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Eckenstein, Lina, d. 1931 / Woman under monasticism: chapters on saint-lore and convent life between A.D. 500 and A.D. 1500 (1896)

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INTRODUCTORY.

'Die mit dem goldenen Schuh und dem Geiger ist auch eine Muttergottes.' Bavarian Saying.

The Borderland of Heathendom and Christianity.

IN order to gain an insight into the causes of the rapid development of monasticism among the German races, it is necessary to enquire into the social arrangements of the period which witnessed the introduction of Christianity, and into those survivals of the previous period of social development which German Christianity absorbed. Among peoples of German race monastic life generally, and especially monastic life which gave scope for independent activity among women, had a development of its own. Women of the newly-converted yet still barbarian race readily gathered together and dwelt in religious settlements founded on their own initiative and ruled independently of men. A reason for this must be sought in the drift of contemporary life, which we shall thus have to discuss at some length.

During the period of declining heathendom--for how long, measuring time by centuries, it is not yet possible to say--the drift of society had been towards curtailing woman's liberty of movement and interfering with her freedom of action. When the Germans crossed the threshold of history the characteristics of the father-age were already in the ascendant; the social era, when the growing desire for certainty of fatherhood caused individual women and their offspring to be brought into the possession of individual men, had already begun. The influence of women was more and more restricted owing to their domestic subjection. But traditions of a time when it had been otherwise still lingered.

Students of primitive history are recognising, for peoples of German race among others, the existence of an early period of development, when women played a greater part in both social   [p. 2]   and tribal life. Folk-lore, philology, and surviving customs yield overwhelming evidence in support of the few historic data which point to the period, conveniently called the mother-age, when women held positions of authority inside the tribal group and directly exercised influence on the doings of the tribe.[1*]

This period, the mother-age, is generally looked upon as an advance from an earlier stage of savagery, and considered to be contemporaneous with the beginnings of settled tribal life. It brought with it the practice of tilth and agriculture, and led to the domestication of some of the smaller animals and the invention of weaving and spinning, achievements with which it is recognised that women must be credited.

In matters of polity and sex it established the paramount importance of the woman; it is she who regulates the home, who notes the changes of the seasons, who stores the results of experience, and treasures up the intellectual wealth of the community in sayings which have come down to us in the form of quaint maxims and old-world saws. As for family arrangements, it was inside the tribal group and at the tribal festival that sex unions were contracted; and this festival, traditions of which survive in many parts of Europe to this day, and which was in its earliest forms a period of unrestrained license for the women as well as the men, was presided over by the tribal mothers, an arrangement which in various particulars affords an explanation of many ideas associated with women in later times.

The father-age succeeding to the mother-age in time altogether revolutionised the relations of the sexes; transient sex unions, formerly the rule, were gradually eliminated by capture and retention of wives from outside the tribal group. The change marks a distinct step in social advance. When men as heads of families succeeded to much of the influence women had held in the tribe, barbarous tendencies, such as blood sacrifice, were checked and a higher moral standard was attained. But this was done at the cost of her prerogative to the woman; and her social influence to some extent passed from her.

It must be granted that the character of the mother-age in some of its bearings is hypothetical, but we can infer many of the social arrangements of the period from surviving customs and   [p. 3]   usages, and its organisation from the part woman played in tradition and saga, and, as we shall see later, from folk-traditions preserved in the legends of the saints. And further, unless we admit that the social arrangements of the earlier period differed from those of the later, we are at a loss to account for the veneration in which woman was held and for the influence exerted by her as we confront her on the threshold of written history. When once we grasp the essentials of these earlier arrangements, we hold the clue to the existence of types of character and tendencies which otherwise appear anomalous.

For at the time when contact with Christianity brought with it the possibility of monastic settlements, the love of domestic life had not penetrated so deeply, nor were its conditions so uniformly favourable, but that many women were ready to break away from it. Reminiscences of an independence belonging to them in the. past, coupled with the desire for leadership, made many women loth to conform to life inside the family as wives and mothers under conditions formulated by men. Tendencies surviving from the earlier period, and still unsubdued, made the advantages of married life weigh light in the balance against a loss of liberty. To conceive the force of these tendencies is to gain an insight into the elements which the convent forthwith absorbs.

In the world outside the convent commanding figures of woman-kind become fewer with outgoing heathendom, and the part played by women becomes of less and less importance. There is less room left for the Gannas of history or for the Kriemhilds of saga, for powerful natures such as the Visigoth princess Brunihild, queen of the Franks, or Drahomir of Brandenburg, queen in Bohemia who gratify their passion for influence with a recklessness which strikes terror into the breasts of their contemporaries. As the old chronicler of St Denis remarks, women who are bent on evil do worse evil than men. But in the convent the influence of womankind lasted longer. Spirited nuns and independent-minded abbesses turn to account the possibilities open to them in a way which commands respect and repeatedly secures superstitious reverence in the outside world. The influence and the powers exerted by these women as we shall see further on, are altogether remarkable, especially during early Christian times. But we also come across frequent instances of lawlessness among the women who band together in the convent,--a lawlessness to which the arrangements of the earlier age likewise supply a clue. For that   [p. 4]   very love of independence, which led to beneficial results where it was coupled with self-control and consciousness of greater responsibility, tended in the direction of vagrancy and dissoluteness when it was accompanied by distaste for every kind of restraint.

In this connection we must say a few words on the varying status of loose women, since the estimation in which these women were held and the attitude assumed towards them affected monasticism in various particulars. It is true that during early Christian times little heed was taken of them and few objections were raised to their influence, but later distinct efforts were made by various religious orders to prevent women from drifting into a class which, whatever may have been its condition in past times, was felt to be steadily and surely deteriorating.

The distinction of women into so-called respectable and disreputable classes dates from before the introduction of Christianity. It arose as the father-age gained on the mother-age, when appropriated women were more and more absorbed into domesticity, while those women outside, who either resented or escaped subjection, found their position surrounded by increasing difficulties, and aspersion more and more cast on their independence. By accepting the distinction, the teachers of Christianity certainly helped to make it more definite; but for centuries the existence of loose women so far from being condemned, was hardly discountenanced by them. The revenues which ecclesiastical courts and royal households derived from taxes levied on these women as a class yield proof of this.[2*] Certainly efforts were made to set limits to their practices and the disorderly tendencies which in the nature of things became connected with them and with those with whom they habitually consorted. But this was done not so much to restrain them as to protect women of the other class from being confounded with them. Down to the time of the Reformation, the idea that the existence of loose women as a class should be discountenanced does not present itself, for they were a recognised feature of court life and of town life everywhere. Marshalled into bands, they accompanied the king and the army on their most distant expeditions, and stepped to the fore wherever there was question of merrymaking or entertainment. Indeed there is reason to believe, improbable though it may seem at first sight, that women of loose life, as we come across them in the Middle Ages, are successors to a class which had been powerful in the past. They are not altogether depraved and   [p. 5]   despised characters such as legislation founded on tenets of Roman Law chose to stamp them. For law and custom are often at variance regarding the rights and privileges belonging to them. These rights and privileges they retained in various particulars till the time of the Reformation, which indeed marks a turning point in the attitude taken by society towards women generally.

Different ages have different standards of purity and faithfulness. The loose or unattached women of the past are of many kinds and many types; to apply the term prostitute to them raises a false idea of their position as compared with that of women in other walks of life. If we would deal with them as a class at all, it is only this they have in common,--that they are indifferent to the ties of family, and that the men who associate with them are not by so doing held to incur any responsibility towards them or towards their offspring.

If we bear in mind the part these women have played and the modifications which their status has undergone, it will be seen that the subject is one which nearly affects monasticism. For the convent accepted the dislike women felt to domestic subjection and countenanced them in their refusal to undertake the duties of married life. It offered an escape from the tyranny of the family, but it did so on condition of such a sacrifice of personal independence, as in the outside world more and more involved the loss of good repute. On the face of it, a greater contrast than that between the loose woman and the nun is hard to conceive; and yet they have this in common, that they are both the outcome of the refusal among womankind to accept married relations on the basis of the subjection imposed by the father-age.

In other respects too the earlier heathen period was not without influence on the incoming Christian faith, and helped to determine its conceptions with regard to women. In actual life the sacerdotal privileges, which tribal mothers had appropriated to themselves at the time of the introduction of Christianity, were retained by the priestess; while in the realm of the ideal the reverence in which tribal mothers had been held still lived on in the worship of the tribal mother-divinity. It is under this twofold aspect, as priestess and as tribal mother-goddess, that the power of women was brought face to face with Christianity; the priestess and the mother-goddess were the well-defined types of heathen womanhood with which the early Church was called upon to deal.

  [p. 6]  

We will show later on how the ideal conception prevailed, and how the heathen mother-goddess often assumed the garb of a Christian woman-saint, and as a Christian woman-saint was left to exist unmolested. Not so the heathen priestess and prophetess. From the first introduction of Christianity the holding of sacerdotal powers by women was resented both within and without the Church, and opprobrium was cast on the women who claimed to mediate between the human and the divine.

At the time of the advent of Christianity the Gannas and Veledas of the Roman period are still a living reality; they are the 'wise women' who every now and then leave their retreat and appear on the stage of history. A prophetess in gorgeous apparel makes her entry into Verdun in the year 547, drawing crowds about her and foretelling the future. She is in no way intimidated by the exorcisms of prelates, and presently leaves to betake herself to the court of the Frankish queen Fredegund. Again in 577 we find the Frankish king Guntchramm in consultation with a woman soothsayer, and other cases of the kind are on record.[3*]

In the ninth century the Church more effectually exercised her influence in the case of the woman Thiota, who coming from Switzerland inflamed the minds of the folk in Mainz; for she was accused of profanity and publicly scourged.[4*] But for all the attacks of the Church, the folk persisted in clinging to its priestesses and in believing them gifted with special powers. Grimm shows how the Christian accusers of soothsaying women made them into odious witches;[5*] Wuttke and Weinhold, both well-known students of folk-lore, consider that witches were originally heathen priestesses.[6*] The intrinsic meaning of the word hexe, the German designation for witch, points to some one who originally belonged to a group living in a particular manner, but whose practices made her obnoxious to those who had apprehended the higher moral standard of a later social period. But the Church failed to stamp even the witch as wholly despicable; for in popular estimation she always retained some of the attributes of the priestess, the wise woman, the bona domina, the 'white witch' of tradition; so that the doctrine that the soothsaying woman is necessarily the associate of evil was never altogether accepted.   [p. 7]   Even now-a-days incidents happen occasionally in remote districts which show how the people still readily seek the help of women in matters of wisdom, of leech craft, and of prescience. It was only under the influence of a scare that people, who were accustomed to consult the wise woman in good faith, could be brought to abhor her as a witch. It was only during the later Middle Ages that the undisputed and indisputable connection of some 'wise women' with licentious customs gave their traducers a weapon of which they were not slow to avail themselves, and which enabled them to rouse fanaticism of the worst kind against these women.

The practices and popularity of witchcraft were in truth the latest survivals of the mother-age. The woman, who devised love-charms and brewed manifold remedies for impotence and for allaying the pangs of childbirth, who pretended to control the weather and claimed the power to turn the milk of a whole village blue, carried on traditions of a very primitive period. And her powers, as we shall see, always had a close parallel in those attributed to women-saints. For example St Gertrud of Nivelles has left a highly prized relic to womankind in the form of a cloak which is still hung about those who are desirous of becoming mothers;[7*] and the hair of a saint, Mechthild, is still hung outside the church at Toss in Switzerland to avert the thunderstorm;[8*] and again St Gunthild of Biberbach and others are still appealed to that they may avert the cattle plague.[9*] What difference, it may be asked, is there between the powers attributed to these saints and the powers with which witches are usually credited? They are the obverse and reverse of woman's connection with the supernatural, which in the one case is interpreted by the sober mind of reverence, and in the other is dreaded under the perturbing influence of a fear encouraged, if not originated, by Christian fanatics.

