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.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

August 29 -- Feast of John the Baptist's Decollation

Buyer's regret there, Salome?  (by Caravaggio)
Decollate is a fun word.  It means decapitate,  behead.   I think it is used almost exclusively with John the Baptist.

Unlike most saints, whose primary feasts fall on their death days, John the Baptist's primary feast is June 24, his birthday.  Well, I don't think anyone has any idea what day his birthday falls on, but that's the day that's celebrated.  His death day is a secondary feast, which I almost skipped until I learned why the Irish are such a tragic people.  Non sequitur?  I think not. 

I'm not sure that's Mug with the sword
You probably recall that John had called out King Herod for marrying his niece Herodias, who was his brother's ex-wife.  That is a level of incest unrivaled by even the European royal houses, who would routinely break one rule or another, but never two in the same bed.  At least not at the same time.   Herodias, angry at being called an instrument of immorality, got her daughter Salome to dance for her step-dad.  He was so smitten with his niece/grand-niece/step-daughter that he promised to grant her any request.  Having been thus pimped and prompted by mom, she asked for the head of John the Baptist on a platter.  It was delivered post haste. 

Mug Ruith
The Irish, you ask?  Yes, I had not forgotten.  There was once a powerful sorcerer living on Valentia Island in County Kerry.  He was a druid of rare skill, a man who could raise storms and turn men to stone with his breath.  Mug Ruith (Mogh Roith) by name, this druid flew in an oared wheel-like vehicle and traveled on the ground in an oxen-pulled chariot which shone bright as day during the night.  His life spanned nineteen kings, which in some points of Irish history might mean four or five years, but then again, it could be a millennium or more.  Oh, and he carried a stone that turned into a poisonous eel when thrown in water. 

the feckless Tlachga
This fella Mug Ruith went to Jerusalem to be a pupil of Simon Magus, whom you may remember from a post about Philip the Deacon.  Simon was a pretty powerful sorcerer, and while he might not have had an eel-stone, he had a few tricks that Mug wanted to learn.  In fact, Simon helped him build his flying wheel.  While he was in town, Mug Ruith decollated John the Baptist, which resulted in a curse upon the Irish people.  It started with Mug's daughter, Tlachga, who had traveled the world with him learning magic.  She was raped by Simon's three sons, and returned to Ireland to give birth.  She bore three sons (one from each rapist?) named Doirb, Cumma, and Muach, but died following the delivery.  It was an unhappy day, and tragedy followed tragedy for the Irish, through the fratricidal wars and Longshanks and Cornwall and that hunchback King Billy and the Troubles right up until today's economic woes.  So the next time you're in your cups and trying to sing "Kevin Barry," pause for a moment and raise your glass on Mug Ruith's decollation of John the Baptist, which started the whole thing. 

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