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Thursday, 3 August 2017

14 Holy helpers history explained

The next story which I have been exploring is ‘Angel of History’ by Rabi Alhmendean
I really enjoyed the story, it’s such an interesting take on a personal reflection of someone’s history and how they view the world and everything that has had an impact on them individually. A big theme of the story is the erasure of history, or of people’s history. Similar to the way you might hold a memory of an important event and then when you speak with someone else who shared the experience you discover that they have a separate view of the sequence of events, or interpret different meaning, or had a particular separate focus on what actually happened. History is experienced individually and this really interests me.

What is interesting is that the lead character Jacob (who I have shown in a separate video here) is slightly unhinged - this is the word that the author used when he did a reading which you can watch here. He does say though that Jacob is unhinged, and in truth he is a little. Some may say insane? Others may say he is an artist. I don’t know if you have ever imagined conversations with yourself or even with other people? I think that is predominately what is being described in those sections of the book. Jacob basically has a series of visits between the Devil and Death.

 The Devil decides to interview some of the fourteen saints (or holy helpers) who appear and reflect on their relationship with Jacob. In the novel Jacob directly references how he is aware that they don’t exist and that he is not suicidal, he’s just, sad? In mourning still? Lost even? And between his dialogue between his fictional allies, guides, influencers and observers he is picking up the pieces and fragment of his past, trying to reorganise them and make sense of them. He is reconstructing it like an archaeologist of his own memories, some are well preserved, and others are battered, warn or even corrupted. He draws from the help of the saints to intervene and highlight certain memories which illuminate moments in his past.

 What’s fun about the writing is that the saints argue about which of Jacob's memories are accurate and what he is willing to actually remember. It’s like reading through monologues between his id, ego and super-ego. What I also love is how he reinterprets the saints themselves giving them individual characters and personalities of his own imagination. For example, the devil dressed all in white, death with painted nails and tattoo sleeves and one of the saints who enjoys wearing high heels and has a rose coloured halo. ‘Yassss Mama!’
His reinterpretation of classic religious figures is refreshing humorous but also rooted in tradition and history. I wanted to celebrate these individually and it lead me to doing some research. Their stories and legends are the Superhero’s of the middle ages. They’re each recognised by their individual miracles, for example Saint Dennis walked around headless and Saint Barbara is often seen with a tower and some lightening. The stories are pretty brutal though actually, more Sin City than your average X-men cartoon.

I would like to summarize these fourteen legends for you. Inspired by Angel of History I have added my own interpretation of events (rather than historic fact). These stories are all rooted in a very serious and in depth research (through google, particularly Wikipedia), I may not get top marks for accuracy but hopefully it will give you a flavour of the trails and merits of each saint encountered. (This also reflects my state of mind on late journeys home on the train…)

In alphabetical order

Name (Alternate) Agathius (Acacius)       Feast day 8 May              Patronage Against headache

I didn’t find too much on this guy, he was arrested on charges for being Christian by Tribune Firmus in Perinthus. Thrace. The poor guy was just minding his own business being a Christian but they didn’t like that so they whipped and tortured him screaming ‘Stop being a Christian!’ Between coughing up blood he was like ‘why?’ Then they got fed up and just beheaded him. Someone decided this made him a martyr because he would not give up on being a Christian. I’ve not found significant symbols that make him stand out against the others saints. But then he might have been an original saint before it became cool?

Name Barbara   Feast day 4 December   Patronage Against fever and sudden death

 Barbara was the daughter of a rich pagan named Dioscorus who was carefully guarded by her father who kept her locked up in a tower. Now Barbara was a bit of a rebel, but because she was locked up in a tower there wasn’t much she could do. So she decided she’d secretly become a Christian to annoy her dad. The dad had other plans though and wanted to marry her off; but she rejected the offer. So she was left locked up in her tower.

Barbara got a bit stir crazy alone in the tower, with only two windows to look out upon the world. Eventually she decided a bit of DIY was in order to spruce up the place. Somehow she installed an extra window in her room to mark the holy trinity. When her dad came back, she kicked off and said she was a Christian; so he replied by drawing his sword to kill her (he wasn’t having any of it), but by the time he drew his sword she had made a quick prayer and created an opening in the tower wall and was miraculously transported to a mountain safely (I think she kept some of her pegan powers but who knows). 

