Monthly Archives: October 2007

Singable Translation: “Sancti, Venite, Corpus Christi Sumite”

It is dangerous to give a filker any lyrics whatsoever. All our folky and nerdy impulses come to the fore.

Sechnall (aka Secundinus), remembered by legend as a nephew of St. Patrick, wrote the oldest known hymn in Irish literature. (It’s an alphabetical praise of St. Patrick in Latin, which sorta suggests Patrick was probably dead by then.) He also wrote a communion hymn which allegedly made the angels sing in Sechnall’s monastery church, and which was preserved in the Bangor Antiphonary.

There are a couple of good translations of this online. The most distinguished one is a hymn translation by John Mason Neale, “Draw Nigh and Take the Body of the Lord”. Steven Janco has a new setting of this, apparently, using an “alt.” version of the Neale translation. (There’s a sample online, which I can’t find at the moment. So I can’t opine on the music, since I don’t have time to work this stuff out, but our choir’s done Janco stuff that I like.)

The problem is that a good song translation often isn’t very exact. Here’s a more literal translation.

Of course, what came to my mind? The fact that you can sing it to the tune of “Adeste Fideles”:

Sancti, venite, corpus Christi sumite,
Sanctum bibentes, quo redempti sanguine.
Salvati Christi, corpore et sanguine.

Sancti, venite, sumite,
Sancti, venite, sumite,
Sancti, venite, sumite,
Corpus Christi!

Etc. It would take a lot of munging about, but it could be done. You could also do a much shorter version to the same tune in English, with even more munging about:

“O Come, Holy People”
Lyrics: “Sancti, Venite, Corpus Christi Sumite” by St. Seachnall, 4th c.
Translation by Maureen O’Brien, 10/25/07
Music: ttto “Adeste Fideles”

O come, holy people, come and take Christ’s Body.
O holy, o drinkers saved by His holy Blood.
Praise Him who healed us; sing God’s praise together.

O come, receive His Body,
O come, receive His Body,
O come, receive His Body,
Christ the Lord!

By Christ’s Blood and Cross, He / saved the world and saved us.
He sacrificed Himself for the / whole universe.
Both Priest and Victim, as the Law foreshadowed.

The Lightgiver pours out — spark’ling, overflowing —
His Grace on His holy ones, and life evermore.
Come with a pure mind; take up your Caretaker.

He is Bread of Heaven, endless Living Water.
His Sacrament rips us from the cruel jaws of Hell.
Guide, Guard, and Ruler, Keeper of Salvation.

He came to live with us, comes to live within us,
He will come again to judge us all in the end.
Chri-ist the Lo-ord, Alpha and Omega!

Obviously, this is not a super-exact translation, but it’s not just making stuff up, either. I don’t suspect it would be all that great for real life use, though, because everybody already likes “O Come All Ye Faithful” exactly the way it is — kept especially for Christmas use. So I’m not sure when or if people might like to sing this sort of thing, but it was fun to translate.


Filed under Translations

Blinding Realization of Mistranslation

In re: “The Lorica of St. Brendan” —

1. “parentes” was being used in the sense of relatives. This I found out from the notes to another Irish poem, which also pointed out that all manner of medieval writers do this. This neatly explains why one would pray for one’s father and mother, and then for one’s parents.

2. I figured this out this morning, when I woke up. The reason lorica prayers say “I bind unto myself” is because — duh! The armor laces, or rather straps, together.

3. Therefore, the “opening” section of this particular lorica — which uses the same word as for opening a book or unrolling a scroll — is all about unwrapping one’s spiritual armor and laying it out, ready to put on.

Lorica segmentata collapses into four pieces which can be stacked inside each other. Here’s a picture of a modern reenactor “binding” such a lorica onto himself (with a little help from his friends). This page also includes good pictures of the other types of lorica. (Btw, check out all the pictures. The hobnailed caligae are particularly cool. “Caligae” usually is translated as “boots”, though in a Roman soldier’s case they’re sandals with a little heavier construction and the said hobnails. But Roman sandals are super-comfy.)

Lorica squamata is shown here. This gentleman is wearing lorica plumata (mail made with scales instead of rings).

Now that I know what I got wrong, I will correct my podcast posting ASAP (although in this case, that means a few days from now). But that’s not all bad. I did want to check the scriptural references in the lorica, and now I’ll have time. (There’s one place name I’m not sure I’ve spelled right, for instance.)

