Archive for May, 2008

St. Drogo was born in Sebourg, France, in 1105 CE, though his mother died in childbirth. His father also died at some point, though sources seem to disagree on whether it was before he was born, or when he was a teenager. At any rate, he was orphaned, and although he was nobility, he gave away all his money to become a shepherd.

He felt so bad about his mother dying in childbirth that he became a penitential pilgrim, going to Rome nine or ten times, as well as visiting other shrines around Western Europe. A whole bunch of internet sources say he also practiced “extreme penitence,” which may mean that he felt really bad while surfing or rock climbing or whatever, but more likely means he was into self-flagellation or had a cilice.

In his next career, he became a shepherd. He was also supposed to have the ability to bilocate-meaning, he was bodily in two different places at once, usually working in the fields and at Mass at the same time. I have to admit, this is a rad power and one I’d never heard of before.

During one of these pilgrimages, something terrible afflicted him. He became extremely deformed in the face, to the point where the townspeople of Sebourg could no longer look at him. Therefore, he took the obvious solution, and became a hermit, sealing himself inside a hut attached to the wall of his local church and becoming an anchorite. This was a big thing in the Middle Ages, especially in England-most churches would have at least one anchorite hut attached, and they were completely sealed with only a small hole facing inward (to watch mass and take communion), and hole facing outward (to dispense advice to the townfolk).

The bilocating probably helped with the being an anchorite, though. I’d imagine it made it more bearable.

Once, the church caught fire and Drogo’s cell burned to the ground. Since the Middle Ages had no fire safety codes, Drogo remained inside while it burned around him, but miraculously was not harmed himself. He died in 1185 in the anchorite cell, and after his death his noble Flemish family came to take his body back to their fancy family graveyard. However, when they tried to lift it, it became too heavy, and no matter how many strong, strapping men tried to lift him, they could not. Finally they had to bury him in the church.

St. Drogo is the patron saint of ugly people and coffee. I have no earthly idea why he’s the patron saint of coffee, but thanks to Obscure Saint Blogging, I finally know what I’m going to name my coffeeshop when I open it someday.

His saint day is April 16.

St. Drogo on Wikipedia

Saints Alive!

A Dictionary of Miracles, by Ebenezer Cobham Brewer


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I hear Old Man Luedecke has a new album out. I haven’t gotten my copy yet (it’s only available on the Canadian iTunes store – weird), so I thought I would review a previous album of his.

Old Man Luedecke - Hinterland

Hinterland is a nice album. That may sound like faint praise, and those who demand that their music be edgy and challenging at all times may find little here to like, but I mean it in the best possible way.

I found Old Man Luedecke the same way I found the Ditty Bops – on Pandora. I believe the station for both of these was a mix of Townes Van Zandt and Dan Hicks. If you haven’t tried that yet, I highly recommend it.

The title track came on, and I liked it immediately. The low-key banjo and the melancholy chorus got under my skin. Hinterland is a song you can live in. After it popped up for the third or fourth time, I bought the whole album.

None of the other songs match the power or feeling of the title track, but the album is full of nice moments.

The song proper starts around 1:15.

The songs are catchy enough to be immediately enjoyable, and simple enough to stand up to repeated listens. The lyrics are… well, they seem sincere, and appropriate to the music. Really, the main draw here is nice melodies in an upbeat pseudo-traditional style. I’m looking forward to hearing his latest.

Old Man Luedecke – Hinterland: ★★★★☆

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Dymphna was a young lady in Ireland sometimes during the 7th century CE. Her father was a pagan Irish chieftain Damon, and her mother was his beautiful Christian wife whose name has been lost. When Dymphna was about 14, her mother died. After searching all over Western Europe and not finding a woman as beautiful as his dead wife, her father came back home, where his advisors pointed out that Dymphna looked exactly like her dead mother.

Anyone at all familiar with any sort of narrative knows what happened next: he announced his intention to marry her, so she and her priest, St. Gerebernus, fled the country. They took a ship and landed in Antwerp, Belgium. From there they went to nearby Gheel, where they lived in a hut near the church, where Gerebernus said Mass and Dymphna helped the sick and poor.

Outraged that his daughter had run away, Damon the Irish cheiftain searched for all across Europe. Eventually, in Antwerp, he tried to pay for his lodging with Irish coins (this was before the Euro), and the innkeep refused, saying it was difficult to exchange. Damon realized that the innkeeper would only know this if someone else had recently paid with Irish coins, and that his daughter must be somewhere near.

When the chieftain found them, he ordered Gerebern killed and tried to convince his daughter to come back home with him. When she refused him again, he ordered his men to kill her, but when they all refused as well he beheaded her himself. The bodies of Dymphna and Gerebern were left where they lay, but interred in a cave shortly after by the locals. They were later taken back out and but in the church at Gheel, where they remain.

Surprisingly, the life story of Dymphna is a little suspect. Her hagiography wasn’t written until the 13th century, and was based solely on oral history. Several sources think that the timing is all wrong-she would have had to have lived before 500CE or after 900; it’s charmingly offensive, but this Google book explains why that is.

However, the thing that really grabbed me is how similar this story is to lots of European fairy tales about fathers, usually kings, who want to marry their daughters. There’s a page full of them here, and a long essay about them here. What they say, basically, is that they’re all fables about sexual abuse of children. In the first one, “All Kinds of Fur,” the girl who is presumably abused as a child goes on to marry a different king who abuses her as an adult by throwing boots at her.

My best guess is that Dymphna is a Catholicized version of these tales: instead of working in the kitchen and marrying a prince, she works for the church and is “betrothed” to Jesus.

All the same, Dymphna’s saint day is May 15. Among other things, she’s the patron saint of the insane. Celebrate by getting it on with someone you’re not related to.

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