Thursday, 19 May 2022


With a wildly popular cult following until eventually being overshadowed by the martyred Thomas Becket, Saint Dunstan, cleric, scribe, artist, blacksmith, brewer and advisor to many kings is feted on this day on the anniversary of his death in 988 (*909). Entering monastic life in the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey in the company of Irish monks who occupied the site, young Dunstan excelled at all forms of craftsmanship and scholarship and was soon appointed to the court of Athelstan. Palace intrigues ensued and other courtiers grew jealous of the noviciate’s influence and sought to disgrace Dunstan with accusations of witchcraft. Distaste for politics caused Dunstan to return to Glastonbury and build a small hermitage and during this interlude before eventually being recalled to London and then acclaimed archbishop of Canterbury as he got to know God, Dunstan reportedly developed a relationship with the Devil as well, rebuffing temptation several times, arranging for the late frosts of Franklin Nights (to fall around his future feast day) to spoil the cider harvest so his own beer might be more in demand and at the Devil’s request shod and unshod one of his hooves. The ill-advised experience turned out to be too painful for the Prince of Darkness and is apparently an enduring trauma as he cannot pass through a threshold under a horseshoe—the origin supposedly of the lucky symbol.

Monday, 16 May 2022

brendan the navigator

Counted as one of the twelve apostles of Ireland and best remembered for his ocean-voyage to find the Isle of the Blessed (see previously), the monastic saint from Clonfert is feted on this day in the Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox traditions. Although the Vita and Navigatio from the early eighth century mostly attest to his faith and devotion to the gospel and give scant details on his seafaring, a rich mythology has formed around the adventures of Brendan (Brรฉnainn moccu Alti) and his crew, retinue and their search for Eden—which though mostly taken for religious allegory and to incorporate Christian elements into the Irish custom of the sea-going sojourn, there is some evidence in the account that they might have encountered hitherto unknown lands and icebergs and reportedly Christopher Columbus studied his tack and jibe to find favourable winds to carry him past the Canaries. Patron to the dioceses of Kerry and his home of Clonfert, Brendan is also the protector of mariners, boatmen, elderly adventurers and whales—due to one legend of them making landfall only to discover it was in fact a great sea monster called Jasconius.

Saturday, 14 May 2022

matthias the apostle

Formerly venerated on the sixth day before the Calends of March but with the calendar revisions of 1969, the commemoration of the Apostle Matthias, nominated by an assembly of disciples rather than chosen by Jesus himself to replace Judas Iscariot, was translated to this day as to take the celebration out of Lent and closer to the historical date (and as patron-protector against smallpox, coincides with the first inoculation administered by Edward Jenner in 1796 on eight-year-old James Phipps, the son of the family gardener). Though there are scant canonical details regarding his life, tradition places Matthias on the Caspian coast and evangelising to the people of the region that is modern day Georgia. Matthias’ patronage also includes tailors, carpenters, Billings Montana, Gary Indiana, Trier and alcoholics.

Monday, 25 April 2022

san marco

Variously identified as the cousin of Barnabas and textually as the anonymous water-bearer of the Last Supper and the Naked Fugitive during Jesus' arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane (see also), the Mark the Evangelist, fรชted on this day, would go on to author one of the gospels—by traditional accounts—and to found the episcopal See of Alexandria, among the most important of early Christianity. Sharing the iconography of the winged lion with the saint, he is venerated in Venice as the city’s and thalassocracy’s patron and in Lithuania, where he is regarded as the guardian of the harvest and there is a general fast prescribed as a well as a prohibition on disturbing the earth as to give the land a rest before the planting season begins. 25 April is a national holiday throughout Italy, but not as Saint Mark’s Day and rather as marking the 1945 anniversary of the liberation of the country by the resistance movement against the Nazi occupation and the puppet government of the fascists.