I also messed something up on the hymn to St. Aedh, which is depressing but easily corrected on that post.

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St. Patrick’s Unmentionable Kinfolk

I’m irritated. One hears all sorts of discussion about Our Boy from Bannavem Taberniae, Patricius, and his historical and legendary significance. One hears a great deal about his statement in his pocket autobiography, that he was the son of Calpornius the deacon, who was the son of Potitus the priest. (And sometimes how shocking this supposedly is, when it’s quite normal for the days before celibacy for priests became a matter of discipline for all in the West, as opposed to being a very popular and holy option which was also the only way to be eligible to become a bishop.) You also get a lot of talk based on the later medieval lives, full of exciting events and miracles. You get discussion of his dealings, real or alleged, with other famous saints, and especially St. Brigid.

But nobody ever mentions that legend tells us the name of his mother. Concessa (or Concha, or Conchessa). Furthermore, legend adds that she was from Gaul, and was a sister or close relative of St. Martin of Tours.

Now, there are several reasons why this is a bit improbable (mostly, that this stuff never comes up in the really early sources, a family connection to a super-popular saint should have been mentioned, and that the lives of St. Martin don’t give evidence of relatives). But when it comes to discussions of legend and folklore as folklore, historical fact isn’t the point. So why didn’t we hear about her, or about the strain of legend that claims that St. Patrick spent time with St. Martin as well as studying under St. Germanus? And why the heck wouldn’t Concessa be mentioned by supposedly feminist writers?!

Also, in an entire life as a semi-professional Irishwoman, nobody ever mentioned the fact that legend gave him a sister who was a saint and mother of saints. 19 saints, to be precise.

Her name is St. Darerca. (Not to be confused with the St. Darerca whose nickname was Monenna.)
Her day is March 22, and she is the patron saint of Valencia Island, Ireland, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia.

Legend tells us that her first husband was Restitutus the Lombard. Quite possible in a seaside town, especially considering that her brother Patricius studied in Gaul to become a priest and then traveled to Rome to get the papal blessing on his mission to Ireland. Her sons by him were St. Sechnall of Dunshaughlin; St. Nectan of Killunche and Fennor; St. Auxilius of Killossey; St. Diarmaid of Druim-corcortri; St. Dabonna; St. Mogornon; St. Drioc; St. Luguat; and St. Coemed Maccu Baird (the Lombard) of Cloonshaneville.

Her second husband was Conas the Briton. He founded Beth-Chonais, now Binnion in County Donegal. Her sons by him were: St. Mel of Ardagh, St. Rioc of Inisboffin, St. Muinis of Forgney; and St. Maelchu.

She also had two daughters: St. Eiche of Kilglass and St. Lalloc of Senlis.

But that’s only fifteen saints, you say? Well, there are also some miscellaneous sons granted her, whose father is not mentioned: St. Crummin of Lecua, St. Miduu, St. Carantoc, and St. Maceaith.

Now, obviously there’s a great deal of question here as to whether these are all sons of the same person. Seventeen isn’t an impossible number of kids by any means, but it’s certainly a good chunk. And indeed, St. Patrick was credited with several other sisters: St. Liamania (probably just another name for Darerca), St. Tigris or Tigridia (occasionally credited also with seventeen bishop-sons, so maybe half of this crop of kids is actually hers), St. Lupita the vowed virgin (though some writers give her kids, too), and St. Cinnenum or Richella. Patrick also has Welsh sister-sons who are deacons come over to help him in Ireland: St. Reat, St. Nenn, and St. Aedh. (And they have big long Welsh saint genealogies behind them.)

(St. Tigris’ sons, btw, are generally counted as the following bishop-saints: Lomam of Trim; Munis of Forgney; Broccaid of Emlagh; Broccen of Breaghwy; and Mugenoc of All Duimi Gluin. I should probably also mention that, in Ireland, being a bishop was sorta like being a monsignor — they made tons of ’em, and they had little power other than the power to ordain — while being an abbot was the big important bishop or archbishop type job.)

Now, St. Patrick’s letter to Coroticus says ” I live among barbarians, a stranger and exile for the love of God… out of love for my neighbors and sons for whom I gave up my country and parents and my life to the point of death… I am bound by the Spirit not to see any of my kinsfolk.” This doesn’t totally rule out that there weren’t kinfolk around, of course.

