Friday, July 30, 2010

The (Tardy) Feast of Saint Martha

(borrowed from Under the Gables)

I had no access to the Internet yesterday and so missed putting up a post about one of most important saints in the liturgical calendar of The Sci Fi Catholic.  I mean of course, Saint Martha, one of the "dragon saints" who tamed a dragon with a combination of her sanctity and an article of her clothing.

Saint Martha was sister of Mary of Bethany and of Lazarus.  She it was who asked Jesus to tell Mary to help her with the housework.  Legendry has her preaching the Gospel in France and dealing with a dragon ravaging the local populace.  According to The Golden Legend, this ferocious dragon farted fire rather than breathing it, and Saint Martha tamed the monster by casting holy water on it, showing it the cross, and throwing her girdle around its neck, at which point it became meek and tame, and she led it to town to be slaughtered.

Ernest Ingersoll, who prefers the version of Scottish novelist Mona Caird, has a different story in his Dragons and Dragon Lore:
While Martha was preaching Christianity to the pagan people at Arles an urgent message was sent to her from Tarascon, reciting that an awful dragon called the Tarasque, whose lair was in the neighbouring desert of Crau, was killing the Tarasconais, and they begged her to come and destroy it. She gladly complied, and going to his cave was able, by sheer force of lovingness (and a sprinkler of holy water), to subdue and regenerate the ravaging Tarasque, so that he meekly followed her into the midst of the astonished populace. "Along the bright ways of the city," as the legend goes, "the procession moved: a crowd of excited people, a beautiful woman with the light playing round her head, leading by a silken cord a reformed monster who ambles after her as quietly as if he were a pet lamb. . . . And never again did he ravage the country or carry off so much as a single babe after Ste. Marthe had pointed out to him, with her usual sweet reasonableness, how wrong-headed and how essentially immoral such conduct had been." So Mona Caird pictures the scene of the deliverance from a devouring creature more dreadful, if we can credit mediaeval descriptions, than anything we have thus far discovered in this history of beastly demons--a figure worthy to represent the hellish character of the Teutonic invasion of this fair land 2000 years ago.
See?  Saint Martha is a practical saint who just wants a little help around the house.  When she deals with a dragon, she doesn't need a sword or any nonsense like that.  She just tells the creature it's being naughty and expects it to shape up and fly right.  By the way, this legend, and some others like it, form the basis of my novella, Dragonsaint.

Meanwhile, Fish Eaters, a hardcore Traditionalist website that apparently takes its hagiography very seriously, claims the dragon was a real species, now extinct.  *Sigh.*  A Sci Fi Catholic's work is never done.

Repeat after me:  I can distinguish folklore from history, and Harry Potter doesn't really do magic.  I can distinguish folklore from history, and Harry Potter doesn't really do magic...
blog comments powered by Disqus