In the Christian Church the profession of the nun was accepted as holy, but an impassable gulf separated her from the priestess. During early Christian times we come across the injunction that women shall not serve at the altar,[10*] and that lady abbesses shall not take upon themselves religious duties reserved to men by the Church. When we think of women gathered together in a religious   [p. 8]   establishment and dependent on the priest outside for the performing of divine worship, their desire to manage things for themselves does not appear unnatural, encouraged as it would be by traditions of sacerdotal rights belonging to them in the past. And it is worthy of notice that as late as the 13th century, Brother Berthold, an influential preacher of south Germany, speaks ardently against women who would officiate at divine service and urges the mischief that may result from such a course.

Turning to the question of how far these obvious survivals from a heathen age are determined by time and place, we find broad lines of difference between the heathen survivals of the various branches of the German race, and considerable diversity in the character of their early Christianity and their early women-saints. This diversity is attributable to the fact that the heathen beliefs of these various peoples were not the same at the time of their first contact with Christianity, and that they did not accept it under like circumstances.

For while those branches of the race who moved in the vanguard of the great migration, the Vandals, the Burgundians and the Goths, readily embraced Christianity, it was Christianity in its Arian form. Arianism, which elsewhere had been branded as heresy and well-nigh stamped out, suddenly revived among the Germans; all the branches of the race who came into direct contact with peoples of civilized Latinity readily embraced it. Now one of the distinguishing features of Arian belief was its hatred of monasticism.[11*] The Arian convert hunted the monk from his seclusion and thrust him back to the duties of civic life. It is not then among Germans who adopted Arian Christianity that the beginnings of convent life must be sought. Indeed as Germans these peoples soon passed away from the theatre of history; they intermarried and fell in with the habits of the people among whom they settled, and forfeited their German language and their German traditions.

It was otherwise with the Franks who entered Gaul at the close of the fourth century, and with the Anglo-Saxons who took possession of Britain. The essentially warlike character of these peoples was marked by their worship of deities such as Wodan, a worship before which the earlier worship of mother-divinities was giving way. Women had already been brought into subjection, but they had a latent desire for independence, and among the Franks and Anglo-   [p. 9]   Saxons women of the newly converted race eagerly snatched at the possibilities opened out by convent life, and in their ranks history chronicles some of the earliest and most remarkable developments of monasticism. But the Franks and the Anglo-Saxons, in leaving behind the land of their origin, had left behind those hallowed sites on which primitive worship so essentially depends. It is in vain that we seek among them for a direct connection between heathen mother-divinity and Christian woman-saint; their mother-divinities did not live on in connection with the Church. It is true that the inclination to hold women in reverence remained, and found expression in the readiness with which they revered women as saints. The women-saints of the Anglo-Saxons and the Franks are numerous, and are nearly all known to have been interested in convent foundations. But the legends, which in course of time have crystallised round them, and the miracles attributed to them, though containing certain elements of heathen folk-tradition, are colourless and pale compared with the traditions which have been preserved by saint legend abroad. It is in Germany proper, where the same race has been in possession of the same sites for countless generations, that the primitive character of heathen traditions is most pronounced and has most directly determined and influenced the cult and the legends of women-saints.

Besides the reminiscences of the early period which have survived in saint legend, traditions and customs of the same period have lived on in the worship of the Virgin Mary. The worship of the Virgin Mary was but slightly developed in Romanised Gaul and Keltic Britain, but from the beginning of the sixth century it is a marked feature in the popular creed in those countries where the German element prevailed.

As Mrs Jameson says in her book on the legends of the Madonna: 'It is curious to observe, as the worship of the Virgin mother expanded and gathered in itself the relics of many an ancient faith, how the new and the old elements, some of them apparently most heterogeneous, became amalgamated and were combined into the earlier forms of art.[12*]

Indeed the prominence given to the Virgin is out of all proportion to the meagre mention of her in the gospels. During the early Christian period she was largely worshipped as a patron saint in France, England and Germany, and her fame continued steadily increasing with the centuries till its climax was reached in the   [p. 10]   Middle Ages, which witnessed the greatest concessions made by the Church to the demands of popular faith.

According to Rhys[13*] many churches dedicated to Mary were built on spots where tradition speaks of the discovery of a wooden image, probably a heathen statue which was connected with her.

In the seventh century Pope Sergius (687--701) expressly ordered that the festivals of the Virgin Mary were to take place on heathen holy days in order that heathen celebrations might become associated with her[14*] . The festivals of the Virgin to this day are associated with pilgrimages, the taste for which to the Frenchman of the Middle Ages appeared peculiarly German. The chronicler Froissart, writing about 1390, remarks 'for the Germans are fond of performing pilgrimages and it is one of their customs.'[15*]

Mary then, under her own name, or under the vaguer appellation of Our Lady (Unser liebe frau, Notre Dame, de heilige maagd), assimilated surviving traditions of the heathen faith which were largely reminiscences of the mother-age; so that Mary became the heiress of mother-divinities, and her worship was associated with cave, and tree, and fountain, and hill-top, all sites of the primitive cult.

'Often,' says Menzel,[16*] 'a wonder-working picture of the Madonna is found hung on a tree or inside a tree; hence numerous appellations like "Our dear Lady of the Oak," "Our dear Lady of the Linden-tree," etc. Often at the foot of the tree, upon which such a picture is hung, a fountain flows to which miraculous power is ascribed.'

In the Tyrol we hear of pictures which have been discovered floating in a fountain or which were borne to the bank by a river.[17*]

As proof of the Virgin Mary's connection with festivals, we find her name associated in Belgium with many pageants held on the first of May. Throughout German lands the Assumption of the Virgin comes at the harvest festival, and furnishes an occasion for some pilgrimage or fair which preserves many peculiar and perplexing traits of an earlier civilization.

The harvest festival is coupled in some parts of Germany with   [p. 11]   customs that are of extreme antiquity. In Bavaria the festival sometimes goes by the name of the 'day of sacred herbs,' kräuterweihtag; near Würzburg it is called the day of sacred roots, wiirzelweihtag,. or 'day of bunch-gathering,' büschelfrauentag.[18*] In the Tyrol the 15th of August is the great day of the Virgin, grosse frauentag, when a collection of herbs for medicinal purposes is made. A number of days, frauentage, come in July and August and are now connected with the Virgin, on which herbs are collected and offered as sacred bunches either on the altar of Our Lady in church and chapel, or on hill-tops which throughout Germany are the sites of ancient woman-worship.[19*] This collecting and offering of herbs points to a stage even more primitive than that represented by offerings of grain at the harvest festival.

In a few instances the worship of Mary is directly coupled with that of some heathen divinity. In Antwerp to this day an ancient idol of peculiar appearance is preserved, which women, who are desirous of becoming mothers, decorate with flowers at certain times of the year. Its heathen appellation is lost, but above it now stands a figure of the Virgin.[20*]

Again we find the name of Mary joined to that of the heathen goddess Sif. In the Eiffel district, extending between the rivers Rhine, Meuse and Mosel, a church stands dedicated to Mariasif, the name of Mary being coupled with that of Sif, a woman-divinity of the German heathen pantheon, whom Grimm characterizes as a giver of rain.[21*] The name Mariahilf, a similar combination, is frequently found in south Germany, the name of Mary as we hope to show further down being joined to that of a goddess who has survived in the Christian saint Hilp.[22*]

These examples will suffice to show the close connection between the conceptions of heathendom and popular Christianity, and how the cloak of heathen association has fallen on the shoulders of the saints of the Christian Church. The authorities at Rome saw no occasion to take exception to its doing so. Pope Gregorius II. (590--604) in a letter addressed to Melitus of Canterbury expressly   [p. 12]   urged that the days of heathen festival should receive solemnity through dedication to some holy martyr.[23*] The Christian saint whose name was substituted for that of some heathen divinity readily assimilated associations of the early period. Scriptural characters and Christian teachers were given the emblems of older divinities and assumed their characteristics. But the varying nature of the same saint in different countries has hardly received due attention. St Peter of the early British Church was very different from St Peter who in Bavaria walked the earth like clumsy good-natured Thor, or from St Peter who in Rome took the place of Mars as protector of the city. Similarly the legends currently told of the same saint in different countries exhibit markedly different traits.

For the transition from heathendom to Christianity was the work not of years but of centuries; the claims made by religion changed, but the underlying conceptions for a long time remained unaltered. Customs which had once taken a divine sanction continued to be viewed under a religious aspect, though they were often at variance with the newly-introduced faith. The craving for local divinities in itself was heathen; in course of time the cult of the saints altogether remoulded the Christianity of Christ. But the Church of Rome, far from opposing the multitude of those through whom the folk sought intercession with the Godhead opened her arms wide to all.

At the outset it lay with the local dignitary to recognise or reject the names which the folk held in veneration. Religious settlements and Church centres regulated days and seasons according to the calendar of the chief festivals of the year, as accepted by the Church at Rome; but the local dignitary was at liberty to add further names to the list at his discretion. 'For centuries there was no need of canonisation to elevate an individual to the rank of saint; the inscribing of his name on a local calendar was sufficient. Local calendars went on indefinitely swelling the list of saintly names till the Papal See felt called upon to interfere.[24*] Since the year 1153 the right to declare a person a saint has lain altogether with the authorities at Rome.[25*]

Considering the circumstances under which the peoples of   [p. 13]   German race first came into contact with Christianity: it is well to recall the fact that a busy Church life had grown up in many of the cities north of the Alps, which were centres of the Roman system of administration previous to the upheaval and migration of German heathen tribes, which began in the fourth century. Legend has preserved stories of the apostles and their disciples wandering northwards and founding early bishoprics along the Rhine, in Gaul and in Britain.[26*] The massacres of Christians in the reign of Diocletian cannot be altogether fabulous; but after the year 313, when Constantine at Rome officially accepted the new faith, until the German invasion, the position of Christianity was well secured.

A certain development of monastic life had accompanied its spread. In western Gaul we hear of Martin of Tours († 400) who, after years of military service and religious persecution, settled near Poitiers and drew about him many who joined him in a round of devotion and work. The monastic, or rather cenobite, settlement of his time consisted of a number of wattled cells or huts, surrounded by a trench or a wall of earth. The distinction between the earlier word, coenobium, and the later word, monasterium, as used in western Europe, lies in this, that the coenobium designates the assembled worshippers alone, while the monastery presupposes the possession of a definite site of land.[27*] In this sense the word monastery is as fitly applied to settlements ruled by women as to those ruled by men, especially during the early period when these settlements frequently include members of both sexes. St Martin of Tours is also credited with having founded congregations of religious women,[28*] but I have found nothing definite concerning them.

Our knowledge of the Christian life of the British is very limited; presumably the religious settlement was a school both of theology and of learning, and no line of distinction divided the settlements of priests from those of monks. From Gildas, a British writer, who at the time of the Anglo-Saxon invasion (c. 560) wrote a stern invective against the irreligious ways of his countrymen, we gather that women lived under the direction of priests, but it is not clear whether they were vowed to continence.[29*] But as far   [p. 14]   as I am aware, there is no evidence forthcoming that before the Saxon invasion women lived in separate religious establishments, the rule of which was in the hands of one of their own sex.[30*]

The convent is of later date. During the early centuries of established Christianity the woman who takes the vow of continence secures the protection of the Church but does not necessarily leave her home-surroundings.

