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Saints and random worldbuilding speculations...

I'm still obsessed with saints for some reason. St. Viperfish is in the process of being gold-leafed as we speak. (Needs more gold leaf! There is never enough gold on a saint icon, damnit!) Unfortunately, I'm out of rubber gloves, so the next pass will have to wait.

Lacking latex gloves, I am forced to read about the lives of saints instead. (And if I had a nickel for every time I've uttered THAT phrase...)

Some personal and thoroughly random favorites:

St. Sithney -- Misogynist. The legend goes that God wanted St. Sithney to be the patron saint of girls seeking husbands. The saint swore he'd never get any rest at all, and would rather be the patron of mad dogs then women. God agreed.

St. Kevin -- He was praying during Lent with his arms outstretched, when a blackbird laid an egg in his palm. He held this position until the egg hatched.

St. Dunstan -- Patron of blacksmiths and swordsmiths. Pierced the nose of the Devil with a pair of hot tongs.

St. Eligius -- removed a horse's leg in order to shoe it more easily. Because he was a saint rather than a raving bloody psychotic,* I'll assume he put it back later.

Reading "Perdido Street Station" which, plot asides, is primarily about the foul and fascinating city, and this protracted maundering about with saints has given me weird ideas for a city run by, or at least defined by, weird saints.

Now, the primary job of saints is largely protective--they keep bad things away, and you generally invoke them when dealing with a specific issue related to their experitise. Saints are basically a protective, warding, helpful kinda thing.

So suppose you had a place where something bad had gone down, and left the fantasy equivalent of smoking nuclear wreckage (although with the fun twisty and melty and toothy magicky bits that are always entertaining) and the only way that people could live there any more was by using the saints to make little islands of normalcy. How you get a saint--invoke one, canonize one, make one up--I'm not sure, and possibly it doesn't really matter. Traditionally you get saints by all those methods anyway, and the actual saint isn't nearly so important as the layers of story and weird imagery associated with it. They're not like gods, they're a seperate order of things. So you beg, borrow, or steal yourself a saint--doesn't have to be a person, probably easier if it isn't, St. Rock and St. Viperfish are, for our purposes, just as effective as anybody else--and the saint makes things normal.

But you can only get so much normal space out of a saint, and of course your saint needs upkeep, so you'd have hundreds of saints, and a city covered in little shrines with random offerings tucked in every corner. So it's very much a patchwork--every time you get a bad spot, you have to slap a saint on it, like duct tape, and sometimes saints die, and sometimes they split and schism and turn into fifty other mini-saints, who are mostly identical. If your saint dies, I suspect you're in serious trouble--the badness never went away, after all, since duct tape doesn't fix anything, it's just being pinned down under sheer weight of divinity. So you can probably tell when saints are getting old, or fading, or senile or whatever, so you can bring in a new one.

And bad areas are going to take saints who need a lot of upkeep, and really bad areas are so permeated with the badness (whatever the hell it is) that the saints get warped and twisted themselves, and so in your slums, you get mad saints who require sacrifices of self-mutilation and, oh, live puppies or something, whereas in the nice areas they're content with incense and flower petals.

And icon painters are a major industry.

This is how I amuse myself while gardening. It may never go anywhere, but it's a fun thought, anyway.

*The line is occasionally fine. St. Christina the Astonishing comes to mind.

Now that sounds like something I'd love to read!

And I!

Which is the fancy way of saying "Me, too!"

And then you could have the Saint-movers, and the various industries creating saints, and competing "brands" of saints, all trying to get as much market share as possible. Or a conglomerate that rents out saints, and takes care of the sacrifices, as long as you pay them quarterly. And then the street junk dealers taking used up, defective, or forgotten saints and shining them up or connecting them or hacking them to make new kinds of saits for what they need, like cyberpunk saint-fixers. Weird steampunky contraptions made from the remnants of a dozen forgotten icons and plenty of pipes and gears.

Man, that' entertaining.

Or a conglomerate that rents out saints, and takes care of the sacrifices, as long as you pay them quarterly.

Rather like a monastery, really. They house the relic, they take care of the praying-ten-times-a-day and other sundry maintainance, and you make sure they have enough food, parchment, and gold leaf to keep themselves happy with. :->

I didn't start totally worrying about you until you got to the part about duct tape . . .

You and Stephen King should never play together. :/

You're wrong. Duct tape fixes -everything-

It's not as prevalent in my world, but I do have something slightly similar. My main characer's older sister is a Blessed, someone who's inexplicably holy from birth, and much of her income stems from wandering around the city and making places sacred.