Monday, 21 March 2022


Fรชted on this day prior to the calendar reforms of 1970 on the occasion of his passing in 547 (*480), twin brother of Saint Scholastica and patron protector of Officers at Arms, spelunkers, Europe nettles and architects Benedict of Nursia is venerated in all Christian communions as the founder of Western monasticism. After establishing communities in Lazio near Rome, Benedict went to the mountains and founded an order at Monte Cassino that sought balance and moderation with his Rule promulgated in 516 that outlaid a hierarchy in the brotherhood with an abbot in charge. With chapters including both spiritual and administrative guidance, the communities adhered to the golden rule of “Ora et Labora”—prayer and work, with the days quartered and eight hours each allotted for prayer and study, sleep, manual work and charity.

Thursday, 17 February 2022

to know wisdom and instruction—to perceive the words of understanding

Venerated as a saint in multiple faith traditions, Mesrop Mashtots (ี„ีฅีฝึ€ีธีบ ี„ีกีทีฟีธึ), early medieval linguist, theologian and statesman, passing away on this day in 440 (*362), was the inventor of the Armenian alphabet—the first phrase rendered in that new script said to be the above passage from the Book of Proverbs. Further credited by some scholars as the creator of the Caucasian Albanian and Georgian forms of writing, Mashtot’s contribution first in royal court in service to the king and later after taking holy orders ensured that Armenian literature and identity was preserved rather than being absorbed by its larger neighbouring empires of Persia and Syria. Finalised around the year 405, the Greek-modelled system endured in its original form of thirty-six letters until the twelfth century when three additional ones were added—for f- and o-sounds, the Armenian word for alphabet, aybuben (ีกีตีขีธึ‚ีขีฅีถ) comes from the first two letters, ayb (ีก) and ben (ีข).

Friday, 11 February 2022

summa theologica

Via the weekly anthology of Web Curios, we get this nice appreciation and reminder that the resources underpinning the Internet are not self-sustaining artefacts but require care and maintenance—even if only for academic pursuits and no aspirations for virality or attempt to monetise or capitalise on the scholarship of its subject matter as the Non-Fungible Testament—in revisiting the venerable repository the Internet Sacred Text Archive, which for twenty-three years has weathered all sort of trends and beaten back the spectre of the Digital Dark Ages to curate and present foundational texts in comparative religious and folklore traditions.

Monday, 31 January 2022

civitas germiniana

Venerated on this day in the occasion of the translation of his body and relics in 1106 to his namesake San Gimignano, Saint Geminianus was a fourth-century deacon and later Bishop of Modena. Rarely referenced outside of the region, his iconography usually depicts him as either a bishop bearing a model of his city or as a man calming the sea and residents credit his intercession to both sparing them from marauding Huns by shrouding the towers with a dense fog and casting out a demon from the daughter of the Emperor Jovian, the exorcism reportedly prompting Jovian to reverse some of the policies of suppression on the exercise of Christianity by his predecessor Julian.

Tuesday, 16 November 2021

the gospel according to matthew

Venerated in the Eastern Church on this day according to the Julian calendar (21 September in Western Christianity), the tax collector (among his patronage—including also accountants, bankers and broadly civil servants) turned evangelist would have been universally despised as a collaborator with the Roman occupation and garnered criticism for Jesus for associating with such a person. Although the Biblical accounts are anonymous and only attributed to the titular superscription, Saint Matthew is attested to collecting oracles—that is, sayings—of Christ, with some crediting the Apostle with the authorship of the Q Source—from the German Quell or Source Source, a hypothetical canonical rubric of quotations, ghost-written by an angel, that would account for similarities among the first books of the New Testament.

Wednesday, 20 October 2021

artemius of antioch

Invoked for relief of hernias and maladies afflicting the testicles—for no ostensible reason that we could divine—Roman general Flavius Artemius is feted on this day, venerated as a saint in the Catholic rite and a megalomartyr in the Orthodox church. Though the chronology seems somewhat off, Artrmius supposedly played an influential role in the court of Constantine and fought heroically in the Battle of the Milvian Bridge (later placed in charge of missions seeking relics and recovering the bodies of the apostles), only to be later put to death by the emperor’s successor, his cousin Julian (called the apostate) that rejected Constantine’s state sanction for Christianity and returned the empire to pagan pantheism.