Unfortunately one of her dad’s men (a suck up prefect named Martinianus) caught up with her and tortured her telling her to stop being a Christian.  But she was like ‘No this is who I am, deal with it!’ No matter how much they tortured her, each morning she would wake up fresh as a daisy, totally healed, ready for more. Eventually they got fed up with her and decided to chop off her head. The dad was like ‘recover from that then!’- But she couldn’t, or didn’t want to give him the satisfaction (she just thought she’d lay low in heaven for a bit, get away from all the drama). Once she was totally dead she must have had a quick word with the big fella because her dad was struck by lightning on his way home later that day. So Saint Barbara is often pictured holding a tower with some lighting around her.

Name (alternative name) Blaise (Blase, Blasius)   Feast day 3 February         Patronage Against illness of the throat and for protection of domestic animals.

Blaise was pretty cool, he studied philosophy and became a bishop. When he did a bunch of miracles started popping up around him like pimples on a pubescent teen. He was handing them out like flyers to the best party in town, church on Sunday (obvs). People mainly wanted all the free stuff, he was giving out cures and blessings, because back then they didn’t have the NHS or the internet.  The emperor Licinius got it in his head that this was all too much so he decided on a blanket order of kill the Christians, (they were showing him up and making him look bad). So he got a governor mate to go get Blaise and drag his ass back to the capital to throw him in jail.
Blaise got caught and his ass was slowly being transported across country to the capital. Along the way there a couple of things happened. A mum got in the way and was like- ‘before you hurl his ass in jail, ‘Do you mind sorting out my kid? He’s kinda choking to death right.’ The guards take a look and her little boy literally blue in the face choking to death of a fish-bone, ‘He’s my only son as well’, she added in for good measure.  The guards shrugged and let Blaise get on his feet, Blaise did his thing and the kid was cured straight away.  Later on they passed another poor woman who only had a pig. 

The poor pig suddenly got seized by a wolf. Blaize caught this in the corner of his eye and was like ‘ Dude, I’m a bishop? Don’t be eating that pig in from of me!’ So the wolf drops the pig and the little porker squealed back to his momma. But still they (eventually) threw his ass into jail. It was really dark in there and Blaise never actually liked the dark (he was a little afraid of it). Luckily for him the woman whose pig he had saved, had a twinkling that he might not like the dark (mother intuition). 

She sensed that he was a nice young man who liked the light. So she sent her pig bringing two wax candles to keep him company. Blaise was kinda hoping for a bit more than that but he never actually asked, the pig handed over the gear and he was left alone with the two candles. Anyway regardless, the governor, unable to make Blaise renounce his faith, beat him with a stick, ripped his flesh with iron combs, and beheaded him. So now if you see a Saint in a stain glass window with two wax candles in a cross hanging out with a pig (usually a boar, the pig’s domestic profile got embellished over time) you’ll know that it’s Saint Blaise.

Name Catherine of Alexandria Feast day 25 November              Patronage Against sudden death and unmarried women.

A horny Emperor Maxi was bored and at a click of his fingers decided he fancied a bit of something young and pure. So he looked up tinder and ordered a young Christian woman to come to his palace to become his mistress. However the young woman he chose swiped the other way and was like ‘No, you’re rancid go away’. The emperor was really petty and didn’t take the rejection well so he banished her and took her house and handed over to a pimp to set up a new whore house.

Maxi still had a massive horn going for Catherine and gave her the ultimatum. He said ‘Look either you marry me or you die?’ and she replied. ‘I’m already married to Jesus so I can’t marry you?’  So he wanted to really hurt her and decided to use a breaking wheel to snap her body into bits. However when it came time to kill her off; she strolled up to the wheel and gently touched it with one finger. As soon as she touched the wheel it shattered into millions of tiny pieces. This made the Emperor crazy with rage and so pick up the nearest sword and chopped off her head, killing her instantly- and that’s why we have Catherine wheels on guy folks night. 
When you next see a spinning wheel full of sparkle and colour whizzing around in circles be reminded it represents the fact that a horny emperor was petty and wanted the slow and gruesome torture of a woman named Catherine.