She's also a professional exorcist, and she's beginning to suspect that her uncle leaves a couple watermelons on the vine every year on purpose so she can provide a little after-dinner entertainment at the fourth of July picnics.

and she's beginning to suspect that her uncle leaves a couple watermelons on the vine every year on purpose so she can provide a little after-dinner entertainment at the fourth of July picnics.


Nice call. :-)


I remember reading in The Golden Bough about what happens when the saints don't work and the population gets fed up... ah. Glory be to the Net!
Even the great St. Francis of Paolo himself, who annually performs the miracle of rain and is carried every spring through the market-gardens, either could not or would not help. Masses, vespers, concerts, illuminations, fire-works - nothing could move him. At last the peasants began to lose patience. Most of the saints were banished. At Palermo they dumped St. Joseph in a garden to see the state of things for himself, and they swore to leave him there in the sun till rain fell. Other saints were turned, like naughty children, with their faces to the wall. Others again, stripped of their beautiful robes, were exiled far from their parishes, threatened, grossly insulted, ducked in horse-ponds. At Caltanisetta the golden wings of St. Michael the Archangel were torn from his shoulders and replaced with wings of pasteboard; his purple mantle was taken away and a clout wrapt about him instead. At Licata the patron saint, St. Angelo, fared even worse, for he was left without any garments at all; he was reviled, he was put in irons, he was threatened with drowning or hanging. “Rain or the rope!” roared the angry people at him, as they shook their fists in his face.

There's a lovely story that may be part of this account where they smeared a saint statue in "offensive substances" and left him naked in the street. Every time someone passed him they'd shout "Maybe if we had a little rain you'd be washed clean!" (or something quite simmilar to that phrase).

Apparently it took a scant few days of this before a terribly large rainstorm came and washed away about half of the village's crops... oh and the saint got a nice bath too.

When I was young I recall reading a book called "Casilda of the Rising Moon" who became a saint. Love that name.

I recall reading some sf/fantasy novel where you worshipped a goddess named Branwen by making love. I wonder what the patron saint of courtesans would require as payment?

I think it was A.E. Van Vogt who wrote that a god (saint?) gets its power from the worship of its followers. No belief=no power yet since they are immortal they remain around though powerless.

Just a bunch of odd thoughts inspired by your post.


I think it was A.E. Van Vogt who wrote that a god (saint?) gets its power from the worship of its followers. No belief=no power yet since they are immortal they remain around though powerless.

sounds like "small gods" by terry pratchett

I love saint-lore in an unhealthy way (for an agnostic)
When working as waitstaff I had a prayer card for St.Notburga on my little credit card holder. Don't know if she helped any, but she generated a lot of interesting conversation. :)

(Deleted comment)
Gawd, don't make me dig out my notes on the talking Stag of the Cross and Saint Bloody Great Badger.

St Barbera - Patron saint of those in danger of violent death.

I always wondered if it would be offensive to hand out St Barbera medals to all the folks who do spectacularly daft things throughout the day.

Cut that semi off in traffic? oh dear, here's a saint just for you.

I would think she'd be big in mafia circles. Kinda the Godfather saint. Come to it, she'd be real big in the saint comunity itself, considering... Heh.

:D. I wish I could pull such entertaining ideas out of my ass at regular intervals :). If you do become a serious writer, you'll certainly have enough material to keep you going for a long time!

"St. Dustin as the story goes,
Once pinched the devil on the nose
With red-hot tongs, which made him roar,
And could be heard ten miles or more."

From my favourite writer/artist, Wallace Tripp, in his book A Great Big Ugly Man Came Up and Tied His Horse to Me

You are my very very very close second favourite writer-artist, Ursula!

Re: Ah, yes, St. Dustin

Boo RAH!
He's wonderful.

Re: Ah, yes, St. Dustin (Anonymous) Expand
The eastern version of St Christopher is worth mention in this context.

Interesting! I hadn't encountered that before...

On the other hand, I did encounter a wonderfully written retelling for children of the Western version of St. Christopher, under the title of "Gorm, Giant of the Club"; I don't recall the author, unfortunately.


I only like martyrs myself. From E. M. Cioran's Tears and Saints:

"Saintliness is the negation of life through heavenly hysteria. How does one negate life? Through uninterrupted lucidity. Hence the saints' almost total suppression of sleep. Rose of Lima never slept more than two hours a night, and when she felt that sleep was overpowering her, she would hang herself on a cross in her room, or force herself to stand by tying her hair to a nail."

Well, martyrs and ascetics. Asceticism is the most interesting part of sainthood, i think.

Story! Sounds quite intriguing.