Monday, 26 July 2021

hanna montana

Only identified by name in apoccryphal books of the Bible and Qur’an and generally only identified as the wife of Imran / Joachim, Saint Anne (along with her husband) are venerated on this day in the Catholic Church, though the maternal grandmother of Jesus is revered in many spiritual traditions and is regarded as intercessor and patroness of grandparents, Britany, Canada, Sri Lanka and Detroit, lace makers, second-hand clothes dealers, seamsters, teachers, sterility (due to her miraculous birth of Mary at an advanced age and thought barren) and cabinet-makers.

Sunday, 27 June 2021

our lady of perpetual help

The Marian aspect as represented in a fifteenth-century Byzantine icon, the Cretan artefact held in a Roman monastery since, is venerated with devotionals on this day as patron-protector of Haiti, parts of Valencia, the Philippines and the diocese of Leeds. Against a gold background representing the Kingdom of God and that there was no place not filled with the holy spirit, the Hodegetria (Greek for ‘She who points the Way’) presents her child, frightened (symbolised by his losing one sandal) and buffeted by tiny archangels that are bearing instruments of the Passion, on the left the lance and sponge of the Crucifixion and on the right, a cross and nails. All figures are captioned: MP-ฮ˜ฮฅ, Mother of God; ฮŸฮ‘ฮœ and ฮŸฮ‘ฮ“ Michael and Gabriel (with hortative modifiers) and the christogram IC-XC for Jesus Christ. The ritual novena prayers recited before an image of the icon include thanksgiving, petitions, prayers for the sick and divine praise.

Monday, 24 May 2021

joanna, wife of chuza

Also identified by her Roman name Junia (Greek: แผธฯ‰ฮฌฮฝฮฑ, Ivana), the figure mentioned in the Gospel of Luke who accompanied Jesus and the disciples and having brought spices to the tomb is counted among the myrrhbearers is feted on this day. Associated with Chuza, the caretaker of the home of tetrarch Herod Antipas, Joanna was cured of “evil spirits and infirmities” and became a devout follower and shares her feast day with the folk saint (see also) Sarah, a figure venerated by the Romani as their patron, identified as servant of one of the Three Marys and accompanied her to the Camargue to escape persecution.

Thursday, 13 May 2021


Meaning sweetness and sharing her feast day with the apparition of Our Lady of Fรกtima, the second century saint compelled to pray to a sculpture of Jupiter which turned to dust by her faith, for which she was sentenced to be torn asunder by wild animals. Glyceria expired, however, before she could be served. Interestingly, especially in light of the minor craze that erupted a few years ago over the chance to drink the mummy juice—sewage found in Egyptian sarcophagi, the relics of Glyceria are counted among the myroblytes, those whose remains (sometimes their icons as well as their coffins) exude the holy and healing Oil of the Saints.

Thursday, 25 March 2021

the penitent thief

As opposed to the impertinent thief to his left who challenges Jesus to save them both and prove that he is the Christ, the condemned robber to his right named by the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus (see previously) as Dismas asks that Jesus remember him in heaven. To the latter, Jesus replied “Amen I say to you today you will be with me in Paradise,” who venerated with a feast on this day in the Roman Martyrology and on Good Friday itself in the Eastern Orthodox Church and is the patron of the incarcerated, especially those sentenced for death, and the contrite.

