Thursday, July 24, 2008

Christina the Astonishing

Last week I enjoyed adding many of my books to the little library
gizmo on my sidebar. I happened onto a book that I had totally
forgotten. Lucy's Eyes and Margaret's Dragon, The Lives of the Virgin
Saints, charmingly written and illustrated by Giselle Potter, whose
illustrations have been published in The New Yorker and The New
York Times Magazine. This book contains short bios on thirteen
female saints, accompanied by fabulously quirky paintings. Today,
July 24, happens to be the feast day of Saint Christina the
Astonishing, who is also the patron saint of psychiatrists. She was
born in Brussels in 1150, orphaned at an early age and suffered from
epilepsy. At 21, she suffered such a massive seizure, that witnesses
assumed she had died. At her funeral, she was said to have rose from
her coffin and levitated to the church rafters. The mourners all fled in
horror except for her sister, to whom Christina complained of the
offensive garlicky breath of the congregation! She explained that she
had returned to liberate the souls she had seen in purgatory. For the
rest of her life she had an acute sense of smell and often climbed tall
trees to escape the odors of man! (I have often wondered what life
before toothpaste must have been like.)
"Many texts question the existence of some of these women, but
whether they are mythical characters of heroines of history, they
still have admirers around the world. These virgin saints are
examples of strength and courage for all women." Giselle Potter


  1. How funny-- It is a wonderful story, and what a fabulous painting! I always used to like to read some of the lives of the saints, because their tales could be quite unusual. There have been a few times in my life I'd have liked to rise to the rafters over someone's garlic breath. LOL

  2. That's funny--there have been a few times in my life I'd have liked to have risen to the rafters over someone's garlic breath! The lives of the saints are often quite unusual, and this one lives up to that. Excellent and I love that painting!

  3. Wow I do like that illustration Willow.. and aren't the lives of saints interesting.. I think they were slightly odd folk who saw unusual things. :)

  4. Rima, I actually thought of you when I chose this post. I knew you would love the painting and subject, too! :)

  5. I love those quirky paintings. Better than all those ancient musty old "Lives of the Saints" books with long-suffering looks.This is great!

  6. Yes, life before toothpaste....or shower gel and deorderant! Must have been bad to climb trees to avoid it! (it must have been enough to keep them virgins forever! tee-hee!) Very interesting, Willow. I saw the book on your sidebar and had wondered about it! :)

  7. Oh Willow..what an interesting post..whether true or not it is still astonishing to say the least...hmmmm levitated to the church rafters...well..
    I do like the quirky painting

    Best wishes for you on this feast day of St Christina...

  8. Totally fascinating, one has to say that once you enter the blogsphere, your education knows no heights (even higher than the rafters). Once again Willow excellent informative post...

  9. I laughed to see the lady saint's hand held delicately over her face--to block, I assume, those nasty odors.

    I like funky illustrations--the colors in this one are nice--and I enjoy stories (true or mythological) about the saints.

  10. I am fascinated with the lives of these saints. They were never included in history books at school and growing up in a protestant household, I knew nothing about their amazing histories.

  11. Interesting Willow. By the way, Bach hasn't been blogging for almost a month. Do you know if everything is OK? I assume he was traveling or something.

  12. Strider, Bach is great! He's been very busy with work and his piano students, as well as a new lady friend, as you can probably gather from his last post. ;)

  13. That was funny and charming. A virgin/dead risen only to complain of bad breath. The painting really looks good.

  14. What a wonderful illustration! I have really enjoyed your new book list. I've swiftly zapped over to Amazon to pick up a few I hadn't heard of! I'm awaiting the arrival of the Edward Gorey one now!

  15. Pamela, oh, good! I'm glad you are enjoying it, too! I think it is such a neat gizmo. And I have thoroughly enjoyed revisiting my library because of it.

  16. What a great story! Love the quirky painting

  17. Interesting book and art work!

    Since I am Roman Catholic I can tell you that we honor and revere the Saints as symbols of deep faith and sacrifice, examples of lives lived beyond what most mortal people are capable of, and that is why they are declared "saints." Many have given them attributes as patron saints of "this and that" because they have been prayed to by the faithful for their intercession through the years with good results that are called miracles, or else after a characteristic of their lives, such as Saint Francis of Assisi is known as the patron saint of animals as he was known to feed birds from his hand and have wild animals act tame around him.

    Look at the wonderful and devoted life of Mother Teresa who is in the process of being declared a Saint after her devoted life as a Sister of Charity caring for the desolate poor and unloved of India!

    That said, I am sure the stories surrounding of some of these saints developed as fanciful as urban legends of the time, and they are always under review by the church. Many so called "saints" have had that title removed when their background can not be proven, but their legend still remains, especially in the areas where they were most revered.

  18. Another fascinating post dear Willow and I LOVE her illustration style.

    merci ! xo, S, Winn & Les Chats

  19. I was going to read during the storm, but our candles didn't do the trick. Thanks for your prayful support during our stormy experience. Pappy

  20. Pappy, I am so glad to know that you and your family are safe and sound. You were in our thoughts and prayers.

  21. In Willow I bring me stories and information as yet unheard of by me.

    BTW, have you seen the 2004 movie Millions? A 7 year old boy, who has recently lost his mother, is obsessed with the lives of the saints and sees visions of them. It is a sweet movie and it got excellent ratings.

  22. Stevie, no, I've not seen Millions and it sounds like one I would really Netflix list is getting longer and longer! ;)

  23. Willow, a very interesting story. It hard to separate fact from myth - maybe that's why the legends live on.

    So, are there any virgin male saints? Let's get Rome on the phone.

  24. David, I actually wondered that as I was typing this post...yes...let's call the Vatican and find out!

  25. I love the quirky painting...and the funny story!

  26. Speaking of saints, I must whisper that I was once privileged to meet Mother Teresa.

    I have a couple of great stories to tell on my blog one day ....

  27. David! You must tell us of this unique and wonderful experience. I would very much like to know all about it!!

  28. Oh that seems like such a neat book!!!!! I'll have to see if I can find it next time I go to the bookstore. What a great story to. I have often wondered to what it would have been like before people bathed on a daily basis and brushed their teeth, probably pretty gross.
    I love the illustrations, they are wonderful!!

  29. What a fantastic book! I will have to seek out a copy for myself. I'm quite fond of St. Teresa of Avila, the patron saint of headache sufferers who also loved books.

  30. Crista, hi! Haven't heard from you in a while! :) Yes, I also am fond of St. Teresa of Avila. You would love this book.


Inject a few raisins of conversation into the tasteless dough of existence.
― O. Henry (and me)