Thus Ambrosius, archbishop of Milan († 397), one of the most influential supporters of early Christianity, greatly inflamed women's zeal for a celibate life. But in the writings of Ambrosius, which treat of virginity, there is no suggestion that the widow or the maiden who vows continence shall seek seclusion or solitude.[31*] Women vowed to continence moved about freely, secure through their connection with the Church from distasteful unions which their relatives might otherwise force upon them. Their only distinctive mark was the use of a veil.

Similarly we find Hilarius († 369), bishop of Poitiers, addressing a letter to his daughter Abra on the beauties of the unmarried state. In this he assures her, that if she be strong enough to renounce an earthly bridegroom, together with gay and splendid apparel, a priceless pearl shall fall to her share.[32*] But in this letter also there is no suggestion that the woman who embraces religion should dwell apart from her family. It is well to bear this in mind, for after the acceptance of Christianity by the peoples of German race, we occasionally hear of women who, though vowed to religion, move about freely among their fellows; but Church councils and synods began to urge more and more emphatically that this was productive of evil, and that a woman who had taken the religious vow must be a member of a convent.

To sum up;--the peoples of German race, at the time of their contact with Christianity, were in a state of social development which directly affected the form in which they accepted the new faith and the institutions to which such acceptance gave rise. Some branches of the race, deserting the land of their birth,   [p. 15]   came into contact with peoples of Latin origin, and embraced Christianity under a form which excluded monasticism, and soon lost their identity as Germans. Others, as the Franks and Anglo-Saxons, giving up the worship of their heathen gods, accepted orthodox Christianity, and favoured the mode of life of those who followed peaceful pursuits in the monastery, pursuits which their wives especially were eager to embrace. Again, those peoples who remained in possession of their earlier homes largely preserved usages dating from a primitive period of tribal organization, usages which affected the position of their women and determined the character of their women-saints. It is to Germany proper that we must go for the woman-priestess who lives on longest as the witch, and for the loose women who most markedly retain special rights and privileges. And it is also in Germany proper that we find the woman-saint who is direct successor to the tribal mother-goddess.

The Tribal Goddess as a Christian Saint.

Before considering the beginnings of convent life as the work of women whose existence rests on a firm historic basis, we must enquire into the nature of women-saints. From the earliest times of established Christianity the lives of men and women who were credited with special holiness have formed a favourite theme of religious narratives, which were intended to keep their memory green and to impress the devout with thoughts of their saintliness.

The Acts of the Saints, the comprehensive collection of which is now in course of publication under the auspices of the Bollandists, form a most important branch of literature. They include some of the most valuable material for a history of the first ten centuries of our era, and give a most instructive insight into the drift of Christianity in different epochs. The aims, experiences and sufferings of Christian heroes and heroines inspired the student and fired the imagination of the poet. Prose narrative told of their lives, poems were written in their praise, and hymns were composed to be sung at the celebration of their office. The godly gained confidence from the perusal of such compositions, and the people hearing them read or sung were impressed in favour of Christian doctrine.

The number of men and women whom posterity has glorified as saints is legion. Besides the characters of the accepted and the apocryphal gospels, there are the numerous early converts to   [p. 16]   Christianity who suffered for their faith, and all those who during early Christian times turned their energies to practising and preaching the tenets of the new religion, and to whose memory a loving recollection paid the tribute of superstitious reverence. Their successors in the work of Christianity accepted them as patron saints and added their names to the list of those to whose memory special days were dedicated. Many of them are individuals whose activity in the cause of Christianity is well authenticated. Friends have enlarged on their work, contemporary history refers to their existence, and often they have themselves left writings, which give an insight into their lives. They are the early and true saints of history, on whose shoulders in some cases the cloak of heathen association has fallen, but without interfering with their great and lasting worth.

But besides those who were canonised for their enthusiasm in the cause of early Christianity, the Acts of the Saints mention a number of men and women who enjoy local reverence, but of whose actual existence during Christian times evidence is wanting. Among them are a certain number of women with whom the present chapter purposes to deal, women who are locally worshipped as saints, and whose claims to holiness are generally recognised, but whose existence during Christian times is hypothetical. Their legends contain a small, in some cases a scarcely sensible, basis of historic fact, and their cult preserves traits which are pre-Christian, often anti-Christian, in character.

The traveller Blunt, during a stay in Italy in the beginning of this century, was struck with the many points which modern saints and ancient gods have in common. He gives a description of the festival of St Agatha at Catania, of which he was an eye-witness, and which to this day, as I have been told, continues little changed. The festival, as Blunt describes it, opened with a horse-race, which he knew from Ovid was one of the spectacles of the festival of the goddess Ceres; and further he witnessed a mummery and the carrying about of huge torches, both of which he also knew formed part of the old pagan festival. But more remarkable than this was a great procession which began in the evening and lasted into the night; hundreds of citizens crowded to draw through the town a ponderous car, on which were placed the image of the saint and her relics, which the priests exhibited to the ringing of bells. Among these relics were the veil of Agatha, to which is ascribed the power of staying the eruption of Mount Aetna, and the breasts   [p. 17]   of the saint, which were torn off during her martyrdom.[33*] Catania, Blunt knew, had always been famous for the worship of Ceres, and the ringing of bells and a veil were marked features of her festivals, the greater and the lesser Eleusinia. Menzel tells us that huge breasts were carried about on the occasion.[34*] Further, Blunt heard that two festivals took place yearly in Catania in honour of Agatha; one early in the spring, the other in the autumn, exactly corresponding to the time when the greater and lesser Eleusinia were celebrated. Even the name Agatha seemed but a taking over into the new religion of a name sacred to the old. Ceres was popularly addressed as Bona Dea, and the name Agatha, which does not occur as a proper name during ancient times, seemed but a translation of the Latin epithet into Greek.

The legend of Agatha as contained in the Acta Sanctorum places her existence in the third century and gives full details concerning her parentage, her trials and her martyrdom; but I have not been able to ascertain when it was written. Agatha is the chief saint of the district all about Catania, and we are told that her fame penetrated at an early date into Italy and Greece.[35*] .

It is of course impossible actually to disprove the existence of a Christian maiden Agatha in Catania in the third century. Some may incline to the view that such a maiden did exist, and that a strange likeness between her experiences and name on the one hand, and the cult of and epithet applied to Ceres on the other, led to the popular worship of her instead of the ancient goddess. The question of her existence as a Christian maiden during Christian times can only be answered by a balance of probabilities. Our opinion of the truth or falsehood of the traditions concerning her rests on inference, and the conclusion at which we arrive upon the evidence must largely depend on the attitude of mind in which we approach the subject.

The late Professor Robertson Smith has insisted that myths are latter-day inventions which profess to explain surviving peculiarities of ritual. If this be so, we hold in the Eleusinia a clue to the incidents of the Agatha legend. The story for example of her veil, which remained untouched by the flames when she was burnt, may be a popular myth which tries to account for the presence of the veil at   [p. 18]   the festival. The incident of the breasts torn off during martyrdom was invented to account for the presence of these strange symbols.

Instances of this kind could be indefinitely multiplied. Let the reader, who wishes to pursue the subject on classic soil, examine the name, the legend and the emblem of St Agnes, virgin martyr of Rome, who is reputed to have lived in the third century and whose cult is well established in the fourth; let him enquire into the name, legend and associations of St Rosalia of Palermo, invoked as a protectress from the plague, of whom no mention occurs till four centuries after her reputed existence.[36*]

I have chosen Agatha as a starting point for the present enquiry, because there is much evidence to hand of the prevalence of mother-deities in pre-Christian Sicily, and because the examination of German saint-legend and saint-worship leads to analogous results. In Germany too the mother divinity of heathen dom seems to survive in the virgin saint; and in Germany virgin saints, in attributes, cult and name, exhibit peculiarities which it seems impossible to explain save on the hypothesis that traditions of the heathen past survive in them. So much is associated with them which is pre-Christian, even anti-Christian in character, that it seems legitimate to speak of them as pseudo-saints.

I own it is not always possible to distinguish between the historical saint and the pseudo-saint. Sometimes data are wanting to disprove the statements made by the legend-writer about time and place; sometimes information is not forthcoming about local traditions and customs, which might make a suggestive trait in saint-legend stand out in its full meaning. In some cases also, owing to a coincidence of name, fictitious associations have become attached to a real personage. But these cases I believe are comparatively few. As a general rule it holds good that a historical saint will be readily associated with miraculous powers, but not with profane and anti-Christian usages. Where the latter occur it is probable that no evidence will be forthcoming of the saint's actual existence during Christian times. If she represents a person who ever existed at all, such a person must have lived in a far-distant heathen past, at a time which had nothing in common with Christian teaching and with Christian tenets.

There is this further peculiarity about the woman pseudo-saint of Germany, that she is especially the saint of the peasantry; so that we rarely hear more of her than perhaps her name till centuries   [p. 19]   after her reputed existence. Early writers of history and biography have failed to chronicle her doings. Indeed we do not hear of her at all till we hear of her cult as one of long standing or of great importance.

It is only when the worship of such saints, who in the eyes of the common folk are the chief glory of their respective districts, attracts the attention of the Church, that the legend-writer sets to work to write their legends. Lie begins by ascribing to the holder of a venerated name human parentage and human experiences, he collects and he-blends the local traditions associated with the saint on a would-be historical background, and makes a story which frequently offers a curious mixture of the Christian and the profane. Usually he places the saint's existence in the earliest period of Christianity; sometimes at a time when Christianity was unknown in the neighbourhood where she is the object of reverence.

Moreover all these saints are patronesses of women in their times of special trial. Their cult generally centres round a cave, a fountain of peculiar power, a tree, or some other site of primitive woman-worship. Frequently they are connected with some peculiar local custom which supplies the clue to incidents introduced by the legend-writer. And even when the clue is wanting, it is sometimes possible to understand one legend by reading it in the light of another. Obscure as the parallels are in some cases, in others they are strikingly clear.

The recognised holiness of the woman pseudo-saint is in no way determined by the limit of bishopric and diocese; she is worshipped within geographical limits, but within limits which have not been marked out by the Church. It was mentioned above that separate districts of Germany, or rather tribes occupying such districts, clung to a belief in protective mother-goddesses (Gaumutter). Possibly, where the name of a pseudo-saint is found localised in contiguous districts, this may afford a clue to the migration of tribes.

The Acta Sanctorum give information concerning a large number of pseudo-saints, but this information to be read in its true light needs to be supplemented by further details of local veneration and cult. Such details are found in older books of devotion, and in modern books on mythology and folk-lore. Modern religious writers, who treat of these saints, are in the habit of leaving out or of slurring over all details which suggest profanity. Compared with older legends, modern accounts of the saints are limp and colourless, and share the weak sentimentality, which during the   [p. 20]   last few centuries has come to pervade the conceptions of Catholic Christianity as represented in pictorial art.

The names of a number of women whom the people hold in veneration have escaped the attention of the compilers of the Acta Sanctorum, or else they have been purposely passed over because their possessors were held unworthy of the rank of saint. But the stories locally told of them are worth attention, and the more so because they throw an additional light on the stories of recognised saints.

