ADDENDUM: St Veronica

Looking for plant lore which linked Germander Speedwell with the Devil for last month’s post, I came across the decidedly unsatanic legend that the Speedwell’s flowers resembled an image of Christ’s face (or at least his eyes) which had been imprinted on to St Veronica’s handkerchief, or veil. As someone fascinated by the lives of the early saints, this story intrigued me, so here is a brief addendum to that post.

 

st veronica aiding christ

St Veronica witnessed Jesus being taken to Calvary to be crucified. She offered him her veil to wipe the sweat from his face. His image became imprinted on the fabric. Legend has it that she later travelled to Rome taking the veil with her where it became a venerated object akin to the Turin Shroud.

In other legends, Veronica is believed to have travelled to France instead of Italy. For example, “The Catholic Encyclopedia” cites a legend that Veronica brought relics of the Virgin Mary to Bordeaux, where she preached until her death. She is believed to be buried either at Soulac or in the Church of St Seurin in Bordeaux.

 

It is unlikely whether Veronica was the woman’s name who showed Christ compassion and there is no reference to her in the canonical Bible. However, the Cambridge Dominicans website states that at times she has been associated with the woman who Jesus cured during an earlier part of his ministry – an event reported in Matthew, Mark and Luke’s gospels:

“There was a woman who had suffered terribly from severe bleeding for twelve years, even though she had been treated by many doctors…. She had heard about Jesus so she came in the crowd behind him, saying to herself, ‘If I can touch his clothes, I will get well’. She touched his cloak and the bleeding stopped at once, and she had the feeling inside herself that she was healed of her trouble“ (The Gospel of St Mark, 5: 25- 30)

 

Next time… back on track for Guinea weed’s protective properties.

 

Sources (in order of appearance in the text)

“The Catholic Encyclopaedia” – http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15362a.htm

As well as information about the story of St Veronica, this web page also looks at the significance for Veronica for today’s Christians – http://cambridgedominicans.wixsite.com/stcatherines/single-post/2015/03/25/Veronica-Wipes-the-Face-of-Jesus

Good News Bible: Today’s English Version (London: Collins/Fontana, 1976), p. 52.

Image credits: Germander Speedwell by Simon Noel (private collection)

19th century Stations of the Cross image of Verona offering her veil to Christ by Andreas Praefcke – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:B%C3%BCrgersaal_Kreuzweg_07.jpg

 

 

 

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20th December: St Thomas’s Eve

I mentioned in my previous entry on Jamaican Rosemary that December 20th was a time in Britain and other parts of northern Europe when spirits were believed to roam the earthly realm. In the Christian calendar it is the eve of the day dedicated to the apostle, St Thomas, who has his own associations with the spirit world (see below).

So this month’s blog post is slightly off topic as it outlines some of the spirit lore associated with December 20th and St Thomas’s Eve. I say “off topic” as a) Martha Beckwith doesn’t mention lore surrounding this date and b) I haven’t been able to find out (as yet) if similar beliefs are held in Jamaica. However, having just broken my New Year’s resolution to cut down on sugar by consuming the best part of a pack of jelly beans, I’m feeling rebellious. So here we go….

In Britain, there was a tradition that from December 20thuntil Christmas Eve, ghosts could walk the earth. That spirits were active at this time also appears in European folklore. In a book of Christmas traditions Clement Miles recorded that St Thomas himself would appear in some Bohemian cemeteries at midnight in a chariot of fire. All the men named Thomas who were buried in the churchyards would rise from their graves and accompany the saint to the churchyard cross, which glowed red with “supernatural radiance”. There St. Thomas would kneel and pray. Then he would bless the risen corpses before vanishing beneath the cross and each of his namesakes would return to their respective graves.

Was the idea of the ghosts rising from their graves to greet St Thomas the origins of the notion that this period before Christmas was a time when spirits were more likely to wander the earth? Or did that belief exist before the story of St Thomas’s nocturnal visits to graveyards. Unfortunately I have no date for either belief. Miles was recording European folklore in the early 20th century but the examples he was given may have older provenance.

Another theory as to why St Thomas’s Eve may be a time for ghostly visitations is that in the northern hemisphere the winter solstice usually falls around the 21st/22nd December. This means that the days are at their shortest and darkest. Therefore the general gloom and early nightfall could have led to an increased nervousness about wandering spirits – ghostly activity often being reported as occurring after dark.

Connections

To make this post a teensy bit less tenuous, there is a connection between the use of Jamaican Rosemary to prevent unwanted visitations and purification rituals practised in northern Europe in the run up to Christmas:

Just as burning Jamaican rosemary was believed to cleanse a house of spirts, the purifying effects of smoke were also used in parts of Austria on St. Thomas’s Eve. Smoke from burning incense, along with holy water, was used to sanctify houses and farm-buildings.

 

St Thomas stained glass

 

Sources

Picture credit: stained glass of St Thomas probing the risen Christ’s wounds in St Walpurga’s church, Alsace by Ralph Hamman, 2015 (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International licence.)

All European folklore examples from Clement Miles, Christmas in Ritual and Tradition (London: T.F. Unwin, 1912), p. 225.

 

Next time

More about duppies: their abodes and what they like to eat…