Saint Colman and the Wurrum

6 September 10 | Posted in Events, Saints

St. Colman was the first bishop of Dromore in County Down, Ireland.  Catholic sources disagree on on practically all other facts.  In some books his feast day is celebrated on May 7th; in others June 7th or October 27th.  He is also referred to sometimes as Mocholmoc, or Mocholmog.  He may have been born in 450 , 514, or 516 A.D. Again, the sources don’t agree. Part of this confusion may be that there are no less than 120 Irish saints named Colman or Colum, and the stories may have gotten confused. St. Colman was probably interred at Dormore, but though the Breviary of Aberdeen gives Inchmacome as his place of burial.

On one thing all sources agree: St. Colman saved a maiden from a river monster, known as a wurrum or wyrm. 115 wyrms+

The incident is described in the 1896 book, Irish Local Legends by Lageniensis (pen name of Rev. John O’Hanlon):

“Not far from the espiscopal city of Dromore, flow the lazy deep waters of the River Lagan, and often the Patron Saint, Bishop Colman, rambled along its banks in prayer and meditation. Indeed, if tradition speak the truth, often he passed over it with dry feet. But, it was well-known, a great water monster lurked beneath its surface, always in quest of prey. Not withstanding the danger of approaching him, yet, an incautious and innocent young damsel went down the bank, and stood upon some stepping stones to beetle her linen.  The wily monster sailed slowly towards her, and before she was aware of his approach, he suddenly reared his huge head from the deep, opened his tremendous jaws, and at one gulp swallowed the poor maiden alive.  Although her terror was very great, she had the presence of mind to call out, ‘Oh, Holy Colman, save me!’ Her cry was heard by the saint, and he prayed to heaven for her release.  Some of the girl’s companions, who stood on the bank, and who witnessed that fearful doom, set up shouts and screams. But St. Colman approached the river, and commanded the infernal beast to deliver up its prey.  Then the girl he had swallowed was cast unharmed on the bank. There, to this very day, are shown the tracks of the holy bishop’s feet, and that path is called ‘Saint Colman’s-road.’

In one re-telling, St. Colman also recovered from the water the girl’s book of palms, and the young woman subsequently entered a convent.

lotwwIn the book, The Celtic Dragon Myth by J. F. Campbell (1911) Irish antiquarian,  William Reeves, Church of Ireland Bishop of Down, Connor and Dromore (1866-1892) commented on the story’s possible occurrence: “The belief,” said Bishop Reeves, “that certain rivers and lakes were haunted by serpents of a demonical and terrible character was current among the Irish at a very remote period, and still revails in many parts of Ireland.”

W. R. Fanu, 19th c. Irish horror writer and folklorist, echoed the belief in his book, Seventy Years of Irish Life:  “The dreadful beast, the wurrum–half fish, half dragon–still survives in many a mountain lake–seldom seen, indeed, but often heard. Near our fishing quarters in Kerry there are two such lakes, one the beautiful little lake at the head of the Blackwater River, called Lough Brin, from Brin or Bran as he is now called, the dreadful wurrum which inhabits it. The man who minds the boat there speaks with awe of Bran; he tells me he has never seen him, and hopes he never may, but has often heard him roaring on a stormy night. On being questioned what the noise was like, he said it was like the roaring of a young bull…Some miles further on, between Lough Brin and Glencar, there is another lake from which a boy while bathing was driven and chased by the dreadful wurrum which dewells in it. It bit him on the back and hunted him all the way home, where he arrived naked and bleeding.”

The story reminds me a lot of the legend of the Lambton Worm.  Read more here.

A funny-scary horror movie, “The Lair of the White Worm” retells the Lambton Worm legend with Pagan vs. Christianity overtones. The movie was based on the novel of the same name by Bram Stoker and published in 1911.  In an interesting coincidence, the novel was illustrated by occult artist Pamela Colman Smith.

Saint Rigobert and the Goose

24 March 10 | Posted in Animals, Events, Saints

Saint Rigobert was archbishop of Reims, France.  During a conflict between Charles Martel and some of his enemies, Rigobert refused to open the gates of the city to him for refuge. The saint claimed neutrality for the safety of the city. Unsure of which side would prevail in the conflict, Rigobert didn’t want to anger the other side if Martel lost. The gates stayed closed. This explanation did not sit well with Charles the Hammer. After his victory Martel exiled the archbishop from Reims. 

