A surfeit of sanctity

Kevin bakewell (59)I’m sick of saints.

No disrespect is intended here… none at all… but there are only so many you can read about at one go… and for the past couple of days my browser has had every available tab filled with the lives of obscure British saints with largely unpronounceable names. Have you any idea how many there are? A dozen or so, perhaps… you might be forgiven for thinking that. I did. No.

There are about fifty under ‘A’ alone on one list… and that only covers the Anglo-Saxon saints… let alone the rest of history and the alphabet! Then there are the discrepancies between the various branches of Orthodox, Roman and Protestant Christianity… even though such division didn’t exist in the popular mind so long ago.

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Of course, I don’t have to read all their stories… but having tried every conceivable permutation in the search engine I have only come up with a comparative handful who share the one characteristic I am looking for in their tales. The lists do not give the details of their legends or the reasons for their veneration, so I follow the trail of crumbs from arcane references in out of print books and ancient hagiographies.

To be fair it is fascinating research, opening windows on the bygone social, religious and political history of Britain… and the picture goes way back, so it is not exactly a chore. On the other hand, you soon learn to recognise the signs…so many of the politically inspired venerations seem to share the same story, bare of any other detail than genealogy.

Ivinghoe and cathedral 073

Conversely there are tales of wonders and miracles. Most of these date back before the Synod of Whitby shifted the focus away from Celtic Christianity to Rome in 664 AD. Some of these tales are beautiful, many seem gruesome to the modern reader. Yet others seem to have their stories directly lifted from myths that are truly ancient and these hold an extra depth and attraction for me.

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What is perhaps the best part about research for the new book, Scions of Albion, is the chance to explore these forgotten corners of history, myth and legend and see how they entwine like the ancient carvings on the stones that tell their stories. These are glimpses through time I might not otherwise have taken; eras of history I might never have known. This year, researching the Anglo-Saxons and the Dark Ages for the Doomsday series has opened the pages of a story that reads like an illuminated manuscript. No matter what wild and woolly theories ‘Don’ comes up with about symbols, myths or history, or how ‘Wen’ manages to counter… or expand upon… them, we do like to have our facts right before we play with them. Which means I get to explore the past… and that suits me just fine. Even if I do get sidetracked following up on obscure bits of information on a regular basis…

all saints oving and St Osyth 031

So… I have been delving into the erstwhile sanctity of ‘this royal throne of kings, this scepter’d isle, this earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, this other Eden’ and seeing it from an older perspective as I walk hand in hand with hundreds of forgotten saints.

But… I have had enough of them for today. A surfeit in fact.

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She writes alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. Find out more at France and Vincent. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at scvincent.com and on Twitter @SCVincent. Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email: findme@scvincent.com.
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32 Responses to A surfeit of sanctity

  1. That sounds like many a day I have spent in pursuit of old Celtic Saints Sue…..they seem to ooze out of the earth up here, gathering around every stone, hill and well 🙂

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    • Sue Vincent says:

      I’d noticed, Seonaid 🙂 Which is fine by me… though I wish their stories were easier to find 🙂

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      • They do like to keep a bit of mystery wrapped around them…..for modesty perhaps!
        I love to strip back the obviously tampered with stuff and see what’s left after political church meddling has been put to one side….usually it’s mythical as you say, and I’ve been linking some of that to original Fairytales as well 🙂 Oh the web just gets bigger and more complicated the more we look!!

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  2. noelleg44 says:

    All I could think of whilst reading this post is…tell me, tell me, tell me. I want to hear about these saints!!!

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  3. Pete Hulme says:

    I’m afraid my punning mind, which I usually repress on my blog, came up with ‘surplice’ as a suitable collective noun for an overload of saints.

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  4. Ali Isaac says:

    Know how you feel! I frequently get sidetracked on my journey into the past whilst researching for my books. But the stuff you unearth! It leads you where you never imagined! I love it. Unless its something particular you’re looking for… in that case, you’re guaranteed not to find it!

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    • Sue Vincent says:

      Very ruddy particular this time… and though I have found some of them, I keep getting vague references to ‘many others’ without quantity… so I dont even know what I’m looking for 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ali Isaac says:

        So the plot thickens, and you get more lost and confused then when you started, right? Sounds familiar…

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        • Sue Vincent says:

          Yep… and the side trips are sooo enthralling you forget where you started and get lost. Not that I’m complaining, mind!

