Hello there my friends, and welcome! Did you know that this evening is….St. Agnes Eve? Ah, well…it is! Tomorrow, January 21, is The Feast of St. Agnes, an early Christian Martyr from the reign of Emperor Diocletian. Legend holds that she was a beautiful young girl of about 12 or 13 years old who was killed because she had decided to dedicate herself to Christ and not marry. Facts about her life and existence are murky, although early archeaological evidence has been uncovered of virgin named Agnes who was venerated for her sacrifice.
This young martyr is often depicted with a lamb, since the name ‘Agnes’ is derived from the Latin word for lamb, “Agnus.” Like many martyrs of this early Christian era, her story is marked with extreme violence. She lived in a world that was ruled by domination and brute force. Yet in the midst of this time, Agnes was a child who was brave enough to stand up for her beliefs and withstand efforts to degrade and assault her. It is said that anyone who attempted to hurt her was struck blind, or even fell dead. When several methods of trying to kill her failed, she was finally beheaded, and her renown seems to have sprung up from that very day.
I read recently that another concept of ‘virgin’ in these times was ‘free woman,’ a woman who belonged to no man but Christ. In this moment in time when women were literally considered property, this was a society-shaking concept. She created an identity for herself that was not dependent on a mortal man, and this infuriated those in power.
Something else that is thought provoking is how the story of one brave child has lasted so long…when the names of Emperors and rulers fade from public memory, a young girl who stood up for herself still remains part of memory and faith story. To me, that is all part of the miracle of little Agnes.
As the decades turned into centuries and Christianity became a way of life for many Europeans, Christian stories and folk traditions began to spring up and intertwine. St. Agnes Eve traditions about love took hold in medieval times, where somehow this patron of chastity became the champion of young ladies in pursuit of finding their true love.
In England and Scotland, young women saw St. Agnes Eve (January 20th) as a night that a vision of their true love would come to them if they followed the steps of simple rituals.
One such ritual included the young woman picking pins from a pincushion while reciting the Pater Noster (Our Father prayer) and sticking the pins into her sleeve. Then the young woman was to go directly to bed, laying on her back with her hands behind her head. That night as she slept, her True Love was to come to her and give her a kiss in her sleep….
And so, on this St. Agnes Eve night….I hope you take a moment to remember this little saint of such renown. And if you be single and looking for true love….perhaps its time to search out your pincushion.
My little painting above was done recently, and although the original is sold….I’d like to do some little saint cards, I think, and add little Agnes.