But also, there are chronological discrepancies. Besides that, tons of his supposed relatives in these old genealogies are known Irish saints, who have totally different genealogies given elsewhere, where they descend from Irish people in the usual way! What’s going on?

Probably, what’s going on is a record of who studied under whom, and who lived in whose monastic or early Christian mission communities. Genealogies were vital information and an important literary form in most Indo-European countries, and Irish ecclesiastics would probably have adapted them to their own use for ease of memorization. (Oooh, inculturation.) So this is exactly the stuff you’d think that real historians (and real feminists) would find interesting! You’d think there’d be somebody out there correlating the known disciples of Patrick (mostly known, again, through legend), the relatives, and the Christian archeological record. (Our old friend Sabine Baring-Gould probably did something like.) But if they’re doing this, they’ve totally neglected the popularization market, despite the obvious need every March 17th.

Instead, it’s so much easier just to pawn everybody off as a survival of a mother goddess or random pagan god. *roll eyes*


Filed under Church, History

The Banshee Hides Her Eyes

There I was, innocently traversing the Web, reading the comments on the blog or Livejournal of a certain person I know mostly as a well-spoken commenter, when I suddenly recognized the screenname of someone I know in real life. Who was making a surprising flip and snarky comment, while jumping into a rather serious discussion.

“Oh, dear,” I thought. “One of this person’s issues has come up. This won’t be pretty.”

And then, I recognized the screenname of the next person to reply. Another person I know, who also takes issue with said subject but takes a very different position, and who was apparently in a mood to be quite short with such a comment.

This is the point at which one becomes very glad that one has not commented on said thread. One hides one’s eyes and waits for the explosive blast. But one feels bad about it, because one would like all ones’ acquaintances and friends to be friends with each other.

The sad thing is that, if these folks met in person (or, say, had joined the same group and gotten acquainted), I have no doubt that they would find a great deal in common but continue to disagree violently. Perhaps it’s as well that they live on different coasts…

But who knows? Maybe a flamewar will not erupt. Maybe everything will go well. Perhaps I underestimate them. But I think they’re the sort of persons who have to work these things out on their own, without any well-meant interference.

Either way, I don’t think I’m going to step into this one or even admit I’ve seen it. Noooooo.

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Annual Halloween Costume Rant

Masquerade and costume are not horrid pagan things. What do you see in the Bible? The good angels take on whatever form they like, on orders from God; God and His angels visited Abraham (unless that was the Trinity); and Raphael walked in disguise with Tobias to guide him.  Jesus Christ walked in unrecognizable guise with His disciples to Emmaus, playing a gentle trick while talking in third person about Himself, and revealing Himself only at the breaking of the bread. So it is no surprise that Paul had no better advice for Christians than that they should “put on Christ”.

So much for dressing up as a saint or hero, or something good that you’re not. But why would you wear a costume of a villain? Ask Chesterton’s Father Brown:

“I don’t try to get outside the man. I try to get inside the murderer. . . . Indeed it’s much more than that, don’t you see? I am inside a man. I am always inside a man, moving his arms and legs; but I wait till I know I am inside a murderer, thinking his thoughts, wrestling with his passions; till I have bent myself into the posture of his hunched and peering hatred; till I see the world with his bloodshot and squinting eyes, looking between the blinkers of his half-witted concentration; looking up the short and sharp perspective of a straight road to a pool of blood. Till I am really a murderer.”“Oh,” said Mr. Chace, regarding him with a long, grim face, and added: “And that is what you call a religious exercise.”

“Yes,” said Father Brown; “that is what I call a religious exercise…I’ve put it badly, but it’s true. No man’s really any good till he knows how bad he is, or might be; till he’s realized exactly how much right he has to all this snobbery, and sneering, and talking about ‘criminals,’ as if they were apes in a forest ten thousand miles away; …till he’s squeezed out of his soul the last drop of the oil of the Pharisees; till his only hope is somehow or other to have captured one criminal, and kept him safe and sane under his own hat.”

Most children who dress up as pirates or dragons or other scary things — they do it because they don’t want to grow up to be pirates or dragons. Healthy adults have much the same motivations, and may well need the reminder even more.


Filed under Church, Halloween

Women’s Hat Advice! (Veil-Wearers, Pay Attention, Too!)