          Liked by 1 person

          • Ali Isaac says:

            LMAO!!! Yes, that’s true! Sometimes I think it feels like those people from the past are so glad someone has remembered them, or gone looking for them, that they grab you and drag you off at a tangent, and dont let go till its much too late for you to find your way back on your own.

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            • Sue Vincent says:

              That’s exactly what it feels like!

              Brings to mind the old belief that to speak the name is to bring back the dead… and a conversation with the ancestors is always enlightening 🙂

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              • Ali Isaac says:

                That’s so true! Sometimes when I’ve been writing I feel so sure someone is standing behind me reading over my shoulder. I would dearly love to be able to talk to the ancestors… how much we could learn! But either they’ve not chosen to do that yet, or I can’t hear them, more’s the pity!

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              • Sue Vincent says:

                Well, some of the stuff I ‘get’ throws a lot of light on the old ways. Where it comes from?… Your guess is as good as mine.

                Liked by 1 person

  5. Éilis Niamh says:

    Understandable! Balance is a terrific thing even with what is usually enjoyable. 🙂

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  6. TamrahJo says:

    So many wonderful things to know – so few hours in the day – 🙂 I hit my limit on reading/researching, too, and yet, after a good night’s rest, I’m bringing back up the bookmarked links, or referring to the sticky noted pages in the books piled around – 🙂 I so love the chance to read your posts that give me plenty of ‘to read/learn/explore” fodder for my “to discover” list – thank you !

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    • Sue Vincent says:

      My bookmarks are all still open on the desktop 🙂 Even this time of morning. I love it… but I did need a bit of a break 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • TamrahJo says:

        I’ve been digging deeper into the the Anglo-Saxon period – – I confess to first being intrigued with Stephen/Maud period because of Brother Cadfael, then more intrigued with the Monarchy Series done by BBC – but there are so many factors at play in the early history of Engal’land (sp?) that were foundation blocks for how the founding fathers of America chose to form the government – I can’t help but be fascinated by the journey – – 🙂

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        • Sue Vincent says:

          I’ve spent a year immersed in that period for the Doomsday books… the stuff you just don’t learn in school is amazing! The research has completely reorganised my view of Albion’s history 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          • TamrahJo says:

            Same here with our history/books in school! 🙂 I about laughed out loud the night I watched some of the Monarchy series and switched over to the Founding Fathers series – – Lines from each :
            Monarchy, Episode 1 – The Early Kings – “This was the establishment of ‘rule by consent’, that a king only ruled by consent of the people.

            Founding Fathers, “They formed this totally new government, that had never been dreamed of by anyone else where people governed by will of the people” –

            LOL

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          • TamrahJo says:

            PS – So, pray tell, King Arthur legends fan/researcher or not?

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            • Sue Vincent says:

              Of course 🙂 The legends are both beautiful and deeply symbolic… and as much part of the story of Albion as history itself 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

              • TamrahJo says:

                I think so too – there are so many deliciously tempting levels to explore – the symbols, the history, the compilation, the centuries of growing work – I confess to always catching the ‘latest’ documentary/reading the latest work to see what new layer/perspective is being touted now… 🙂

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              • Sue Vincent says:

                The shelves are bursting with books on just those subjects… then Stuart and I meet up, books are born and some very strange theories get explored. Stuart has a mind unlike any other I have ever met as far as being able to ‘join the dots’ in symbolism… he’s a delight to work with 🙂

                Liked by 1 person

              • TamrahJo says:

                I tend to ‘think’ like that often too – – – I watch something in one documentary and then weeks later, reading something, I get goosebumps and think, “Aha! I see the connection between these two systems – how very interesting!” I think it was my years of database/statistical work — My eye and heart just jump anytime I see a pattern or items I think are related – – 🙂 Stuart sound like a dream. It’s always so much more fun having conversations with people like you all – I don’t have to stop, say, “What?” and the other person, bemused, says, “I don’t follow….I thought we were talking about the Great Depression, but it sounds like you’re talking about somebody in France in the 1700’s – I’m lost….” LOL

                Liked by 1 person

  7. Sue Vincent says:

    Honestly, , I frequently get lost… partiularly when there is wine involved… but it is like being in a maze as a child… you know the whole point and the fun of it is to find the way through 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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