The larger number of recognised pseudo-saints are found in the districts into which Christianity spread as a religion of peace, or in remoter districts where the power of the Church was less immediately felt. They are found most often north of the Danube and east of the Rhine, especially in the lake districts of Bavaria and Switzerland, in the marshy wilds of the Low Countries, and in the remote forest regions of the Ardennes, the Black Forest, the Spessart or the Tosges. Where Christianity was established as the result of political subjection, as for example among the Saxons, the woman pseudo-saint is hardly found at all. Perhaps the heathenism of the Saxons differed from the heathenism of other German folk; perhaps, like the Anglo-Saxons in England, the Saxons were conquerors of the land they inhabited and by moving out of their old homes had lost their local associations and their primitive cult. But, however this may be, it is not where Christianity advanced at the point of the lance, but in the districts where its spread was due to detached efforts of missionaries, that the woman pseudo-saint is most frequently met with.

Wandering away into forest wilds, where scattered clearings lay like islets in an ocean, the missionary sought a retreat remote from the interference of government, remote also from the interference of the episcopate, where he could realise his hope of living a worthier life. Naturally his success largely depended on his securing the goodwill of the people in whose neighbourhood he settled. He was obliged to adapt himself to their mode of thought if he would win favour for his faith, and to realise their views if he wished to modify them in the direction of his own. To bridge over the abyss which separated his standard of life from theirs, he was bound to defer whenever he could to their sentiments and to their conceptions of holiness.

How far these holy men ignored, how far they countenanced, the worship of local divinities, necessarily remains an open question.   [p. 21]   Rightly or wrongly popular tradition readily coupled the names of these early Christians with those of its favourite women-saints.

Thus Willibrord, the Anglo-Saxon missionary who settled abroad in the eighth century, is said to have taken up and translated relics of the woman-saint Cunera and to have recognised her claim to veneration her cult is localised in various places near Utrecht. The life of Willibrord († 739), written by Alcuin († 804), contains no mention of Cunera, for the information we have concerning Willibrord's interest in her is to be found in the account of her life written centuries later.[37*] This account offers such a picturesque medley of chronological impossibilities that the commentators of the Acta Sanctorum have entirely recast it.

The gist of the legend as told in the beginning of the 14th century is as follows.[38*] Cunera was among the virgin companions of St Ursula, and the date of her murder, near Cöln, is given as 387, or as 449. Before the murder Cunera was borne away from Cöln by King Radbod of Friesland, who covered her with his cloak, an ancient symbolic form of appropriation. Arrived at Renen he entrusted her with the keys of his kingdom, which incensed his wedded wife to such an extent that she caused Cunera to be strangled and the body hidden away. But the site where the saint lay was miraculously pointed out, and the wicked queen went mad and destroyed herself. In vain we ask why a king of the Frisians, who persistently clung to their heathendom, should be interested in a Christian virgin and carry her off to preside over his household, and in vain we look for the assertion or for the proof that Cunera was a Christian at all. The Acta Sanctorum reject the connection between Cunera and St Ursula of Cöln, but the writer Kist, who considers her to have been a real Christian individual, argues in favour of it. In the 12th century we find a certain Adelheid swearing to the rightfulness of her cause on the relics of St Cunera at Renen .[39*]

Similarly the story goes that Agilfrid, abbot of the monastery of St Bavon in Flanders, afterwards bishop of Liège (765--787), about the year 754 acquired the relics of the woman-saint Pharaildis and brought them to Ghent.[40*] When the Northmen ravaged Flanders in 846 the bones of Pharaildis were among those carried   [p. 22]   away to St Omer by the Christians as their most valued possession, and in 939 they were brought back to Ghent.[41*]

The legend of Pharaildis gives no clue to the Christian interest in her, nor to the veneration of her, which is localised at Ghent, Hamm, Steenockerzeel, and Loo. We hear that she was married against her inclination, that she cured her husband who was a huntsman of a wound, and that after his death she dwelt in solitude to an advanced age, and that occasionally she wrought miracles. Further, in popular belief, she crossed the water dry shod, she chased away geese from the corn, and she struck the ground and the holy fountain at Bruay welled up for the benefit of the harvesters-- incidents which are not peculiar to her legend. The festival of Pharaildis is kept on different dates at Ghent, Cambray, Maastricht and Breda. At Ghent it is associated with a celebrated fair, the occasion for great rejoicings among the populace. At the church of Steenockerzeel stones of conical shape are kept which are carried round the altar on her festival,[42*] in the same way as stones are kept elsewhere and considered by some writers to be symbols of an ancient phallic cult. The legend explains the presence of these stones by telling how the saint one day was surreptitiously giving loaves to the poor, when her act would have been discovered but that by intercession the loaves were transformed into stones. This incident, the transformation of gifts secretly given to the poor, is introduced into the legends of other women-saints, but only in this case have I found it mentioned that the transformed food was preserved. We shall have occasion to return to Pharaildis, whose legend and cult offer nothing to support the view that she was an early Christian.

There are numerous instances of a like connection between holy missionary and woman pseudo-saint. A fair example is yielded by Leodgar (St Leger) bishop of Autun († 678), a well-defined historical personality,[43*] whom tradition makes into a near relative of Odilia, a saint widely venerated, but whose reputed foundation of the monastery on the Hohenburg modern criticism utterly discards.[44*]

But it is not only Christian missionaries who are associated with these women-saints. Quite a number of saints have been brought into connection with the house of the Karlings, and   [p. 23]   frequently Karl the Great himself figures in the stories told of them. I do not presume to decide whether the legendary accounts of these women are pure invention; some historic truth may be embodied in the stories told of them. But judging by the material at hand we are justified in disputing the existence of St Ida, who is said to have been the wife of Pippin of Landen and ancestress of the Karlings on the sole authority of the life of St Gertrud, her daughter. This work was long held to be contemporary, but its earliest date is now admitted to be the 11th century.[45*] It is less easy to cast discredit on the existence of the saints Amalberga, the one a virgin saint, the other a widow, whom hagiologists find great difficulty in distinguishing. Pharaildis, mentioned above, and the saints Ermelindis, Reinildis and Gudila, are said to be Amalberga's daughters, but together with other saints of Hainault and Brabant they are very obviously pseudo-saints. The idea of bringing Karl the Great into some relation with them may have arisen from a twofold desire to justify traditions concerning them and to magnify the Emperor s importance.

In this connection it seems worth while to quote the passage in which Grimm[46*] describes the characteristic traits of the German goddess in his German Mythology, and to consider how these traits are more or less pronounced in the women we have called pseudo-saints.

'It seems well,' he says, in the opening of his chapter on goddesses, 'to treat of goddesses collectively as well as individually, since a common conception underlies them all, which will thus stand out the more clearly. They are conceived essentially as divine mothers, travelling about and visiting mortals, from whom mankind learn the ways and arts of housekeeping and tilth: spinning; weaving, guarding the hearth, sowing and reaping' (the italics are his).

The tendency of the goddess to wander from place to place is reflected in many women pseudo-saints who are represented in their legends as inhabiting at various periods of their lives different parts of the district in which they are the object of veneration. Verena of northern Switzerland dwelt first at Solothurn, where a cave, which was her dwelling-place, is now   [p. 24]   transformed into a chapel. Later she took boat to the place where the Aar, Reuss and Limmat meet, where she dwelt in solitude, and her memory is preserved at a spot called the cell of Verena (Verenazell). Later still she went to dwell at Zurzach, a place which was celebrated for a fair, called Verena's fair, of which more anon. All these places are on or near the river Aar, at no inconsiderable distance from each other. The legend, as told by Stadler, takes them all into account, explaining how Verena came to be connected with each.[47*]

Similarly the legend of the saint Odilia,[48*] referred to above in connection with the Hohenburg, explains how the saint comes to be worshipped on both sides of the Rhine, a cruel father having driven her away from home. On the eastern side of the river there is a hill of St Odilia, Odilienberg, where there is a fountain which for its healing powers is visited twice a year and the site of which is guarded by a hermit. At Scherweiler there is also a site hallowed to her worship, and local tradition explains that she stayed there as a child; according to another version she was discovered floating in a wooden chest on the water.[49*] Finally she is said to have settled on the Hohenburg west of the Rhine and to have founded a monastery. The critic Roth has written an admirable article on Odilia and the monastery of Hohenburg. He shows that the monastery was ancient and that at first it was dedicated to Christ and St Peter, though afterwards their names were supplanted by that of St Odilia.[50*] Here, as on the other side of the Rhine, the folk celebrate her festival by pilgrimages to a fountain which has miraculous healing power, and by giving reverence to a sacred stone, on which Odilia is said to have knelt so long in prayer for the soul of her wicked father, that her knees wore holes in it.[51*]

We hear that other saints travelled about and stayed now at one place, now at another. St Notburg visited different parts of the Neckar district,[52*] Godeleva of Ghistelles[53*] passed some time of her life in the marshy district between Ostend and Bruges.   [p. 25]   This Godeleva is addressed in her litany as the saint of marriage; she was buried, we are told, in a cave, which was held holy as late as the present century. The pond, into which she was thrown after death, for which act no reason is given, obtained, and still retains, miraculous healing powers.[54*] Her legend in other respects offers the usual traits. She is Godeleva in some parts of the country; in others she is Godeleina, and her life according to Potthast was written in the 11th century by Drago, a monk of Ghistelles.

It is a curious trait in German saint-legend that the saint is often spoken of as coming from afar--from across the sea, from Britain, from Ireland, even from the Orkney Isles. It is thus with Ursula of Cöln, Christiane of Dendermonde (Termonde), Lucie of Sampigny and many others. The idea had taken root at a very early date that St Walburg, whose cult is widespread, was identical with a sister of the missionaries, Wilibald and Wunebald, who went from England to Germany under the auspices of the prelate Boniface in the eighth century. We shall return to her further on.[55*] It is sufficient here to point out that there is little likeness between the sober-minded women-missionaries of Bonifaces circle and the woman-saint who is localised under such different aspects, sometimes as a saint whose bones exude oil of miraculous power, sometimes as a valkyrie who anoints warriors for battle, sometimes as a witch who on the first of May leads forth her train to nightly riot on hill tops.[56*]

Again the love of home industry, which Grimm claims for mother goddesses, is reflected in the legends of many saints, to whose real existence every clue is wanting. This holds good especially of spinning and of weaving. Lufthildis, whose date and whose very name are uncertain, is represented as dwelling on a hill-top near a village and marking the limits of her district by means of her spindle, which is preserved and can be seen to this day in the chapel of Luftelberg, the hill which is connected with her.[57*] Lucie of Sampigny, to whose shrine women who are sterile make a pilgrimage in order to sit on the stone consecrated to her;[58*] Walburg, referred to above; Germana, whose cult appears at Bar-sur-Aube;[59*] and one of the numerous localised saints   [p. 26]   Gertrud,[60*] are all connected with the distaff. In the church of Frauenkirchen, which stands near the site of the celebrated old abbey of Lach, St Genovefa of Brabant, whose legend is most picturesque and who is in some degree akin to Genevieve of Paris, is believed to be sitting behind the altar from which the buzz of her spinning-wheel is audible.[61*]

Again the protective interest in silk and agriculture, which Grimm claims for the German goddess, comes out in connection with the pseudo-saint. The harvest festival, so often associated with the Virgin Mary, is frequently also associated with the name of a pseudo-saint. Thus we find these saints represented with ears of corn, as Mary too has been represented.[62*] The emblem of the three ears of corn was probably accepted owing to Roman influence. Verena of Zurzach, Notburg of Rottenburg, and Walburg, are all pictured holding a bunch of corn in one hand. Through the intercession of Walburg full barns are secured, while Notburg or Nuppurg of Rottenburg, one of the chief saints of Bavaria, to whose shrine many pilgrimages are made, holds a reaping hook as well as a bunch of corn, and throughout the Tyrol is looked upon as patron saint of the peasantry.[63*]

At Meerbeck in Brabant corn is blessed before it is sown under the auspices of the saint Berlindis, who protects tree planting. She is a saint of many associations and we shall hear more of her later.[64*] In some parts of Brabant seed sown at the time of the new moon in the month of June is protected by the saint Alena. We know little of Alena except that her arm was torn off in expiation of an unknown trespass and is kept as a relic in the church of Voorst, and that the archduchess Maria Anna of Spain sent for this relic in 1685 in the hope of securing a son by means of the saint's intercession.[65*] To the shrine of Lufthildis corn is also brought as an offering to be distributed among the poor, while St Gertrud in Belgium protects bean and pea sowing.[66*]

  [p. 27]  

Further traits in saint worship, which suggest woman's connection with the beginnings of settled civilization, are found in the pseudo-saint's frequent association with cattle and dairy produce.

