February 9th, 2006


Another patron

St. Cuthbert, Old English bishop and hermit, has become one of my patrons for Wilderstead. I've just found another appropriate patron for us woodland types:

St. Gallus was born in Ireland in 550, and became a monk there. He was one of the twelve companions of St. Columbanus, missionary to what is now Switzerland. (St. Gallen is named for him.)

Among other tidbits from his personal history are the fact that he was important in the lives of the local schoolboys as a teacher and mentor -- AND, he converted a bear, which helped him build his hermitage. His symbol is the bear, and appears on various Swiss coats of arms of localities associated with him.

How cool is that? A missionary hermit teaching youth, living in the woods with a tame bear? He's my kind of guy! (caoiminolorica will dig him just because he's Irish.)

St. Gallus died on 16 October, 620 (his feast day). Googling him produced no references in the standard "patron saint" indexes. In fact, to get a whole article just on him, I had to call up a page in German.

Anyway, friends of Wilderstead can now expect two Lesser Festivals to be observed at Wilderstead: St. Cuthbert on March 20; St. Gallus on October 16.

At least Balaam's ass got its facts straight

I was looking up something online about Lammas, the August harvest festival whose roots go back to before Christianity. The particular article I was reading was by an admirer (if not a practitioner) of Wicca or something. And it included this bizarre statement:
Although the Roman Church moved St. Catherine’s feast day all around the calendar with bewildering frequency, its most popular date was Lammas. (They also kept trying to expel this much-loved saint from the ranks of the blessed because she was mythical rather than historical, and because her worship gave rise to the heretical sect known as the Cathari.)

I don't know about moving her feast day; I do know that I've read that St. Catherine herself was historical, though the details of her biography are as fanciful as many another early saint. Certainly, I know of no attempt in medieval times to restrict interest in her, or to "expel" her from "the ranks of the blessed."

Be that as it may, though, the whole of this writer's credibility is just blown out the window with that mind-boggling reference to the Cathari. The Cathari were not named for St. Catherine. The term goes back to the early Church, and is derived from Greek katharoi, "the pure ones." It was a sarcastic reference to those who thought themselves holier than ordinary Christians, as we would talk today about "Puritans."

Really, the make-it-up-as-you-go-along "scholarship" of the new pagans is embarrassing. I know more about real paganism than they do! As an admirer of all things ancient and Northern, I've read some of the neo-pagan sites; like Tolkien and Lewis, I appreciate the elegiac spirit of the old North and the theory of courage, not to mention the culture and languages. But the attempt to make a modern religion out of the ancient cults simply produces a pastiche of the real thing. For that matter, all the updated paganisms I've seen are heavily indebted to Christianity for their forms and attitudes.

One might regret, along with the Emperor Julian, that the "pale Galilean" has conquered the ancient cults, but they are dead past reviving. Christianity's only real competitors these days are radical Islam and post-modern secularism.