I’m not exactly Miss Fashion Queen, as anyone who knows me is well aware. So I know it looks silly whenever I decide to write a fashion post. But if women are going to wear something to cover their heads in front of God and everybody, they need to think about more than how princessy or devout it makes them feel. For God’s sake, and on the principle of the parable of the wedding garments, they should take a step back and check the whole package in the mirror. I mean, geez, you’re going to church!

Hairstyles, hats, headdresses, and veils all work on the same principles. You pick them based on the shape of your face. Also, headgear should not clash with your hairstyle, hair color, skin tone, or clothing. (It doesn’t have to match; in fact, contrast is good if it all pulls together. But it shouldn’t clash.)

For example, if you’ve got a round face or a face with broad cheekbones, it’s a bit silly to wear a short, broad hat; or a short chapel veil that ends at the cheekbones. (If you’ve got short hair, blonde or white hair, and pale or rosy skin as well, and then you add a short white veil, you’re gonna look like your neck ends in a cottonball.)

Similarly, a long skinny little face doesn’t need a tall skinny hat or a long drapey veil, and especially not one in dark colors. (You don’t want to give the impression that your head is a broomstick! 🙂

OTOH, if you’re tiny, you don’t want a huge hat that looks like Godzilla is devouring your head, and a big lady probably doesn’t want a teensy-tiny hat or veil. Your headgear should fit to scale.

Also, white does go with everything, but not all whites are created equal. Matte white is different from ivory is different from off-white. Silk is different from lace is different from cotton crochet.

Btw, if you have a plain hat and a scarf that goes with an outfit, you can always tie the scarf around the hat just for that day. (If it doesn’t look stupid on the hat.) This will help tie the outfit together.

Here’s a good milliner’s company with tips on how to choose a hat, picking hats according to basic face shapes, pictures of hat dos and don’ts, miscellaneous handy hints, hat fit and securing hats on your head, and other interesting info. (If you don’t know your face shape, the old advice was to trace your facial lines in a mirror with a bar of soap. Oh, and “fringe” is the British way of saying “bangs”.) They even have clips from their hat videos!
(This page doesn’t so much sell hats as hatmaking equipment and materials, btw. All you crafty types can go wild.)

Here’s a page with more great tips and more on face shapes/hats. Also from a hat and bridal veil company, natch. 🙂 But the face shape illustration is gorgeous.

Obviously, all this stuff is optional. If you want to go with the Ugly Babushka Test, who’s to stop you? But hey, my mom wouldn’t have let me leave the house — much less go to Mass! — in an Ugly Babushka, and neither would any of her olden days female kinsfolk. Ugly clothing that you know is ugly, and wear even though you have an alternative that’s not ugly, is just as much disrespecting the Lord as falling out of a skimpy blouse.

(And with all due respect to saints, I learned early in my house that “saints did it” isn’t a good argument. If a saint ran around naked in the desert and ate bugs, that’s between her, God, and her spiritual director. But as for us, we can mortify ourselves just as well by just getting up, putting on our church clothes and going to church. If you think you can’t, call your mom and get some mortification and chore suggestions. I’m sure she’ll have some for you.) 🙂

So I’m sure it’s totally unintentional that women leave the house in some of the chapel veils I see women wearing when they pan the crowd at some EWTN event. It’s not that the veils are ugly, or that the ladies are ugly. It’s that the two specific models so often do not go together — or at least, do each other no favors. And if the veils fit the woman’s face shape, they often are wrong for her clothing. (They look weird with her dress fabric or neckline, or with the color of the dress, etc.)

I’m a nerd, and if I don’t think about it in the morning, I’ll just slap on whatever comes to hand and only worry about clashing colors when it gets light. But the rest of you are not super-nerdy people who live alone, and you actually care about putting on the dog for the man in your life and giving a good fashion example to your daughters. There are plenty of times when we have to look like a clown for the love of God, but going to God’s house is not one of those times.

So think about integrating what you put on your head with what the rest of your head and body looks like on a given day. If you are trying to promote traditional practices, it’s logical that a nice total look makes you a better silent argument as well as being worshipful. And if being feminine is part of your female Catholic spirituality, you should do what it takes, not just slap on a long skirt and a lace table runner. 🙂

Otherwise, my mom is likely to set up on EWTN as some kind of fashion version of the Knights of Columbus protecting the Eucharist from women with bad outfits, and that would be super scary. Brrrrrr.