Peasants, men and women, may be seen to this day touching in reverence the udder of the cow which a rudely cut relief in wood represents by the side of the saint Berlindis at Meerbeck.[67*] Gunthild, the patron saint of Biberbach in Würtenburg,[68*] is represented holding in her hand a milk-jug, the contents of which were inexhaustible during her lifetime. The connection of saints with butter-making is frequent. St Radiane, otherwise called Radegund, is chiefly worshipped at Wellenburg near Augsburg, and her intercession secures milk and butter in plenty to her worshippers. She was torn in pieces by wolves.[69*]

Judging by her cult and her legends the pseudo-saint practises and protects in endless ways the early arts of settled agriculture and civilization. She herds cattle, she guards flocks of sheep, she weaves and she spins, and she is careful of the dairy. In her representations she is associated with 'emblems' which point to these various interests, and we find her holding corn, a reaping-hook, or a spindle. Domestic animals are pictured by her side, most frequently sheep, geese, cows and dogs. The cat appears rarely,[70*] perhaps because it was associated with the evil side of woman's power. The besom too, the ancient symbol of woman's authority, is rarely, if ever,[71*] put into the saint's hands, perhaps for a similar reason.

One other peculiarity remains to be mentioned, which also has its counterpart in the witches' medicinal and curative power. The pseudo-saint's relics (after death) exude oil which is used for medicinal purposes. This peculiarity is noticed of the bones of the saints Walburg,[72*] Rolendis,[73*] and Edigna,[74*] but it is also noticed in connection with the relics of historical saints.

But over and above these traits in the character of the pseudo-saint, legend often points to a heathen custom in connection with   [p. 28]   her of which we have definite information. Tacitus tells how the image of the German goddess Nerthus was carried about on festive occasions in a chariot drawn by cows. The pseudo-saint either during her lifetime or after her death was often similarly conveyed. Sometimes the animals put themselves to her chariot of their own accord, frequently they stopped of their own accord at the particular spot which the saint wished to be her last resting-place. Legend tells us of such incidents in connection also with historical saints, both men and women, and we hear further that the relics of saints sometimes and quite suddenly became so heavy that it was impossible to move them, a sure sign that it was safest not to try.

So far the parallels between mother-goddess and woman pseudo-saint recall the practices of the heathen past, without actually offending against the tenor of Christianity. But the pseudo-saint has other associations of which this cannot be said, associations which are utterly perplexing, unless we go back for their explanation to the ancient tribal usages when the meeting of the tribe was the occasion for settling matters social and sexual. These associations introduce us to an aspect of the cult of the saints which brings primitive usages into an even clearer light, and shows how religious associations continued independently of a change of religion.

Further Peculiarities of this Type of Saint.

The Church, as mentioned above, had put every facility in the way of transforming heathen festivals into its own festal days. The heathen festival in many ways carried on the traditions of the tribal festival; the tribal festival was connected with the cult of tribal goddesses. If we bear in mind the many points mother-goddess, witch, and woman pseudo-saint have in common, the association of the pseudo-saint with practices of a profane character no longer appears wonderful. Both in the turn saint legend takes, and in the character of festivities associated with the saint's name, we discern the survival of ideas which properly belong to differently constituted family and social arrangements, the true meaning of which is all but lost.

On looking through the legends of many women-saints, it is surprising how often we find evil practices and heathen traditions associated with them, practices and traditions which the legend writer naturally is often at a loss to explain in a manner acceptable   [p. 29]   to Christianity. Thus the father of St Christiane of Dendermonde is said to have set up a temple where girls did service to Venus;[75*] doing service to Venus being the usual way of describing licentious pursuits.

In the metrical life of Bilihild, patron saint of Würzburg and Mainz, a description is introduced of the marriage festival as it was celebrated by the Franks in the Main district about the year 600, as this account would have it. Dances took place and unions were contracted for the commencing year. The Christian woman Bilihild was present at the festival, though we are of course told that she found it little to her taste and determined to abolish it.[76*] The legend of Bilihild has very primitive traits and is wanting in historical foundation and probability; and it is at least curious that her name should be coupled with a festival which Christian religion and morality must have condemned.

Again it is curious to find how often these women-saints die a violent death, not for conscience sake, nor indeed for any obvious reason at all. Radiane of Wellenburg, as mentioned above, was torn to pieces by wolves;[77*] Wolfsindis of Reisbach, according to one account, was tied to wild oxen who tore her to pieces, according to another version of her story she was tied to a horse's tail.[78*] St Regina of Alise, in the bishopric of Autun, is sometimes represented surrounded by flames, sometimes in a steaming caldron[79*] which recalls the caldron of regeneration of Keltic mythology.

Frequently the saints are said to have been murdered like Cunera of Renen,[80*] and St Sura otherwise Soteris or Zuwarda of Dordrecht;[81*] sometimes their heads are cut off as in the case of Germana worshipped at Beaufort in Champagne;[82*] sometimes like Godeleva they are strangled, and sometimes burnt; but Christianity is not the reason assigned for their painful deaths. For even the legend writer does not go so far as to bring in martyrdom at a period and in districts where suffering for the Christian faith is altogether out of the question.

  [p. 30]  

Panzer tells us about a group of three women-saints, to whom we shall presently return. He says in some churches masses are read for their souls and prayers offered for their salvation. Though reverenced by the people in many districts of Germany, they are as often said to have been hostile to Christianity as favourably disposed towards it.[83*]

We find immoral practices and violence ascribed to some of the English women-saints by Capgrave in the 15th century. He says of Inthware or Iuthware, who perhaps belongs to Brittany, that she was accused of being a harlot and put to death. Similarly he says of Osman or Oswen that she was accused of being a witch, but when brought before a bishop she consented to be baptized.[84*] Stanton notifies of Iuthware that her translation was celebrated at Shirbourne.[85*] Winifred too, who is worshipped in Shropshire, had her head cut off and it rolled right down the hill to a spot where a fountain sprang up, near St Winifred's well. The head however was miraculously replaced, Winifred revived and lived to the end of her days as a nun.[86*] The want of information about these women makes it impossible to judge how far their existence is purely legendary; certainly their stories are largely coloured by heathen traditions. The names Iuthware and Oswen are probably not Germanic; and the fact of Winifred's living on the confines of Wales makes it probable that she is a Keltic rather than a Germanic saint.

In connection with the festivals of some women pseudo-saints we find celebrations of a decidedly uproarious character taking place at a comparatively recent time. The feast of St Pharaildis, called locally Fru Verelde, used to be the chief holiday at Ghent, and was the occasion for much festivity and merrymaking.[87*] At Luttich (Liège) stood a chapel dedicated to St Balbine, who is said to have been venerated far and wide in the 14th century. On her day, the first of May, there was a festival called Babilone at which dancing was kept up till late at night.[88*] The festival of St Godeleva kept at Longuefort maintained even in the 18th century a character which led to a violent dispute between the   [p. 31]   populace and the Church dignitaries, who were determined to put it down.[89*] Coincident with the festival known as the day of St Berlindis, a saint frequently referred to as a protectress of the peasantry, there is a festival called the Drunken Vespers, in which as early as the 16th century the archbishop forbade his clergy to take part.[90*]

But by far the most striking and the most conclusive instances of the pseudo-saint's association with heathen survivals are afforded by St Verena of Switzerland and St Afra of Augsburg, whose worship and history we must examine more closely.

Verena's association with various rites has already been referred to; she is represented sometimes with ears of corn, sometimes accompanied by a cat, and sometimes, which is even more suggestive, she is brought into connection with a brothel. The procession of St Verena's day from Zurzach to a chapel dedicated to St Maurice passed an old linden tree which, so the legend goes, marked the spot where the saint used to dwell. Hard by was a house for lepers and a house of ill fame, where on the same day the district bailiff (landvogt) opened the fair. He was obliged by old custom to pass this tree, at which a loose woman stood awaiting him, and to dance round the tree with her and give her money.[91*]

The legend of St Verena written between 1005 and 1032 [92*] does not explain these associations. We are told of a woman who came from the east with the Theban legion, which is generally supposed to have been massacred in 287. She is said to have made her home now in one district now in another, and one modern writer goes so far as to suggest that she was zealous in converting the Allemans to Christianity before the coming of Irish missionaries.

According to folk-custom in districts between the Aar and the Rhine, girls who have secured husbands sacrifice their little maiden caps to Verena. At Zurzach married couples make pilgrimages to the Verenastift in order to secure offspring. Several dukes of the Allemans and their wives made such pilgrimages in the 9th and 10th centuries. It would lead too far to enumerate the many directions in which Verena is associated with heathendom. Her day, which comes at the harvest festival, was a time of un   [p. 32]   restrained license in Zurzach, a fact on which the Acta Sanctorum cast no doubt.

Rochholz considers Verena to be a tribal mother of heathendom; Simrock in his mythology considers her to be identical with the goddess Fru Frene, in whom he sees a kind of German Venus.[93*] Grimm tells how the version of the Tannhäuser saga, current in Switzerland, substitutes the name Frau Frene for that of Frau Venus.[94*] The hero Tannhäuser, according to mediaeval legend, wavers between a baser and a higher interpretation of love; the acceptance of the name Frene as representative of sensuousness shows the associations currently preserved in connection with this so-called saint.

A similar association occurs in Belgium, where a saint Vreken (Sint Vreke), otherwise Vrouw Vreke, in medival legend is the representative of sensual as opposed to spiritual love. Cordmans describes how in the version of the saga of the faithful Eckhardt (Van het trouwen Eckhout current in Belgium, the hero wavers between spiritual love of Our Lady and sensual love of Vreke. Among the folk Vrouw Vreke is a powerful personage, for the story goes that the Kabauters, evil spirits who dwell on the Kabauterberg, are in her service. In the book Reta de Limbourg, which was re-written in the 17th century, the Kabauterberg becomes a Venusberg, and Vreke is no longer a great witch (eene grote heks) but a goddess with all the alluring charms of Venus.[95*] Grimm includes a Fru Freke among his German goddesses.[96*] She retains her old importance among the folk as a protective saint and presides over tree-plantings.[97*]

Like the saints Verena and Vreke, St Afra of Augsburg is associated with licentiousness; Wessely expressly calls her the patron saint of hetairism.[98*] Her legend explains the connection in a peculiar manner; as told by Berno, abbot of Reichenau († 1048), it is most picturesque. We hear how Afra and her mother came from Cyprus, an island which mediaeval, following the classical writers, associated with the cult of Venus, and how she settled at Augsburg and kept a house of ill fame with   [p. 33]   three companions. Here they entertained certain Church dignitaries (otherwise unknown to history) who persuaded the women to embrace Christianity and give up their evil practices. They became virtuous, and when persecutions against Christians were instituted they all suffered martyrdom; Afra was placed on a small island and burnt at the stake.[99*] The legend writer on the basis of the previous statement places the existence of these women in the early part of the fourth century during the reign of Diocletian. Curiously enough the legend of Afra is led up to by a description of the worship of the heathen goddess Zisa, a description to which Grimm attaches great importance.[100*] This goddess was worshipped at or near Augsburg. Velserus,[101*] who in the 16th century compiled a chronicle of Augsburg, gives us a mass of information about traditions connected with her and her worship, as he also does about St Afra. There is in his mind of course no shadow of a suspicion of any connection between them. But he informs us that the Zizenberg, or hill of Zisa, and the Affenwald which he interprets as Afrawald or wood of Afra, are one and the same place.