Eventually the archbishop settled in a nearby village. When on one occasion he had been given a live goose to take home for his dinner, Rigobert put the bird in the arms of a servant-boy accompanying him. Along the way, as Rigobert was reciting the divine office, the bird broke free and flew away. The boy deeply grieved this mishap, but Rigobert comforted him, urging him to trust in God. goose[1]

When Rigobert resumed his prayers, the goose flew back to them. Thereafter, the archbishop kept the goose as a pet. The goose would walk with him to a church, where, as the tame bird patiently waited for him, he celebrated Mass at an altar dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

Saint Rigobert died in 745 AD.  His feast day is celebrated on January 4th.

Aventine, The Hermit Saint

24 June 09 | Posted in Animals, Saints

Saint Aventine of Troyes, France (c. 538)

Aventine, of Bourges, France, was schooled in the spiritual life by the bishop of Troyes, Saint Loup. Loup’s episcopoal suceessor, Saint Camelianus, selected Aventine to be Troyes’ steward and almoner, in charge of the cathedral’s possessions and the distribution of alms.

Having served the Church thus with humility, purity and charity, Aventine thereafter obtained permission to withdraw into the woods to live as a hermit. He had a particular fondness for animals, never wanting to kill any of the forest creatures except when necessary.

Whenever he found any tiny fish in a pitcher of water drawn from a nearby brook by a monk who assisted him, he made a point of placing the fish unharmed back into the stream.

When on one occasion a deer pursued by hunters rushed into the cave that served as Aventine’s hermitage, Aventine protected the frightened animal by closing the door in order to hide it from the hunters until they had passed.

He habitually feed the small birds of the forest that flocked onto his fingers as he offered them a handful of crumbs. handtamingwildbirds

Saint Corentin and His Friend, The Fish

11 December 08 | Posted in Animals, Saints

St. Corentin lived as a hermit in the French village of Plomodiern, near Cornouaille (Quimper), in Brittany in the 7th or 8th century.

It is said that in a spring near Corentin’s hermitage there lived a remarkable fish that provided the hermit with daily nourishment. Each day, St. Corentin was able to slice off a piece of the flesh of the fish without harming the creature. He would then return the fish to the spring, where its missing flesh would grow back, making the fish whole again.

This marvel continued for several years. On one occasion, St. Corentin was obligated to provide a meal for a ruler named Grallon and his entire retinue after they became lost while hunting.  The single piece of flesh that the hermit took from the fish miraculously multiplied in the frying pan, satisfying the hunger of the entire hunting party.

Unfortunately, one royal attendant out of curiousity poked the fish with a knife, wounding it. St. Corentin healed the wound, and then commanded the fish to swim away permanently, lest it be harmed by anyone else.

St. Corentin became the first bishop of Cornouaille. For centuries, his feast day has been commemorated on December 12th.

Was that the day the fish first fed him; or the day when St. Corentin sent him away to keep him from harm? 

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St. Columba and the Loch Ness Monster

11 November 08 | Posted in Animals, Arts and Letters, Events, Global Catholic, Saints

St. Adamnan, the biographer of St. Columba, recorded an encounter with the Loch Ness Monster in 565 A.D. colm-cille.JPG

St. Columba was on his way to visit with the Pictish king in Inverness, came upon some Picts burying the remains of one of their people. They told Columba that the poor man had been bitten and mauled to death by a water monster.

The dead man’s boat lay on the other side of the water.  Columba ordered one of his followers to swim across and retrieve the boat.

One of his companions, Lugneus Mocumin, stripped down to his tunic and plunged into the water.

The monster saw him swimming, and having tasted blood, broke the surface of the water and made for him. Everyone who was watching was horrified, and hid their eyes in terror.

In the words of St. Adaman: “The monster suddenly rushed out and giving an awful roar, darted after him with its mouth wide open, as the man swam in the middle of the stream.”

St. Columba raised his hand, made the sign of the Cross and “commanded the ferocious monster saying, ‘Thou shalt go no further, nor touch the man; go back with all speed.’ Then at the voice of the saint, the monster was terrified, and feld more quickly than if it had been pulled back with ropes.”