Name Christopher (Christophorus)           Feast Name 25 July              Patronage Against bubonic plague and dangers while traveling
For those of you called Christopher this will be of particular interesting for you. Your name basically means Christ Carrier.

Christ was really tall for his age about 7.5 feet in fact (really big feet).  He served a king of Canaan. He knew that the king was scared of the devil. Chris did some homework and found out what the devil was afraid of and discovered that the devil was afraid of Christ. He then searched for him to see if he would help him take on the devil to please the king. He eventually stumbled on a little hermit who told him to become a carrier across a river to give people safe passage. 

One day a little kid rocks up to the river and is like ‘Hey Mr, can I get a lift?’ 
Chris says sure and they start crossing. As they carry on the river starts getting choppy and it looks like a storm is brewing, Chris wasn’t worried because the kid looked so small but when he started carry him, he got really heavy! The kid starts wriggling around and water is getting up his nose, it gets a bit scary but eventually they both make it over safe. 
He puts the kid down and say
‘That was not cool dude you nearly killed the pair of us, what were you playing at? Why were you so heavy anyways? You’re a tiny little guy- how come you were so heavy?’

The Kid replied: “I’m Jesus! You just had the weight of the world’s sins on your shoulders!  Chris ends up going back to the king and says
‘I’m going hang out with Christ now because he’s the business, I just had the creepiest experience with him and now I've totally converted.’  And the king is sick of all his followers leaving him for Jesus so he tries to place nice and gives him two beautiful models to play with. But then Chris just tells them both how good Jesus is and they convert to Christian as well! This really knarked off the King and he chopped off Christopher’s head. 
The king’s actions just fast tracked Chris as a Martyr and now he's the patron saint of travel.

Name Cyriacus  Feast Day 8 August         
Patronage against temptation on the death-bed
Cyriacus was a seriously rich fella. He woke up one morning after a really heavy night out in Rome, looked at himself in the mirror and said to himself
‘What am I doing with my life?’ He kicked everyone out of his home, renouncing his material wealth, gave it away to the poor. At some point after he had this epiphany he realized he could exorcise demons as well.

 He then spent the rest of his life trying to sort out the slave situation in Rome until the Emperor Maximian had enough of his meddling’s and decided to set an example of him and chopped of his head.

Name (Alternative) Denis (Dionysius) Feast Day   9 October              Patronage Against headache
Denis was a total smart ass. He had seen what happened to all these other saint’s and decided he needed to have a word with the big fella. He said ‘God every one of your peeps are dying because of this beheading stuff. There has got to be something done about this otherwise your message is never going to get out to your people. We ain’t no good to you dead! I need some protection, hook me up!’

Sure enough Denis was right and eventually when he was the bishop of Parisli he got martyred by beheading from a sword. Unfortunately; God hadn’t worked everything out in time so Denis was only able to walk around for a few miles with his head in his hands (and not figuratively)and eventually die. But the plan worked, whilst Denis was holding his own head he decided to give the performance of his career preaching a sermon to most of Paris. As a result God, was super impressed. So he rewarded Denis by making him a saint. Now every time you see a headless dude in a stain glass window you know it’s Dennis.

Name (alternative name Erasmus (Elmo) Feast day 2 June              Patronage Against intestinal ailments

Poor Elmo he had a rough ride to become a saint. It was brutal. Elmo was a good guy and tried to stay out of trouble and even hid for seven years. But a angel came and visited him because he totally had a thing for him and was all ‘Sometimes you have to stand up to these bullies, step it up Elmo!’ and well when he did, but it didn’t work out so well. He got himself caught up with some soldiers, who had been on steroids for years and years and decided to really whale on him. He was bound with chains and thrown into prison, but an angel appeared and helped him escape.

 That made the emperor so angry that he had Erasmus enclosed in a barrel full of protruding spikes, and the barrel was rolled down a hill. The angel felt well guilty and waited at the bottom of the hill and healed Elmo. The emperor got all his army on recapturing Elmo and wanted to make sure he knew who was boss. He basically had Elmo beaten and whipped, then coated with pitch and set alight, this really messed Elmo up but he survived. The Emperor needed a minute, he realised he needed to step up his game. So he had Elmo thrown into prison with the intention of letting him die of starvation. But of course that sneaky angel managed to help ensure Elmo made his escape.

