Tuesday, 28 November 2006

St Juthwara - or rather, St Ivel?

Perhaps my favourite entry in the Oxford Dictionary of Saints concerns St Juthwara, whose Feast is celebrated on this (for me) not insignificant day. The slightly acid tone of the piece hints that its author had clearly had his fill of implausible martyrology.

"Juthwara (date unknown), virgin (and martyr?) was British, perhaps from Cornwall. ... Her legend is a farrago of impossibilities. According to this story.. she was the victim of a jealous stepmother. Juthwara, a pious girl who practised much prayer, fasting and alms-giving, suffered after her father's death from a pain in the chest, brought on perhaps by her sorrow and austerities. The stepmother recommended a remedy of two cheeses applied to her breasts: meanwhile she told her own wicked son, called Bana, that Juthwara was pregnant.

He accused her, found that her underclothes were moist, and struck of her head there and then. The usual spring of water then appeared; Juthwara carried her head back to the church. Bana repented, became a monk, and founded a monastery...

She is depicted with her sister Sidwell on the screens of Hennock and Ashton (Devon); her usual emblem is a cream cheese, or a sword ..."

1 comment:

puella said...

St. Sidwell, whose story has some (suspicious?) similarities to her sister's, has an Anglican church in my hometown. Well, I think the CofE turned it into somethingotherthanachurch actually - shows how much attention I pay when I'm back there!

I love reading the lives of the West Country saints (and I have that same saints' dictionary, I believe!). It knits my faith closely to where I was brought up and gives me a sense of continuity, without necessarily being about the persecution of the English Reformation, the Elizabethan Settlement or the Recusant era.