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Sweet Father of the Continuing Time!

Daniel Keys Moran, author of The Armageddon Blues (1988), as well as the Tales of the Continuing Time series novels: Emerald Eyes (1988), The Long Run (1989), and The Last Dancer (1993), has put up all these fine books on the Web for your reading pleasure. (You can see pictures of the beautiful Jim Burns covers for The Armageddon Blues and The Long Run on Wikipedia. Rest assured that the books and the covers are a perfect match. The Russian cover for The Long Run? Eh, not so much.)

Moran was practically the perfect writer for that cyberpunky moment of sf between the Cold War and complacency — especially if you didn’t usually like cyberpunk. Moran understood computers; but he also understood the sorts of things people do to have fun and make money in cities; finally, he understood the beauty of rural places and highways alike. His ideas and ideals were often ones with which I might not agree, sure. But he told a darned good story and enjoyed telling it, and he didn’t scorn people who didn’t think like him. In fact, one of the pleasures of reading a Moran novel was all the different people you’d meet, and all the different viewpoints you’d get to gaze through. Another was that, even though some amazingly bad things happened in his worlds (he usually starts things off with a nice nuke or two, just to warm up the room, and he’s the kind of writer whose prologues end with “a million years later”), the worlds themselves and the people in them were almost always optimistic, fun, engaged, and interesting. (And he invented calling a computer a “handheld”, which should be worth something.)

I do recommend his novels above any of his stories. That’s just the way it is.

Here’s the important point:

Sometime in the next month or so, he plans to put up the most recent Tale of the Continuing Time, The AI War. This book was written but never published. Until… NOW!

*Maureen does a silent but expressive dance*

Now, I’ve been off the Continuing Time mailing list since… wow, since they moved to that website forum I could never get onto. So I didn’t know until now that Moran had a blog. (As in, not a Livejournal. Yay!) Now, I’d send you straight over there, but what’s the fun in that? (Especially since he’s got a blog entry praising Al Gore. Um, yeah. Whatever.)

So: you might want to read “Infinite Methods” about cutting to the core. “Trent’s Walking Around the House with a Handheld” on what it’s like for an sf writer to see the good bits of his futures take flesh in his own kids. “A Conversation in the Kitchen with Her Father” — a tiny but good fragment of fiction. And that’s just in the last few weeks.

Enjoy. I know I have, and will.

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Yes, my children, a horrible thing has occurred. Google has added the stock of not just Amazon, but to their limited view booksearch.

So there I am, harmlessly searching for books containing info on St. Darerca… and suddenly, I’m looking at the middle of a charming fanfiction work called “Molly of Darkover”. In which Darerca is some kind of psychic or cat or whatever, but not anything close to what I’m looking for.

Now, obviously, it was very naughty to put fanfiction on (Just as naughty as using Kinko’s as your publishing facility, I’m sure.) But I’m equally sure the fannish author wasn’t paying for banner ads, or otherwise making her work known outside a small circle of friends. So why on earth would assume that its authors wanted to be on Google’s booksearch?

And why would Google go to the trouble of making an extremely relevant booksearch into one that’s bound to find tons of self-published stuff that’s of relatively little interest, when they can’t even persuade the Bodleian to give us full access to Ermyn; or the Child of St. Elvis (published in 1870)?

We are not amused.

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There Can Be Only One Box Set!

Yes, they will finally be releasing Highlander: The Animated Series on DVD! Mwahahaa!

If you weren’t one of the three other people who watched this show, you probably don’t know this show even existed, much less that it was one of the earlier products of the French animation studios which would eventually bring us Code Lyoko and the like.

You’ll recognize the quirky worldbuilding and odd moments of beauty, though. They invest a fairly cheesy merchandising scheme (a kid’s version of a franchise about whopping guys heads’ off! Yeah, there’s a great idea!) with their own ideas, and turn it into something quite worth watching.

So what’s it about? It’s the future, and Bad Things Have Happened to civilization. The Immortals feel this is a bad thing, and decide to skip whopping each others’ heads off in favor of rebuilding the world. (They call themselves “Jettators”, apparently because they want to help the world leap forward — “jette”.) Later, the McLeod will come around with his memory-sucking sword and collect their knowledge for the world without, like, whopping their heads off. (There’s a prophecy to this effect, of course.) However, there’s always some jerk who won’t go along, and The Bad Guy still likes whopping people’s heads off, as well as torture and kicking puppies. Besides, there’s a prophecy that the McLeod will kill him. So he kills the McLeod — but little did he know that McLeod was the only Immortal able to breed!