He then preached for a while before he was caught and tortured, again

Elmo finally had enough and was like ‘God I can’t take this anymore, at first it was funny but now it’s just weird can you just let him kill me already?’ This all happened as the Emperor slit open his stomach and started wrapping his intestines around a windlass. So God snapped his fingers let Elmo croak and released him to heaven. The emperor was happy, Elmo was happy and the angel was happy. So every time you see a dude holding a windlass (a bit like a spit for a carvery) that will be Elmo, he's holding the device that kills him, it's super weird like this whole story but at least he's easy to identify.  Somewhere along in history the story got twisted and now a bunch of Saliors decided to adopt Elmo as their patron saint as well. (no clue why)

Name (Alternative Name) Eustace (Eustachius, Eustathius)              Feast day 20 September Patronage Against family discord

Eustace was a total bad ass general. At the time he was actually called Placidus, not Eustace, his name change came later and happened for a reason. Killed a load of people and well respected and served the emperor Trajan.  Anyway they were hanging out on a hunt and Placidus got lost (too much booze on the trip) came across a stag and saw a vision of a crucifix lodged between the stag's antlers (It was a twigs but he was really messed up by this point and it looked really convincing.)  Anyway in his state, he immediately converted to Christianity (or stag worship, his motives aren’t clear, he knew at the time what he was doing though). 
Placidus had an idea. He decided that to prove how devoted he was regardless of the booze. So he changed his name his name to Eustace (meaning he was "well stable") So his wife was convinced that if he was willing to change his name to prove how stable he was, it must be true. So she let her kids and herself get Baptised, 
God caught wind that Eustace had done all this and he was even less convinced than the wife. So God introduced a series of calamities to test his will. His wealth was stolen; his servants died of a plague; and when the family took a sea-voyage, the ship's captain kidnapped his wife. 
He was seriously messed up by it all but for some reason he still kept his faith. God looked down and thought, fair enough he’s alright and Eustace was quickly restored to his former prestige and reunited with his family.

The story gets a little messed up after that.  Eustace is told later on he has to make a pagan sacrifice. The emperor Hadrian finds out and decides to take revenge gathers up the family and throws them inside a bronze statue of a bull or an ox and roasts them to death like that scene from 300. 
So now when you see a guy praying to a stag with a crucifix in-between his head, it could be Eustace, but a couple of other saints had the same vision too (It was early AD everyone was drinking in the woods, people saw all sorts of things), so be careful though you don’t want to mix up your saints.

Name George (Georgius)             Feast day 23 April              Patronage For the health of domestic animals

Not to be confused with George and his Dragon. This story really hates on the dragon, never tries to see his point of view and is basically villainized by the media. Basically the dragon had an agreement that he could eat some people through lottery based system. It was all above board he got it signed off by the king, but then, his kid daughter got drafted and suddenly the king had an issue with the system. He totally stitched up Dragon and set George on him to kill him.
 George managed to use his trusted lance called Ascalon (after the Levantine city of Ashkelon) and managed to strike the dragon. The dragon was totally unprepared, it wasn’t a part of the arrangement. George took advantage of the situation and bound the dragon. The dragon protested and told George that it wasn’t his fault, he was order by the king to eat a bunch of people who had got him angry in the past and he was actually protecting the kingdom by stopping any intruders come in. 
The Dragon claimed he didn’t know why the princess was their but he expected that someone had fiddled the lottery to get revenge on the king. The Dragon even said that he preferred sheep, and George was a big fan of lamb so he totally understood where he was coming from. So they agreed that they would all go back to the town and get things cleared up. George untied the dragon and the Princess and they headed back to the town. George and the dragon started talking. 
They really began to bound over cooking and George even though he was going keep him as a pet. The daughter of the king, got really jealous of the situation having expected her hero to come save her and kill the dragon. 

But she was also dead smart, so she said that they should keep the dragon bound and gagged so the town’s people wouldn’t get scared.  George and the Dragon thought this was probably a good idea. So when they got back to the town, everyone crowded around. The princess took charge, she said how messed up the dragon was and got her to do all this weird stuff she didn’t want to do (It was really graphic 18+ stuff which everyone was horrified by). 

