Aliens in This World

An ordinary Catholic and a science fiction and fantasy fan.

Friday, February 21, 2003

The True Identity of St. Blog

Those who read St. Blog's Confidential by The Curt Jester may have noticed a post claiming that St. Blog was in reality a St. Blagoje. While I hesitate to argue with Shawn O'Neal, I'm surprised to see that he doesn't realize that St. Blog is an Irishwoman.

St. Blath of Kildare (January 29) was the laysister who cooked for the community of St. Brigid of Kildare. Her name means "flower". It is pronounced "blah". The usual form of this name in Ireland, however, is "Blathnat" or "little flower" (other forms: Blathnet, Blaithnait, Blaithnaid, Blathnaid, Blanaid, Blanid, etc.), and she is called by this name in a tale of St. Brigid collected by Lady Gregory:

The Seven Bishops came to her in a place she had in the north of Kildare, and she asked her cook Blathnet had
she any food, and she said she had not. And Brigit was ashamed, being as she was without food before those
holy men, and she prayed hard to the Lord. Then angels came and bade her to milk the cows for the third time
that day. So she milked them herself, and they filled the pails with the milk, and the whole of Leinster. And the
milk overflowed the vessels till it made a lake that is called the Lake of Milk to this day.

The city of Kildare became known as a place of learning (since St. Brigid attracted scholars), poetry and music (since Brigid had many poets and bards as followers), and great craftsmanship (there was a school of metalwork, teaching craftsmen to adorn the books made in the scriptorium). But because of St. Brigid's generosity and St. Blath's cookery, Kildare also had a tradition of "plentiful diversity of banquets". (From the end of the section from a source of 1625).

Anyway, St. Blath's fame, like Brigid's, must have spread across the sea to Wales. The Welsh version (Cymricization?) of Blathnat was "Blaguryn", blossom. The barbarous English cut off the end and simply called her St. Blog. Meanwhile, in Wales, many devout laypeople began following the example of St. Blaguryn. They called themselves "blagur" (the plural form of "blaguryn"). English devotees of course anglicized the term and called themselves "blagurs" or "bloggers". (Her French followers called her "Ste. Blague", of course....)

All parishioners of St. Blog should keep their patroness in mind at all times. I recommend using the ancient form "Blath, Blath, Blath, pray for us."

Meme Warning

I don't want to get killed by Heather Rose Jones for spreading false medieval onomastic information. Sooooo...everything I said about "St. Blaguryn" being celebrated in Wales and so forth is a big fat lie. Although "blagur" is the plural form of "blaguryn". Also, there's apparently an Advent program for kids in Wales called "Blaguryn o Gyff Jesse", which is the Welsh translation of the English title, "A Shoot from the Stem of Jesse". It's not a very literal translation, apparently, since it seems to refer to the second part of that verse of Isaiah: "and from Jesse's root a bud shall blossom". But this may be more misinformation, since I don't speak Welsh and just go by the dictionaries, and I can't find "root" anywhere.

Solas Bhride

Here's a page on Kildare as it was before the English and the Reformation. This next page is a pagan site but it has information about some nuns who've set up a convent in Kildare and are trying to revive some of the old traditions of St. Brigid's foundation. (There's also a nice picture at the top of the page of the foundations of the house where the fire was once kept -- on the grounds of the cathedral -- which I've never seen before.) This other pagan page has a nice picture of part of the nuns' garden, if you scroll down. Here's a Brigidine page about Solas Bhride, which paradoxically is less informative! It looks like the nuns are trying to draw pagans and New Age folks back to the Church as well as doing more normal stuff. Here's a short report on their activities, and here's a long interview with Sr. Mary Minehan. She seems to be doing a pretty good job of promoting Celtic spirituality without straying into what is not Catholic. I also found a prayer the nuns have been circulating that popped up on several pagan sites! (Sometimes with Catholic stuff hacked out and pagan stuff stuck in, alas. But not always, which is a start.) Those nuns must be working hard. Here's the prayer:

Brigid, you were a woman of peace.

You brought harmony where there was conflict. You brought light into the darkness. You brought hope to the downcast.

May the mantle of your peace cover those who are troubled and anxious,

and may peace be firmly rooted in our hearts and in our world.

Inspire us to act justly and reverence all God has made.

Brigid, you were a voice for the wounded and the weary.

Strengthen what is weak within us. Calm us into a quietness that heals and listens.

May we grow each day into greater wholeness in mind, body and spirit.


Incidentally, here's a history of the Brigidine sisters.

The Other Blathnat

St. Blath/Blathnat the cook should not be confused with Blathnat, the daughter of Midhir and sister of Angus Og. She either helped Cu Chulainn of Ulster and Cu Roi of Munster rob her father's mound, or was carried off against her will. Cu Roi (who was both a great warrior and had magic powers) disliked Cu Chulainn's division of the spoils and ran off with Blathnat, forcing her to become his wife. Cu Chulainn showed up at Caherconree to get revenge; Blathnat helped by tying Cu Roi to his bed by the hair, stealing Cu Roi's sword (the only thing that could kill him), and then signaling Cu Roi's helplessness by pouring milk into a stream, turning it white for a while. Then Cu Roi's bard avenged his master by throwing himself at Blathnat as she stood on the wall of the fortress. They both fell into the river and drowned. (Personally, I'm suspicious. If you were a fairy woman who'd had that much trouble, wouldn't you fake your death, turn into a salmon and swim away?) Here's another version of the story.


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