So years later, after the opening credits, a Spanish Immortal who looks a lot like a younger Sean Connery comes to find young Quentin McLeod, the last Highlander; train his butt; and then haul him around the world to collect various sciences of interest from the memory-holding Immortals, not to mention fulfill the prophecy. Our Spanish friend is somewhat disconcerted to find that Quintin’s adoptive sister Clyde is also part of the deal, as well as the requisite Cute Animal Who Gets Lost and Causes Trouble. But he resigns himself, and the series begins.

Okay, so I like the odd shows. But honestly, they visit some really weird places and do some really strange things. I used to watch this show on a channel I could barely _see_, it was that interesting.

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St. Elvis. Yes, Really.

Our friend Sabine Baring-Gould also alerted me to the fact that there really is a St. Elvis. He came to Wales from Munster, and he baptized the baby St. David. (His name may be a Cymricization of St. Ailbe, though. St. Ailbe, of course, is best known in legend for being the bishop raised by wolves. So Elvis was something more than a hound dog.) There is also a Welsh St. Elvis, possibly named after St. Ailbe. This one is the son of Dirdan and Danaldwen, a daughter of that same Cynyr we’ve already met with St. Anna of Gwent! So indeed, King Arthur is kin to Elvis!

St. Elvis’ Church is an old parish in Pembrokeshire, in South Wales. The name is an Anglicization of Llaneilfyw — Eilfyw’s Church. The town in which it is located, Solva, is a slurred version of “St. Elvis”. (The nearby St. Elvis’ Farm, btw, is the site of an interesting megalithic double-chambered tomb and there’s a dolmen overlooking the church. There was also a 17th-18th century silver mine. Uh huh huh.)

At least one guy thinks there’s good reason for this: the King was Welsh, and his family name was really Preseli, from the Preseli hills from whence all that Stonehenge bluestone came.

So now all of you who’ve been longing to name your kid Elvis can do so with full baptismal name justification. (Whether or not it’s wise.)

A shipwreck off Solva, chronicled by Edmund Burke.

Btw, some of this was previously covered in Roman Miscellany’s Five Catholic Facts about Elvis.


Filed under Church, History, Saint Names

King Arthur’s Saints

We tend to get only one side of the medieval stories, and it’s not necessarily the side that the medievals would have thought important.

For example, when you think of King Arthur, it’s very unlikely that you think about the Welsh saints with whom he is associated. For all the books and novels about the “historical Arthur”, it’s very seldom that the Romano-British, Welsh, Cornish, or Irish servants of the Church are even mentioned or considered. Heck, most writers don’t even want to think too hard about these people having mostly been Christian for a good two to four hundred years.

So you hear about Ambrosius Aurelianus, but not that he was associated by some with St. Ambrosius, the abbot founder of Amesbury. (A lot of Arthurian types retire to the monastery or convent, of course, but founding Amesbury is a big deal!)

Also you hear a good deal about Uther’s kid Arthur, and about the legendary Morgan and Morgaine, his half-sisters. But Welsh genealogy and legend is much more likely to talk about his daughter Anna Pendragon, St. Anna of Gwent, whose descendants were kings — as well as allegedly being the mother of St. Samson, Bishop of Dol, who historically went to the Council of Paris in 560, and his brother St. Tydecho.

Apparently the chronology gets all messed up by Geoffrey of Monmouth, who has Uther’s parliament attended by both St. Samson and St. Dyfrig (who was about 50 years later). St. Samson was apparently part of St. Illtyd’s school; and St. Illtyd was either a contemporary of Arthur or associated with the same St. Dyfrig (Dubricius).

And who was St. Illtyd (or Iltutus)? A guy from Brittany, who was the grandnephew of  St. Germanus of Auxerre! (This doesn’t chime with one very late story that he was converted only after he came over to Britain and was converted by St. Cadoc.) He is said to have been ordained by St. Dyfrig in his see at Llandaff, and went on to found one of Llandaff’s three famous schools (Llanilltyd Fawr). His school was apparently on an island when he started; the story says it rejoined the land of its own accord, but the monks may have done landfill or reclaimed land from the sea. (There were drowned cantrev legends in Brittany as well as Wales, so maybe this was a real issue.) Ss. Gildas, Samson, and Maglorius all were supposed to have been his students.