There was no way a princess would know about that sort of thing. The town folk got really worked up and they said she should kill the dragon. 

George was about to protest and ask they let the dragon defend himself but the Princess had already chopped off his head.  Several years later the princess realised what she did was really immature and could face what she had masterminded. So instead she convinced everyone to celebrate Saint George and so he became another saint. God thought dragons were cool and would make his image look good now rocking up a fair bunch of saints so agreed and added George (and the dragon) to his crew.

Giles (Aegidius) Feast Day 1 September Patronage Against plague, for a good confession, and for cripples, beggars and blacksmiths

So Giles basically was a hermit and lived in the forest with his only friend a deer. They were both just chillin minding their own business. One day however, the king’s huntsmen were tearing it up in their patch and came across the deer, Giles tried to save the life of his best mate the deer and took an arrow for her.

Margaret            Feast Day 20 July            Patronage During childbirth, and escape from devils

Margaret’s story is all over the place. Basically the long and the short of it is, Margret became a Christian, got abandoned by her family. A Governor gets wind that there is a young woman without the protection of her father to get in his way.
 He rocks up to her place is says they should get married but she refuses so he cruelly tortures her, however when all this happens some random events happen which I have no idea how it relates but it just occurred and then she grew a name for herself from these miracles. The most notable story is at some point santan rocked up and decided take the form of a dragon.
 I’m not sure why? But he then decided to eat Margret all in one bite. This was a mistake however because Margret was hold a cross which burnt the insides of his belly and so she was coughed up quicker than a hair ball. It this particular event which a lot of artists held onto and can often be recognised coming out of a dragon like a scene from alien (only its Margret and her cross coming out of the dragon).

Pantaleon (Panteleimon)             Feast Day 27 July              Patronage For physicians, and against cancer and tuberculosis

Pantaleon was a Physician for the Emperor Maxi and damn good at his job. He thought he knew it all and didn’t need christ to heal people. Then his mate Saint Hermolaus swings by and makes him realise that he’s been acting like a fool and that Christ was well better than a physician. 
He did a few good deed like healing the blind and when his dad died he freed all his slaves and gave up his wealth so a load of people really liked him. The emperor caught wind of this and thought it was all magic so wouldn’t have it. So he sentenced him to death. Now Pantaleon was pretty resilient to all his attempts. He was chucked into a giant cauldron of molten lead and survived unharmed. The fires when out and the lead when cold (but somehow didn’t stick to him which is a miracle in itself).
 Then they tried to burn him and did a pretty good job. Christ appeared but in the form of Hermolaus and healed Pantaleon. Another time they threw him overboard at sea with a load of stones but he just floated along like it was nothing. They tried throwing him to wild beasts but the animals just fawned at him. They even tried the breaking wheel but all the ropes snapped. Finally they tried chopping off his head, but even this didn’t work and the sword just bent. Bored by all the torture Pantaleon declared that he had had enough told the nearest guy to chop off his head. When the fella did instead of blood his head poured a white liquid like milk (like a robot). 
Because Pantaleon had so many forms of torture no one knew how to depicted him, so instead of focusing on his torture they decided to go with depicting him with a physician box instead, that way know one would get confused.
Name (alternative name) Vitus (Guy)       Feast Day 15 June              Patronage Against epilepsy, lightning and for protection of domestic animals

During the sixth and seventh centuries a purely legendary narrative of their martyrdom appeared which appears to be based upon other legends, especially on the legend of Poitus, and ornamented with accounts of fantastic miracles. According to this legend, which has no apparent historical value, Vitus was a 7-year-old son of a senator of Lucania (some versions make him 12 years old). 

He resisted his father's attempts, which included various forms of torture, to make him turn away from his faith. He fled with his tutor Modestus and Modestus's wife Crescentia, who was Vitus's nanny, to Lucania.

 He was taken from there to Rome to drive out a demon which had taken possession of a son of the Emperor Diocletian. This he did, and yet, because he remained steadfast in the Christian faith, he was tortured together with his tutors. By a miracle an angel brought back the three to Lucania, where they died from the tortures they had endured. Three days later Vitus appeared to a distinguished matron named Florentia, who then found the bodies and buried them in the spot where they were.

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