Berno also wrote a life of Ulrich (St Udalricus), bishop of Augsburg ( † 973) who boldly defended the town at the time of the invasion of the Hungarians. In this life the bishop has a miraculous vision of St Afra, who takes him on a pilgrimage by night and points out the site where he afterwards founded a monastery, known to later ages as the monastery of St Ulrich and St Afra. The worship of Afra is referred to by the poet Fortunatus as early as the sixth century; the story of the saint's martyrdom is older than that of her conversion. The historian Rettberg is puzzled why so much stress should be laid on her evil ways;[102*] but the historian Friedrich, regardless of perplexing associations, sees the beginnings of convent life for women in Augsburg in the fact of Afra and her companions dwelling together between their conversion and martyrdom.[103*]

There are other traits in saint legend which point to the customs and arrangements of a more primitive period, and tempt   [p. 34]   the student to fit together pieces of the past and the present which appear meaningless if taken separately.

It seems probable that in early times the term mother was applied to a number of women of a definite group by all the children of the group, and that the word had not the specialized meaning of one who had actually borne the children who termed her mother.

The story of a number of children all being born at once by one woman is possibly due to a confused tradition dating from this period. In local saga, both in Germany and elsewhere, there are stories in which a woman suddenly finds herself in the possession of a number of offspring, and often with direful consequences to herself, because of the anger of her husband. The same incident has found its way into saint legend. Thus Notburg, patron saint of Suiz, had at a birth a number of children, variously quoted as nine, twelve and thirty-six. Stadler says that she is represented at Suiz holding eight children in her arms, a ninth one lying dead at her feet.[104*] Lacking water to christen these children, she produced from the hard rock a fountain which even to the present day is believed to retain the power to cure disease.

A similar story is told of Achachildis, popularly known as Atzin, who is held in veneration at Wendeistein near Schwabach. She bore her husband five children at once and then took a vow of continence. Her legend has never been written, but she enjoys a great reputation for holiness, and a series of pictures represent various incidents in her life.[105*]

Images of women sheltering children, usually beneath their cloaks, are frequently found abroad built into the outer wall of the church, the place where Christian teachers felt justified in placing heathen images.[106*] Students of pictorial art will here recall the image of St Ursula at Cöln sheltering 1,000 virgins under her cloak.

Again there are other emblems in saint worship which cannot be easily accounted for, such for instance as the holy combs of Verena and Pharaildis, which remind one of the comb with which the witch Lorelei sat combing her hair, or, on classic soil, of the comb of the Venus Calvata; or the holy slippers of St Radiane, which   [p. 35]   are preserved to this day in the church of Wellenburg and which, as Stadler informs us, had been re-soled within his time. Stadler und Heim, Vollständtes Heiligenlexicon, 1858, St Radegundis, nr 3. Slippers and shoes are ancient symbols of appropriation, and as such figure in folk-lore and at weddings in many countries to this day. The golden slipper was likewise a feature at the witches' festival, in which the youthful fiddler also figured.[107*] Both the golden slipper and the youthful fiddler form important features in the legend of the saint Ontkommer or Wilgefortis. The images and legend of this saint are so peculiar that they claim a detailed account.

It is evident from what has been said that the legends and cult of many women pseudo-saints have traits in common; indeed the acts ascribed to different saints are often exactly similar. The stories of Notburg of Rottenburg, of Radiane of Wellenburg, and of Gunthild of Biberbach, as Stadler remarks, are precisely alike; yet it is never suggested that these saints should be treated as one; each of them has her place in the Acta Sanctorum and is looked upon as distinct from the others.

There is, however, a set of women-saints whose images and legends have features so distinctive that hagiologists treat of them collectively as one, though they are held in veneration in districts widely remote from each other, and under very dissimilar names.

The saint, who is venerated in the Low Countries as Ontkommer or Wilgefortis, is usually considered identical with the saint Kümmerniss of Bavaria and the Tyrol; with the saint Livrade, Liberata or Liberatrix venerated in some districts of France as early as the 9th century when Usuard, writing in the monastery of St Germain-des-Près, mentions her; with Gehulff of Mainz; with Hilp of the Hulfensberg at Eichsfelde; and with others called variously Regenfled, Regenfrith, Eutropia, etc.[108*] The name Mariahilf which is very common in south Germany, is probably a combination of the name of the Virgin Mother with that of St Hilp or St Gehulff.

The legends of this saint, or rather of this assembly of saints, are characterized by Cuper in the Acta Sanctorum as an endless labyrinth.[109*] Whatever origin be ascribed to them, when once we examine them closely we find explanation impossible on the hypothesis   [p. 36]   that they relate to a single Christian woman living during Christian times.

A considerable amount of information on this group of saints has lately been collected by Sloet, who deals also with their iconography.[110*] The peculiarity of the images of Ontkommer or Kümmerniss consists in this, that she is represented as crucified, and that the lower part of her face is covered by a beard, and her body in some instances by long shaggy fur. Her legend explains the presence of the beard and fur by telling us that it grew to protect the maiden from the persecutions of a lover or the incestuous love of her father; such love is frequently mentioned in the legends of women pseudo-saints.

The fact that Ontkommer or Kümmerniss is represented as crucified might be explained on the hypothesis that the common folk could not at first grasp the idea of a god and looked upon Christ as a woman, inventing the legend of the woman's persecution and miraculous protection in order to account for the presence of the beard. But other accessories of the representations of Ontkommer or Kümmerniss lead us to suppose that her martyrdom, like that of other saints, has a different origin and that she is heiress to a tribal goddess of the past.[111*]

In many of her representations Ontkommer or Kümmerniss is seen hanging on the cross with only one golden slipper on, but sometimes she wears two slippers, and a young man is sitting below the cross playing the fiddle. Legend accounts for the presence of this young man in the following manner. He came and sat at the foot of the image and was playing on his fiddle, when the crucified saint suddenly awoke to life, drew off a slipper and flung it to him. He took it away with him he was accused of having stolen it and condemned to death. His accusers however agreed to his request to come with him into the presence of the holy image, to which he appealed. Again the crucified saint awoke to life and drew off her second slipper and flung it to the fiddler, whose innocence was thereby vindicated and he was set free. Where shall we go for a clue to this curious and complicated legend? Grimm tells us that a young fiddler was present at a festival   [p. 37]   of the witches, and that he played at the dance in which he was not allowed to take part. Grimm also tells us that one of the witches on this occasion wore only one golden slipper.[112*] The association of Kümmerniss with a golden slipper is deep-rooted, especially in Bavaria, for the saying goes there that 'She with the golden slipper and with the youthful fiddler is also a mother of God.[113*]

Many years ago Menzel wrote[114*] : 'Much I believe concerning this saint is derived from heathen conceptions.' Stories embodying heathen traditions are preserved in connection with this saint in districts abroad that lie far apart.

Thus the image of her which is preserved in North Holland is said to have come floating down the river, like the images of the Virgin referred to above. At Regensburg in Bavaria an image is preserved which is said to have been cast into the water at Neufarn. It was carried down by the river and thrown on the bank, and the bishop fetched it to Regensburg on a car drawn by oxen. In the Tyrol the image of the saint is sometimes hung in the chief bed-room of the house in order to secure a fruitful marriage, but often too it is hung in chapel and cloister in order to protect the dead. Images of the saint are preserved and venerated in a great number of churches in Bavaria and the Tyrol, but the ideas popularly associated with them have raised feelings in the Church against their cult. We hear that a Franciscan friar in the beginning of this century destroyed one of the images, and that the bishop of Augsburg in 1833 attempted in one instance to do away with the image and the veneration of the saint, but refrained from carrying out his intention, being afraid of the anger of the people.[115*]

It has been mentioned above that associations of a twofold character survive in connection with Verena and Vreke, who are to this day popularly reckoned as saints, but who are introduced in medieval romance as representatives of earthly love as contrasted with spiritual. Associations of a twofold character have also been attached to the term Kümmerniss. For in the Tyrol Kümmerniss is venerated as a saint, but the word Kümmerniss in ordinary parlance is applied to immoral women.[116*]

  [p. 38]  

Other heathen survivals are found attached to the Ontkommer Kümmerniss group of saints. At Luzern the festival of the saint was connected with so much riotous merrymaking and licentiousness that it was forbidden in 1799 and again in 1801. The story is told of the saint under the name Liberata that she was one of a number of children whom her mother had at a birth.[117*]

Sloet, on the authority of the philologist Kern, considers that the various names by which the saint is known in different districts are appellatives and have the same underlying meaning of one who is helpful in trouble. According to him this forms the connecting link between the names Ontkommer, Kümmerniss, Wilgefortis, Gehulff, Eutropia, etc., of which the form Ontkommer, philologically speaking, most clearly connotes the saint's character, and on this ground is declared to be the original form. The saint is worshipped at Steenberg in Holland under the name Ontkommer, and Sloet is of opinion that Holland is the cradle of the worship of the whole group of saints.[118*] But considering what we know of other women-saints it seems more probable that the saints who have been collected into this group are the outcome of a period of social evolution, which in various districts led to the establishment of tribal goddesses, who by a later development assumed the garb of Christian women-saints.

The cult of women-saints under one more aspect remains to be chronicled. Numerous traditions are preserved concerning the cult of holy women in triads, who are locally held in great veneration and variously spoken of as three sisters, three ladies, three Marys, three nuns, or three women-saints.

The three holy women have a parallel in the three Fates of classic mythology and in the three Norns of Norse saga, and like them they probably date from a heathen period. Throughout Germany they frequently appear in folk-lore and saga, besides being venerated in many instances as three women-saints of the Church.

In stories now current these three women are conceived sometimes as sisters protecting the people, sometimes as ladies guarding treasures, and sometimes as a group of three nuns living together   [p. 39]   and founding chapels and oratories, and this too in places where history knows nothing of the existence of any religious settlement of women.

Panzer has collected a mass of information on the cult of the triad as saints in southern Germany;[119*] Coremans says that the veneration of the Three Sisters (dry-susters) is widespread in Belgium[120*] but the Church has sanctioned this popular cult in comparatively few instances.

The story is locally current that these three women were favourably disposed to the people and bequeathed to them what is now communal property. Simrock considers that this property included sites which were held sacred through association with a heathen cult.[121*] 'In heathen times,' he says, 'a sacred grove was hallowed to the sister fates which after the establishment of Christianity continued to be the property of the commune. The remembrance of these helpful women who were the old benefactresses of the place remained, even their association with holiness continued.' By these means in course of time the cult of the three goddesses was transformed into that of Christian saints.