St. Dyfrig, the bishop of Llandaff, has gotten a bit of attention from the historical Arthur crowd, as Norma Goodrich claimed that he was also Merlin. (Dude. You’d think people would’ve noticed this. Especially at Llandaff.) Legend has him the illegitimate son of a king’s daughter. The king tried to drown them both but failed, and Dyfrig was born at Madley in Herefordshire. The wicked king was struck with leprosy, which was only cured when Dyfrig greeted him with a kiss. Dyfrig went on to found monasteries in Hentland and Moccas. Legend has him made bishop by St. Germanus of Auxerre, and his see (which later became the diocese of Llandaff and was run from there) was headquartered at his grandfather’s capitol. Some say he crowned King Arthur. He attended the Synod of Llandewi Brefi in 545, and allegedly resigned his see in favor of St. David.

Yes, now we’re connected to St. David, just as we earlier were connected to David’s buddy St. Teilo (who succeeded to a large chunk of what had been St. Dyfrig’s see), and who was a buddy of yet another of the St. Aidans, who was St. Gildas’ brother.  Which again is the sort of thing which would have deeply interested the medieval Welsh, because St. David is Wales’ patron saint.

Anyway, back to St. Anna of Gwent, aka St. Anna of Oxenhall. Maybe she was a Pendragon (or maybe that was her first husband’s mom). Maybe she was a daughter of King Meurig of Morganwg. Maybe she was the daughter of King Vortimer Bendigaid (the Blessed) of Gwerthefyriwg. (Maybe she was Uther’s fostersister, or counted as one since she was Arthur’s fostermother.) Either way, she first married Cynyr Ceinfarfog, Lord of Caer Goch in Dyfed, and bore him six children. Among them were Cai Hir (yes, Sir Kay, and yes, the Welsh say he died a hermit saint and had his shrine), St. Non (became a nun, was raped, and bore St. David — but, um, also bore Mor, the mother of St. Eltin of Kinsale, and Magna, the mother of Setna), and St. Wenna the Queen (wife of King Mark’s cousin and successor, St. Salom of Cerniw, who was also uncle to St. Selevan; and mother of St. Cybi and St. Fracan, who married St. Gwen Teirbron who bore him St. Winwaloe but later remarried and bore St. Cadfan, who spent a lot of time with his cousin St. Teilo).

Among all these kids, St. Anna’s fostering of Arthur must have passed unnoticed.

After Arthur’s coronation, St. Anna and her husband Cynyr spent a lot of time at court. Then Cynyr died, and her hand was solicited by a prince of Brittany, Amyn Ddu. They married and among their kids were St. Samson, St. Tydecho, and St. Tegfedd, who married Prince Cynsig ap Hydwn and was mother of St. Teilo. (Amyn had moved to Dyfed and became an official at King Arthur’s court.) However, St. Samson eventually persuaded his parents to enter religious life, and Amyn became a monk at Ynys Byr while Anna moved back home to Gwent and founded churches.

Sabine Baring-Gould tells us that St. Amyn Ddu was persuaded to this move after nearly dying, and St. Samson coming home just in time to hear his confession  of a horrible mortal sin. St. Anna (who did the persuading after being in the room for the confession) decided that she also wanted all the younger kids to enter religious life and their estate to be given up. She presented the kids to Samson, who took his five brothers and his father and his uncle Umbraphel and Umbraphel’s three sons all back to Ynys Byr. St. Anna kept raising her youngest daughter (whom Samson had said should not enter religious life), and also took with her to Gwent her sister and sister-in-law Derveila or Afrella (Umbraphel’s wife). Baring-Gould also associates St. Amyn Ddu with St. Amon of Plescop, a holy man and knight who returned to Brittany just in time to die in his native land.

Yes, there’s a lot of this stuff. (We’ve barely touched on St. Gwen Teirbron, whose nickname means ‘triple-breasted’, who got kidnapped a lot by pirates but always walked home over the sea, and whose shrine is one of two to survive the Reformation — good one, Gwen! We haven’t talked about St. Anef, another son of Caw of Cwm Cawlwyd, like St. Gildas, St. Aneurin (who may be the birth name of St. Gildas), St. Blenwydd, and St. Ceidio.) It’s very sad that it’s not part of popular consciousness, just because it wasn’t Malory’s big thing.

