best.  And I believe I have found it.  This is UK musician Terry Miles playing a boogie woogie version on a piano in a London train station.

Den Hellige Emilie

Saint Emilie de Rodat (1787-1852) was a French saint, a teacher who established a number of schools.  She was also a mystic.  Her feast day is September 19.  Her Wikipedia article is barely start class.

She is known as a patron of prisoners.

This might be a nice day to remember all the Saudi women who are still in prison and being tortured — for driving a car.


Émilie de Rodat was the first child of Jean-Louis de Rodat, treasurer of France in the generality of Montauban and Henriette de Pomayrols, a family belonging to the old Rouergate nobility. During the French Revolution her family sent her at a young age to leave Druelle and go to live with her maternal grandmother at Ginals Castle, near Villeneuve d’Aveyron, for more safety.

After trying three different religious houses, she did not find a vocation and went to join her grandmother Agathe de Pomayrols in Villefranche-de-Rouergue (Aveyron) in a community, the house of Madame de Saint-Cyr, which had gathered former nuns whose the convents had been dissolved during the Revolution.

After hearing mothers talk about not being able to educate their daughters because of the disappearance of the Ursulines‘ free schools (for St. Ursula, the medieval patron of education), Saint Emilie decided she could teach the children, and founded the  “Congregation of the Holy Family(Soeurs de la Sainte-Famille de Villefranche) .

She founded the congregation of the nuns of the Holy Family on May 3, 1816 with three other young women: Éléonore Dutriac, Marie Boutaric, and Ursule Delbreil. They quickly attracted 40 students.  After several more moves, in 1817 she acquired a former convent of the Cordeliers. (This article is really sketchy.)

Émilie de Rodat dictated her autobiography to her second confessor Pierre-Marie Fabre, which was discovered after her death.

Anonymous 4, Chants for St Ursula



August 31 is the day of the translation of the bones of the Norwegian Saint Sunniva.

Sunniva seems to have been Norway’s first saint, and Selje the first pilgrimage location, the saint’s bones having been discovered in a large cave on the island in 996 by none other than King Olav Tryggvason, who is seen as a key figure in the early Christianization of Norway.

“Translation” means the bones were moved to Bergen.  They were later either destroyed or lost during the Reformation.

The Catholic Holy Communion in the Middle Ages has been characterized as the cultivation of dead bones.

A similar tradition to Saint Sunniva at Selje grew up around the church at Munkeby, associated with Saint Brettiva, a saint that is not found in the standard calendars of saints. So this must be a special local Norwegian saint day, and the bones of a woman must have been found there–this points to an Anglo-Saxon origin for the legends of both saints.

Where the bones were found, there also was the miracle.  Then a church was made for the protection of the holy remains, and a monastery built sometime later, and incorporated into the parish church, to be a place for pilgrims and travelers, also a place for the caretakers of the cult to stay, as the pilgrimage to the church increased. In the case of Sunniva, the first shrine was in the cave itself, dedicated to St. Michael.

In the early days – the golden age of monasteries in Norway – permanent income was scarce and the work at monasteries was great, monks took part in the work in the field, in the forest and in the garden. They were builders, gardeners, and farmers. There were enough nuns skilled with spindle and loom to provide for everyone’s clothing. Later, revenues from gifts and goods increased. Then manual labor was less necessary and the timed prayers were enough.

Sunniva herself was said to have come from Ireland, with three ships, and for the usual reason, escaping an unwanted marriage, in this case to a pagan.

There is quite a bit of art and such associated with this saint, but the uploads are flaky today, I guess that’s what happens with a free blog.

So let me just put up the one I find the most interesting, a series called “Den hellige Sunniva” done by Gøsta af Geijerstam, at the invitation of Sigrid Undset.  

It’s on WorldCat here, and the publisher seems to be the Selje scriptorium, if I am interpreting this correctly (“Selje : Scriptoriet,”). It was first published in German as “Sunniva (München : Verlag Ars Sacra, 1932)”. It is listed here as “Undset, Sigrid, Sunniva. München, J. Müller, 1932”. Another sources offers it as “Sunniva / Sigrid Undset ; Übers. von Martha Näf ; Mit Bildern von Gösta af Geijerstam Von: Undset, Sigrid, 1882-1949 Mitwirkende(r): Näf, Martha | Geijerstam, Gösta af, 1888-1954″ (Sunniva. (Pictures by Gösta af Geijerstam, translated by Martha Näf.) – Munich: J. Müller (1932). 79 p. 8 °”). Some metadata here from library of Norway.

There is a lot more about Sunniva here, she seems to have been not just the first saint, but the most important saint in Norway for a long time, and connected to protection of sailors, a position previously held by Thor. So maybe I will write more, if I have time.  In the meantime here is some bibliography, most with rich visuals.