Besides bequeathing their property to the people it was thought that these three women-saints protected their agricultural and domestic interests, especially as affecting women. In Schlehdorf in Lower Bavaria pilgrimages by night were made to the shrine of the triad to avert the cattle plague; the shrine stood on a hill which used to be surrounded by water, and at one time was the site of a celebrated fair and the place chosen for keeping the harvest festival.[122*] At Brusthem in Belgium there were three wells into which women who sought the aid of these holy women cast three things, linen-thread, a needle and some corn.[123*] Again in Schildturn in Upper Bavaria an image of the three women-saints is preserved in the church which bears an inscription to the effect that through the intercession of these saints offspring are secured and that they are helpful at childbirth.[124*] In the same church a wooden cradle is kept which women who wished to become mothers used to set   [p. 40]   rocking. A second cradle which is plated is kept in the sacristy, and has been substituted for one of real silver.[125*]

In some districts one of these three saints is credited with special power over the others either for good or for evil. The story goes that one of the sisters was coloured black or else black and white.[126*]

In many places where the triad is worshipped the names of the individual sisters are lost, while in districts far apart from one another, as the Tyrol, Elsass, Bavaria, their names have considerable likeness. The forms generally accepted, but liable to fluctuation, are St Einbeth, St Warbeth and St Wilbeth.[127*] The Church in some instances seems to have hesitated about accepting these names, it may be from the underlying meaning of the suffix beth which Grimm interprets as holy site, ara, fanum, but Mannhardt connects it with the word to pray (beten).[128*] Certainly the heathen element is strong when we get traditions of the presence of these women at weddings and at burials, and stories of how they went to war, riding on horses, and achieved even more than the men.[129*] Where their claim to Christian reverence is admitted by the Church, the stories told about them have a very different ring.

According to the legend which has been incorporated into the Acta Sanctorum, St Einbetta, St Verbetta, and St Villbetta were Christian maidens who undertook the pilgrimage to Rome with St Ursula, with whose legend they are thus brought into connection. The three sisters stayed behind at Strasburg and so escaped the massacre of the 11000 virgins.[130*]

The tendency to group women-saints into triads is very general. Kunigund, Mechtund and Wibrandis are women-saints who belong to the portion of Baden in the diocese of Constance.[131*] The locus of their cult is in separate villages, but they are venerated as a triad in connection with a holy well and lie buried together under an ancient oak.[132*] We hear also of pilgrimages being made to the image of three holy sisters preserved at Auw on the Kyll in the valley of the Mosel. They are represented as sitting side by side on the back   [p. 41]   of an ass(?), one of them having a cloth tied over her eyes. The three sisters in this case are known as Irmina, Adela and Chiotildis, and it is said they were the daughters or sisters of King Dagobert.[133*] Irmina and Adela are historical; they founded nunneries in the diocese of Trier.

In another instance the sisters are called Pellmerge, Schwellmerge and Krischmerge, merg being a popular form of the name Mary which is preserved in many place-names.[134*]

I have been able to discover little reference to local veneration of saints in a triad in England. But there is a story that a swineherd in Mercia had a vision in a wood of three women who, as he believed, were the three Marys, and who pointed out to him the spot where he was to found a religious settlement, which was afterwards known as Evesham.

A curious side-light is thrown on the veneration of the three women-saints abroad by recalling the images and inscriptions about Mothers and Matrons, which are preserved on altars fashioned long before the introduction of Christianity under heathen influence.

These altars have been found in outlying parts of the Roman Empire, especially in the districts contiguous to the ancient boundary line which divided Roman territory from Germania Magna. They bear inscriptions in Latin to the effect that they are dedicated to Mothers and Matrons, and sometimes it is added that they have been set up at the command of these divine Mothers themselves. The words imperio ipsarum, 'by their own command,' are added to the formula of dedication, and as it seams that they never occur on altars set up and dedicated to specified Roman or Gallo-Roman divinities, they yield an interesting proof of the wide-spread character of the worship of tribal goddesses.[135*]

At one time it was supposed that these altars were of Keltic origin, but some of the tribes mentioned in their inscriptions have been identified with place-names in Germany. Altars found in outlying parts of the Empire primarily served for the use of the soldiery, for sacrifice at the altar of the gods was a needful preliminary to Roman military undertakings. The view has been   [p. 42]   advanced that, as the altars dedicated to pagan divinities served for the devotions of the Roman and Gallo-Roman troops, it is possible that these other altars dedicated to Mothers served for the devotions of the German heathen soldiery, who were drafted from districts beyond the Rhine, and at an early date made part of the Roman legions.

The parallels between the mothers of the stones and the three women-saints are certainly remarkable.

Where a representation, generally in rude relief, occurs on the altar stones, the Mothers are represented in a group of three, holding as emblems of their power fruit, flowers, and the spindle. These recall the emblems both of the heathen goddess of mythology and of the pseudo-saint. Moreover one of the Mothers of the altars is invariably distinguished by some peculiarity, generally by a want of the head-dress or head-gear worn by the two others, perhaps indicative of her greater importance. This has its parallel in the peculiar power with which one member of the saint triad is popularly credited.

The erection of the altars belongs to a time before the introduction of Christianity; our information about the three women-saints dates back earlier than the 12th century in a few cases only; it chiefly depends on stories locally current which have been gleaned within the last hundred years. If the hypothesis of the mother-age preceding the father-age holds good, if the divine Mothers imaged on the stones are witnesses to a wide-spread worship of female deities during the period of established Roman rule, these tales told of the triad carry us back nearly twenty centuries. The power ascribed to tribal goddesses in a distant heathen past survived in the power ascribed to Christian women-saints; the deep-rooted belief in protective women-divinities enduring with undying persistence in spite of changes of religion.

In conclusion, a few words may be acceptable on the names of pseudo-saints, which I believe to be largely epithetic or appellative. Grimm holds that the names of the German goddesses were originally appellatives. In a few cases the name of the goddess actually becomes the name of a saint. Mythology and hagiology both lay claim to a Vrene and a Vreke; but from the nature of things these cases are rare. The conception of the protective divinity is ancient; her name in a philological sense is comparatively new.

With few exceptions the names are German; sometimes in contiguous districts variations of the same name are preserved. The   [p. 43]   saint Lufthildis is sometimes Linthildis;[136*] Rolendis is sometimes Dollendis;[137*] Ida, Itta, Iduberga, Gisleberga are saints of Brabant and Flanders, whom hagiologists have taken great trouble to keep separate. In some cases the name of a real and that of a fictitious person may have become confounded. The names are all cognate with the word itis, an ancient term applied to the woman who exercised sacred functions.

The attempt to connect the group Ontkommer-Wilgefortis by the underlying meaning of the several names has been mentioned. It has also been mentioned that this saint is sometimes spoken of as a mother of God. Similarly St Genevive of Paris is worshipped as Notre-Dame-la-petite, and again the saint Cunera of Reenen is popularly known as Knertje, which signifies little lady.[138*]

On every side the student is tempted to stray from the straightforward road of fact into the winding paths of speculation. The frequent association abroad of female deities with hill tops suggests a possible explanation why the word berg, which means remoteness and height, so often forms part of the name of the woman pseudo-saint, and of women's names generally. For the beginnings of tilth and agriculture are now sought not in the swampy lowlands, but on the heights where a clearance brought sunlight and fruitfulness. Hill tops to this day are connected with holy rites. Is it possible that the word berg, designating hill top, should have become an appellative for woman because the settlements on the hills were specially connected with her?

Philology hitherto has been content to trace to a common origin words cognate in different languages, and on the conceptions attaching to these words, to build up theories about the state of civilization of various peoples at a period previous to their dispersion from a common home. But the study of local beliefs and superstitions in western Europe tends more and more to prove that usages pointing to a very primitive mode of life and to a very primitive state of civilization are indissolubly connected with certain sites; and that the beginnings of what we usually term civilization, far from being imported, have largely developed on native soil.

Thus, at the very outset of our enquiry into saint-worship and the convent life of the past, we have found ourselves confronted by a class of women-saints who must be looked upon as survivals from   [p. 44]   heathen times, and who are in no way connected with the beginnings of Christianity and of convent life; their reputation rests on their connection with some hallowed site of the heathen period and the persistence of popular faith in them. But the feeling underlying the attribution of holiness to them, the desire for localized saints, yields the clue to the ready raising to saintship of those women who in England, in France, and in Germany, showed appreciation of the possibilities offered to them by Christianity, and founded religious settlements. In some cases superstitions of a heathen nature which are of value to the hagiologist, if not to the historian, cling to these women also, but fortunately a considerable amount of trustworthy material is extant about their lives. These women during the earliest period were zealous in the cause of Christianity, and it is to them that our enquiry now turns.


Notes

[1*] The literature on this subject is daily accumulating. Among older authorities are Bachofen, Das Mutterrecht, 1861; Zmigrodski, Die Muller bei den Völkern des arischen Stammes, 1886; Pearson, K., Ethic of Free Thought, 1888.

[2*] Kriegk, G. L., Deutsches Bürgerthum im Mittelalter, 1868, ch.12--15.

[3*] Gregorius Tur., Hist. Eccles. ch. 14, 16, 19.

[4*] Grimm, J., Deutsche Mythologie, 1875, p. 78.

[5*] Ibid. p. 881 ff.

[6*] Wuttke, Deutscher Volksaberglaube, 1869, p. 141; Weinhold, K., Deutsche Frauen, 1882, vol.I p. 73.

[7*] Rochholz, E. L., Drei Gaugöttinnen, 1870 p. 191.

[8*] Menzel Christliche Symbolik 1854, article 'Haar.'

[9*] A. SS. Boll., St Gunthildis, Sept. 12.

[10*] Bouquet, Recueil Hist., vol. 5 , p. 690. Capitulare incerti anni, nr 6, 'ut mulieres ad altare non ingrediantur.'

[11*] Montalembert, Monks of the West, I. p. 359.

[12*] Jameson, Legends of the Madonna,1857, Introd. xix.

[13*] Rhys, J., Lectures on the origin and growth of religion as illustrated by Celtic Heathendom, 1888, p. 102.

[14*] Frantz, C., Versuch einer Geschichte des Marien und Annencultus, 1854, . 4 ff.

[15*] Froissart, Chronicle, c. 162, in English translation; also Oberle, K. A., Ueberreste germ. Heidentums im Christentum, 1883, p. 153.

[16*] Menzel, Christ. Symbolik, 1854, article 'Baum.'

[17*] Oberle, K. A., Ueberreste germ. Heidentums im Christentum, 1883, p. 144.

[18*] Menzel, Chrisl. Symbolik, 1854, article 'Himmelfahrt.'

[19*] Ibid., article 'Frauenberg'; also Oberle, K. A., Ueberreste germ. Heidentums im Christenturn, 1883, p. 38.

[20*] Rochholz, Drei Gaugöttinnen 1870, p. 81, calls it Walburg; Reinsberg-Düringsfeld, Traditions et legendes de la Belgique, 1870, p. 286, calls it Fro or Frigg.

[21*] Simrock, K., Handbuch der deutschen Mythologie, 1887, p. 379; also Grimm, J., Deutsche Mythologie, 1875, p. 257.

[22*] Comp. below, p.35.

[23*] Bede, Ecclesiastical History, I, ch. 30.

[24*] On English calendars, Piper, F., Kalendarien und Martyrologien der Angelsachsen, 1862; Stanton, R., Menology of England and Wales, 3887.

