This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Monday, April 2, 2012

April 2 -- Feast of Constantine II and Ebba the Younger

Ivar the Boneless
You can't have martyrs without the persecutors, so it's a good thing for Causantin mac Cinaeda (King Constantine I of Scotland) and Ebba the Younger that Ragnar Lothbrok unleashed the Great Heathen Army on Europe.  Of course, the Vikings were certainly not waging war to spread Wotan-worship, but somehow the Christian kings of France, England, Scotland, and Ireland wanted to make it a war over faith.  I guess if I had an army of seven-foot tall berserkers swarming onto my shores, I'd want the comfort of spiritual redemption too.

King Causantin of Scotland
Ragnar's son and heir was Ivar the Boneless.  Apparently there's not much agreement about his cognomen.  Some folks thought he had no legs, or if he had them, that he suffered some sort of paralysis.  There are accounts of his being carried by warriors on a shield, and questions about whether his use of a longbow would have constituted sufficient military performance to justify his command of the army.  Recent speculation has focused on osteogenesis imperfecta,  a genetic disorder resulting in brittle bones (among other symptoms).  Other folks have guessed that it refers to his weedy physique, or perhaps even impotence. 

"Sisters, I have a plan..."
Whatever the reason for his name, he unleashed his dad's army on the Scots and English with brutal force.  King Constantine, who had only just finished building a new church at Saint Andrews, died defending against the great hairy heathens in 877. 

Sources vary about  Ebba the Younger's feast day.  One says June 22, another August 25, and yet another April 2.  They agree, however, that she was a Northumbrian princess who founded a monastery at Ebchester.  When the Viking horde approached, she gathered the nuns together in the chapter house and proposed self-mutilation as a method of avoiding rape.  To demonstrate, she slashed open her nose and upper lip, deeply disfiguring her face.  The other sisters followed. 

It worked, in a limited way.  The Vikings overran the monastery, and seeing the women, were not inclined to rape them.  They did, however, lock them in the chapter house and burn it down. 

The war against abbeys and monasteries by Viking raiders was certainly asymmetrical.  A king like Constantine would field an army and fight, often to the death.  An abbess like Ebba would offer no violence, except to herself, and trust in a post-mortal reward. In time, the Vikings were converted to Christianity, and even if overt adherence to the Church fades in northern Europe, the articulated values of the faith will remain ingrained in the culture for centuries. A handful of Ebbas could not have conquered Denmark, but thousands of them and the missionaries who followed them, did.

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