Saturday 25 July 2020

cuckoo for cucuphas

Despite the Phoenician name meaning “he who likes to joke,” we could find little humour in the hagiography of the saint venerated on this day in France and Spain (though some places postponed until 27 July due to the feast of his compatriot Saint James, the Santiago).
From a wealthy merchant family in Carthage, Cucuphas (*269 – †304) travelled to Barcelona to find converts and aid the Christian community through trade and commerce, gaining a reputation as charitable and a miracle worker. Martyred during the Diocletian persecutions, Cucuphas and his companions were imprisoned by the Roman governor of Iberia, whom unwisely ordered him tortured to prolong his death since the succession of torments backfired through heavenly intervention. The saint was finally dispatched with the coup de grรขce of a sword to the throat. Though the association is lost to the ages, Cucuphas is the patron of those suffering from kyphosis (hunchbacks) and petty thieves—and there is a folk practise, arising presumably from the litany of tortures he endured, of praying to the saint for the return of misplaced belongings—symbolically making knots in handkerchief that represent the testicles of the Cucuphas and threatening not to untie them until the lost object is found.