Sunday, June 1, 2008

Saint Wistan's hair

People get weird about hair.
Victorians collected their lovers’ tresses and used them for art-under-glass. Read any stash of nineteenth century love letters and you will find yourself inhaling very old hair clippings.
Some people gag when confronted with flowing locks.
Others can’t imagine ever cutting their hair.
SAINT WISTAN (namesake of W.H. Auden, btw) has an exceptionally weird hair story.
Even Butler describes it as a “very extravagant miracle.”
Wistan (also Wystan) was murdered for having the temerity to oppose a marriage between his widowed mother and his godfather. Some say this opposition was for dynastic reasons, others that it was for spiritual reasons. Either way, it is redolent of Hamlet.
But that was just the beginning. Every year, on the first of June, a CROP OF HUMAN HAIR sprouts in the spot where Wystan met his end (He was scalped). It is visible for only an hour. What Butler finds exceptional is that there is contemporary verification (9th century) of the miracle, by one Thomas Marledge, an abbot and “reputed man of credit”. He and his fellows saw the hair, “felt it with their hands, and kissed it.”

1 comment:

Richard Day said...

Hi, I have been aware of the human hair miracle of Sta Wistan and so visited the churchyard which stands on the spot where Wistan was murdered (Wistow in Leicestershire, UK). As today is St Wistan's day (1st June) I was there at 5am this morning, but to no avail finding only damp grass growing! It's a beautiful, truly tranquil spot that is definitely worth a visit (see here: especially on a day like today