Thursday, 18 March 2021


gambrinus/ninkasi: five-thousand-year old industrial scale brewery in Egypt makes archaeologist rethink the history of beer, previously believed only to be made on a large scale with Christian monasteries  

star-fiend: one member of the pool of “human computers” realised that there were galaxies beyond our own by studying depth of field on photographic plates with a magnifying glass rather than a telescope  

pod squad: whales collaborated and learned to outsmart their human hunters in the nineteenth century—via Kottke, blogging for twenty-three years now 

dyi: join Van Neistat, The Spirited Man, for some fantasy fixing  

maslenitsa: celebrating Shrovetide ahead of Orthodox Lent  

vier-farben-satz: Colorbrewer generates ideal schemes for maps and data visualisations

Wednesday, 17 March 2021


Patron of funeral directors, morticians and undertakers, Joseph of Arimathea was fรชted on this day according to the traditional Martyrologium Romanum but is now celebrated on 31 August along with his fellow secret disciple Nicodemus who helped prepare the body of Jesus for burial. Not much more is related about these wealthy (Joseph was appointed Nobilis Decurio, Minister of the Mines), covert followers in the Gospels who sought permission from Pontius Pilate to care for and prepare the corpse with spices that Nicodemus purchased after crucifixion and see to his entombment. The title refers to collective term given these two men and the Three Marys when they return to find the tomb empty. Further embellishment subsequently connects Joseph with the Arthurian cycle and the Matter of Britain, placing the saint among the first missionaries on the Isles (reportedly teaching the Cornish how to excavate tin) and of course guardian of the Holy Grail.

Monday, 15 March 2021

holy lance

Prior to the reforms of 1969 to the Calendar of Saints, a Roman soldier and first convert to Christianity was venerated on this day, since observed on 15 October. The soldier is anonymous in the Gospels and started out more as a Promethean figure, confined to a cave where a lion would maul him nightly only to have his body restored in the morning and condemned to this fate until the end of time for having stabbed Jesus on the Cross, and was given the name Longinius in the apocraphal testament of Nicodemus, Latinising ฮปฯŒฮณฯ‡ฮท lonche, the Greek for lance—thus the Lance of Lance (see previously). The story is further developed in the legendarium of the Holy Grail and is considered to have made the fifth of the Holy Wounds of the stigmata.

Saturday, 26 December 2020

boxing day

Probably an epithet meaning “the crowned one” rather than an actual given name (compare to Saint Corona), this second Christmas marks Saint Stephen’s Day, venerated as the protomartyr (*1-†36) of the Christian faith, the early bishop of Jerusalem stoned to death (lapidation) for his blasphemy against the Sanhedrin, which was witnessed by Saul called Paul whom subsequently spread his sacrifice and steadfastness. As possibly a painful reminder, Stephen’s patronage includes bricklayers and is invoked against headaches. Further as responsible for the distribution of alms for the poor in his office, Stephen’s feast day became associated with opening the charity boxes and donating gratuities to service people and the needy, but aligned with—sometimes supplanted by Black Friday (it took off when the US and Canadian dollars reached parity), in many Commonwealth nations, it has become a day with emphasis on shopping and sales.

Friday, 18 December 2020

saint sebastian

Definitely the saint portrayed as the thirstiest, this captain of the Praetorian guard that prudently, sensibly hid his Christianity from Diocletian is venerated on this day in the Orthodox Church on the occasion of his martyrdom in 288, born around 256. Once his faith was revealed, the emperor (previously) ordered him lashed to a tree and shot with arrows. The firing squad departed, leaving Sebastian for dead, but he was able to miraculously recover—with the help of Saint Irene, widow of one of his previously martyred companions. Later Sebastian ambushed and berated Diocletian for his sinful ways and petitioned for better treatment for the Christian community. 

The emperor was first taken aback by such open and direct criticisms, especially from one who was supposed to be dead but soon regained his composure and ordered the saint to be cudgelled to death—probably not as pretty of a picture. Patron of the persecuted, archers and athletes, this Apollonian figure is also the protector of the plague stricken, due to a conflation with Hermes during medieval times, whom was said to deal diseased arrows from on high, and possibly because of his initial recovery which granted him a second martyrdom (called a sagittation and a fairly common theme) and that the wounds resembled the pox and buboes, whose appearance was alarming but not always a sign of certain death.