Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy whichever saint's day you choose

You are probably expecting that I will tell you some new and bizarre factoid about Saint Valentine, today being the anniversary of his beheading in 269 AD during the persecutions of Claudius the Goth, so named on account of his predilection for frightening black mascara. Seriously.

But I am assuming you already know everything there is to know about Saint Valentine and the hagiographic confusion surrounding his feast day on account of there having been two Valentines, so I thought I would hark back a couple of days (to the 11th, to be exact) which was the feast of Saint Gobnata who is not celebrated with greeting cards or pink heart-shaped cookies or 11,500 tons of Candy Hearts or 16,100 tons if the Necco [New England Confectionary Company] factories work seven-day weeks. Unlike St. Valentine, who is honored wherever the vast worldwide network of Hallmark has spread its tentacles, St. Gobnait or Gobnata or Gobhnet (you can see why my sister might sympathize with her) is known in a small corner of County Cork, Ireland.
Back in the 6th century, Gobnata was an abbess (or maybe a cowgirl) who protected her church’s sacred grounds from her enemies by flinging her beehives upon them. In another version, she is warding off cattle rustlers with the bees. And in a version worthy of Ovid, as Gobnata shakes the bees loose they are miraculously transformed into soldiers, and the hive becomes a brass helmet.
So celebrate.

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