|Don't lose your jug, Photina|
I tend to think of wells as cylindrical walls with little roofs and buckets hanging on hand-cranks, so when Jesus is sitting by the well and asks Photina (unnamed by John) to get him a drink, I was a little confused. Of course the well was nothing more than a hole in the ground to which one brought one's own bucket and rope. Photina, being a Samaritan, was a little confused too, since her people and Jews did not get along very well.
Photina and Jesus discussed several things: food, drink, culture, religion, and finally her marital status. His knowledge of her connubial history persuaded her that he was in fact a prophet. She mentioned the Messiah, and Jesus told her that's who he was. As the disciples returned with some food, she headed back to town to tell the other Samaritans that the Messiah was hanging out at the well. They were so interested in his message that they persuaded him to spend two days in Sychar before he moved on to Galilee.
|A rope on the pitcher makes sense|
There's a funny element to these stories. The Romans torture the Christians to break their faith. Sometimes it worked, but the Christians naturally recorded more of the incidents where their brothers and sisters held out. Yet in these same stories, God too tortures polytheists like Sebastian to break their faith. I'm not sure that's any more jake than what Nero was doing, but who am I to judge God?
Both Photina and Victor received divine messages to go to Rome for their triumph over Nero. It was sort of a figurative triumph, since he lived (for a while longer) and they died, but we know they get eternal life and he is damned. Photina also managed to convert the Emperor's daughter and her household, which must have been a bitter turn of events for Nero. She also managed to convert a sorcerer who brought her poisoned food, which is a strange but intriguing detail.
The rest of the story is basically hagioporn (copyright: Hagiomajor 2013). I know that's a little sanctimonious of me to say when I have written such ghastly details about previous saints, but I'm not inclined to wallow this morning. Here's a brief list of the methods of martyrdom, if you're interested, and a link to a source of you're really, really interested.
Victor -- blinded (but healed miraculously), then crucified, beaten, freed by an angel, eventually dismembered, flayed, and given to dogs
Josiah -- blinded (but healed miraculously), then crucified, beaten, freed by an angel, eventually dismembered, flayed, and given to dogs
Sebastian -- blinded (but healed miraculously), then crucified, beaten, freed by an angel, eventually dismembered, flayed, and given to dogs
Photida -- Tied to bent trees, then ripped apart as they were released
Anatolia -- breasts cut off, flayed to death
Photo -- breasts cut off, flayed to death
Paraskeva -- breasts cut off, flayed to death
Kyriakia -- breasts cut off, flayed to death
Sorcerer -- unknown
Photina --thrown down a well while her family was murdered then dragged back out and questioned; when she spit in the Emperor's face, she was thrown back down the well to drown
Quick thought: Nice symmetry that she gained everlasting life through a conversation with Jesus at a well and then lost her worldly life in a conversation with Nero at a well.
Side note: There's another saint named Paraskeva honored on March 20. You can read about her here.