We also haven’t talked about the infamous Yellow Plague of 547, which killed off Irish and Welsh saints, kings and normal people with truly appalling speed and thoroughness. This real, post-Arthurian times historical event is an extremely fruitful source of legends about how people survived or didn’t.

We haven’t talked about St. Elvis, even!

Sabine Baring-Gould’s four-volume work on the saints of Wales and Cornwall is available from Here’s Volume 1, which includes our Anna. Vortigern Studies includes an extremely interesting attempt to tease out the history of Vortigern and Arthur’s times, and some nifty articles. And if you’ve followed the links, you know all about Early British Kingdoms, a staggeringly persistent and helpful site.


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The Secret History Behind Pixar’s Mars Trilogy

The secret is that Bob Clampett intended John Carter of Mars to be the world’s first realistic, fantasy animated series, back in 1936. Animated movies in America might have been a medium for all ages and genres, not just for kids’ stories and comedy. It might have been — and now Pixar is going to make this long-lost dream come true.

Read all about it here, in “John Carter of Mars: Lost Cartoon”.

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Dragonhaven by Robin A. McKinley

Okay. All books by Robin McKinley are on my “instant buy in hardcover” list. But I have to say that, though I’m pleased that her last few books have been different and interesting, I’ve been disappointed by their increasing… well, worldliness. I used to go to Robin McKinley to walk in strange lands, and now she writes fantasy set in modern America with protagonists who have contemporary attitudes.

(Yeah, I know she lives in England now and home has become strange. And I know the manor house has gone and the health problems have manifested and so on. But…. I miss that sense of peace. I don’t particularly like the bitterness. And I could do without the stereotypical “modern fantasy must-haves”. Bah.)

However, if Dragonhaven weren’t by Robin McKinley, I think I’d be quite interested and intrigued by this new tale. A boy is raising a dragon — not the first time it’s happened in fantasy — but McKinley knows the messy and enthralling details of raising baby critters, and then kicks it up a notch with disgusting and fascinating fantastic/cryptozoologic details. Over a hundred pages of detailing the process ensue, but it never gets boring. She melds this with an sf/work story of a national park scrabbling for funding and a public relations nightmare in the making, all of which works pretty well, before moving into the endgame of what it’s all leading up to. There’s also a huge amount of humor, which I much appreciated.

Unfortunately, the novel doesn’t end there. As is apparently normal for McKinley’s creative process (and Tolkien’s, and many another writer’s), the story goes on. Back in the day, this sort of thing would get edited out. But nooooo. And yes, there is another climax which we reach — but we go through a mass of irrelevant detail, character moments that don’t suit the characters, and general crappitude.

Did we really need to know that the reason the Cranky Guy was cranky was that he was A Nerd Who’d Never Gotten Properly Laid, and Didn’t Realize He Was Gay? (Did I, in fact, ever imagine that McKinley would come up with anything so offensive to everyone alive, and that such a thing would be marketed as YA?) Would any young married guy, no matter how mind-altered, want us to know all about the high points of his honeymoon, especially in terms more appropriate to a female romance novel protagonist? Did we have to have totally gratuitous marrying off of the in-laws to each other? And could the portrayal of the state’s National Guard units (apparently all male and from some bunker where they are stored in cryofreezers, as opposed to being a walk through “Who Are the People In Your Neighborhood”) have been more stupid, pointless, and contradictory — despite being written by a former military brat who shows a nice flair for the Clancy-esque at the exact same time???

Could my eyes roll any further?

(Believe me when I say that I never thought “McKinley” and “crappitude” would ever conjoin in a review of mine. This pains me to write.)

However, there is a reasonably satisfying ending in store, so it’s probably worth reading from the library and buying in paperback. Just skim past the off-kilter bits.


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Embarrassing Admissions

Awright, so I was kinda worried about replacing the power supply, and thus dragged my feet about going to the computer store.

However, the reason I still couldn’t get on the Internet for several days after that was that I had left my Ethernet cable unplugged.

But what’s really worrying me is that I can’t get my non-C: hard drive to show up. Still. Bah.

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