[25*] Stadler und Heim, Vollständndiges Heiligenlexicon, 1858--62, vol.2 , Einleitung.

[26*] For France, Guette, Histoire de l'èglise de France, 1847--55, vol. I, p. 1; for England, Bright, W., Early English Church History, 1878, pp. I ff.; for Germany, Friedrich, Kirchengeschichte, 1867, vol. I, pp. 86ff.

[27*] Ducange, Glossarium: 'coenobium.'

[28*] Dupuy, A., Histoire de S. Martin, 1852, p. 176.

[29*] Gildas, Epistle, c. 66.

[30*] In Ireland we hear of nunneries founded by St Bridget in the fifth century, the chief of which was at Kildare; also that this saint crossed the Irish Sea and founded nunneries at Glastonbury in England and at Abernethy in Scotland. The accounts of the work of Bridget are numerous, but have not been subjected to criticism. Comp. A. SS. Boll., St Brigida, Feb. I, and Lanigan, Eccles. History of Ireland, 1829, I, pp. 377 ff.

[31*] Ambrosius, Opera (edit. Migne, Patrol. Cursus Comp. vol. 16), De virginibus, p. 187; (vol. 17) Ad virginem devotam, p. 579.

[32*] Hilarius, Opera (edit. Migne, vol. 10), Ad Abram, p. 547.

[33*] Blunt, J. J., Vestiges of Ancient Manners in Italy and Sicily, 1823, pp. 56 ff.

[34*] Menzel, W., Christl. Symbolik, 1854, article 'Brust,' makes this statement. I do not see where he takes it from.

[35*] A. SS. Boll., St Agatha, Feb. 5

[36*] A. SS. Boll., St. Agnes, Jan. 21; St Rosalia, Sept. 4.

[37*] A. SS. Boll., St. Cunera, June 32.

[38*] Kist, N. C., in Kerkhistorisch Archiv, Amsterdam, 1858, vol. 2, p. 20.

[39*] Vita St Meinwerci, bishop of Paderborn (1009--39), written about 1155 (Potthast), c.37.

[40*] Hautcoeur, Actes de Ste Pharailde, 1882, Introduction, p. xc.

[41*] A. SS. Boll., Gloria posthuma St Bavonis, Oct. I, p. 261.

[42*] Wauters, A., Histoire des environs de Bruxelles, 1852, vol. 3, pp.111, 123 ff.

[43*] A. SS. Boll., Vita St Leodgarii, Oct. 2.

[44*] Roth, K. L., ' St Odilienberg' in Alsatia, 1856, pp. 91ff.

[45*] Bonnell, H. E., Anfänge des karolingischen Hauses, 1866, pp. 51, 149 etc. It is noticeable that another woman-saint Ida (A. SS. Boll. St Ida, June 20) figures as ancestral mother of the Liudolfings, who became kings in Saxony and emperors of Germany, comp. Waitz, Jahrbücher des deutschen Reicks unter Heinrich I. 1863, Nachtrag I.

[46*] Grimm, J., Deutsche Mythologie, 1875, p. 207.

[47*] Stadler und Heim, Vollsädndiges Heiligenlexicon, 1858--82.

[48*] Lebensgeschichte der heil. Ohula. Freiburg, 1852.

[49*] Alsatia,1858--60, P. 268, contains local stories.

[50*] Roth, K. L., ' St Odilienberg' in Alsatia, 1856, P. 95.

[51*] Menzel, Christliche Symbolik, article 'Knieen.

[52*] Du Bois de Beauchesne, Madame Ste Notburg, 1888, pp. 85, 197 etc. Stadler und Heim, Vollständiges Heiligenlexicon, and A. SS. Boll. so far, omit her.

[53*] Lefebure, F. A., Ste Godeleine et son culte, 1888. A. SS. Boll., St Godelewa, July 6.

[54*] Wonderlyk Leven. Cortryk 1800, anon., pp. 42, 45 etc.

[55*] Comp. below, ch. 4 , 2.

[56*] Rochholz, L., Drei Gaugättinnen,1870, pp. 26, 80 etc.

[57*] Simrock, K., Handbuch der deutschen Mythologie, p. 389.

[58*] Clouet, Histoire de Verdun, p. 180; A. SS. Boll., St Lucie, Sept. 9.

[59*] A. SS. Boll., St Germana, Oct. 1; Husenbeth, F. C., Emblems of the Saints, 1882.

[60*] Rochholz, L., Drei Gaugättinnen,p. 164.

[61*] Zacher, J., St Genovefa Pfalzgräfin, 1860, p. 55.

[62*] Menzel, Christliche Symbolik, article 'Aehre,' refers to Notre Dame de trois epis in Elsass.

[63*] Stadler und Heim, Vollstäindiges Heiligenlexicon, St Nothburga, nr 2.

[64*] Wauters, A., Histoire des e'nvirons de Bruxelles, I, p. 302; Coremans, L'année de l'ancienne Belgique, 1844, p. 76.

[65*] A. SS. Boll., St Alena, June 19; Menzel, W., Christliche Symbolik, 1854, article ' Arm.' Coremans, L'anne'e de i'ancienne Belgique, 1844, June 19.

[66*] Coremans, Lannee etc., p. 77.

[67*] Reinsberg-Düringsfeld, Traditions et legendes de la Belgique, 1870, vol. I , p. 99.

[68*] A. SS. Boll., St. Gunthildis, Sept. 22.

[69*] Imagines SS. Augustanorum, 1601; also Stadler and Heim, Vollstädiges Heiligenlexicon, St Radegundis, nr 3.

[70*] Pharaildis has been depicted with one, A. SS. Boll., St Pharaildis, Jan.4; also Verena, comp. below.

[71*] Husenbeth, F. C., Emblems of the Saints, 1870, mentions one instance.

[72*] Rochholz, Drei Gaugöttinnen, 1870, p. 7.

[73*] Stadler und Heim, Vollständiges Heiligenlexicon; A. SS. Boll., St Rolendis, May 13.

[74*] A. SS. Boll., St Edigna, Feb. 26.

[75*] A. SS. Boll., St Christiane, July 26.

[76*] Rochholz, L., Drei Gaugöttinnen, p. 37.

[77*] Stadler und Heim, VolIstädndges Heiligenlexicon, 1858--82, St Radegundis, nr 3.

[78*] Ibid., Appendix, p. 998, footnote.

[79*] Stadler und Heim, Vollständiges Heiligenlexicon, 1858, St Regina, nr 4.

[80*] Kist, N. C., ' Reenensche Kuneralegende' in Kerkhistorisch Archiv, Amsterdam, 1858, Vol. 2, p. 5.

[81*] Stadler und Heim, Vollständiges Heiligenlexicon, 1858, St Sura.

[82*] A. SS. Boll., St Germana, Oct. 1.

[83*] Panzer, F., Beitrag zur deutschen Mythologie, 1848, pp. 5 ff., 272 ff.

[84*] Capgrave, Catalogus SS. Angliae, 1516.

[85*] Stanton, R., Menology of England and Wales, 1887.

[86*] Capgrave, Catalogus SS. Agliae, 1516. Comp. Surius, Vitae SS.1617.

[87*] Hautcoeur, Actes de St Pharailde, 1882, Introd. cxxviiii.

[88*] Reinsberg-Düriringsfeld, Traditions et legendes de la Belgique, 1870, vol. 1 p. 288.

[89*] Lefebure, Ste Godeleine et son culte, p. 209.

[90*] Wauters, A., Histoire des environs de Bruxelles, 1852, vol.1 p. 304.

[91*] Rochholz, Drei Gaugöttinnen, 1870, p. 154.

[92*] Potthast, Wegweiser durch die Gesehichtswerke des europ. Mittelalters, 1862; Rochholz, loc. cit., p.108, prints an early poetic version of the story in the vernacular.

[93*] Simrock, K., Handbuch der deutschen Mythologie, 1887, p. 393.

[94*] Grimm, J., Deutsche Mythologie, 1875, p. 254, footnote.

[95*] Coremans, Lannee de l'ancienne Belgique, pp. 61, 113, 158.

[96*] Grimm, J., Deutsche Mythologie, 1875, p. 252.

[97*] Coremans, L'année de l'ancienne Belgique, p. 76; Stadler und Heim, Vollständdiges Heiligenlexicon, and the A. SS. Boll, pass her over.

[98*] Wessely, J. G., Iconographie Gottes undder Heiligen, 1874.

[99*] A. SS. Boll., St Afra, Aug. 5.

[100*] Grimm, J., Deutsche Mythologie, 1875, p. 242.

[101*] Velserus, Antiqua monumenta, Chronica der Stadt Augsp. 1595; pp. 4, 14, 17, 32, 88.

[102*] Rettberg, F. W., Kirchengeschichte, 1846, vol. 1, p. 147.

[103*] Friedrich, Kirchengeschichte, 1867, vol. 1, p. 413.

[104*] Stadler und Heim, Vollständiges Heiligenlexicon, 1858, St Notburg, nr 1. A. SS. Boll.. St Notburga, Jan. 26.

[105*] Stadler und Heim,Vollständiges Heiligenlexicon,1858, Appendix, St Achachildis.

[106*] Birlinger, A., Schwäbische Sagen, vol. 2, p. 341.

[107*] Grimm, J., Deutsche Mythologie, 1875, p. 896.

[108*] Stadler und Heim, Vollständiges Heilienlexicon, 2858, St Kümmernissa.

[109*] A. SS. Boll., St Liberata, July 20.

[110*] Sloet, De heilige Ontkommer of Wilgeforthis, 1884.

[111*] I cannot account for the presence of the beard; St Paula, venerated at Avila in Spain, is also represented with one (Stadler und Heim). Macrobius (Sat. bk 3, c. 8) tells us that the Venus Barbata was represented in Cyprus in the form of a man with a beard and wearing female clothing, which shows that goddesses of this type were venerated during heathen times.

[112*] Grimm, J., Deutsche Mythol. 1875, p. 896.

[113*] Sloet, De heilige Ontkommerrner of Wilgeforthis, 1884, p. 36.

[114*] Menzel, W., Christl. Symbolik, 1854, article 'Bart.'

[115*] Sloet, De heilige Ontkommer of Wilgeforthis, 1884, pp. 31, 33, 36, 42 etc.

[116*] Ibid. p. 32.

[117*] Stadler und Heim, Vollständiges Heiligenlexicon, 1858, St Liberata, footnote, p. 807.

[118*] Sloet, De heilige Ontkommer of Wilgeforthis, 1884, pp. 5, 50 etc. Ellis, H., Original Letters, series III, vol. 3, p. 194, quotes the following sentence from Michael Woddes, Dialogues, 1554: ' if a wife were weary of her husband she offered Otes at Poules (St Paul's) at London to St Uncumber,' a proof that the veneration of Ontkommer had found its way into England.

[119*] Panzer, F., Beitrag zur deutschen Mythologie, 1848, pp. 5 ff., 272 ff.

[120*] Coremans, L'année de l'ancienne Belgique, 1844, p. 149.

[121*] Simrock, K., Handbuch der deutschen Myth., 1887, p. 344.

[122*] Panzer, F., Beitrag zur deutschen Myth., 1848, p. 23.

[123*] Coremans, L'année de L'ancienne Belgique, 3844, p. 148.

[124*] Panzer, F., Beitrag zur deutschen Myth., 1848, pp. 69 ff.

[125*] Cradles are frequently kept in churches in Bavaria, and form, I am told, part of the furniture which was formerly used at the celebration of the Nativity play at Christmas (Weihnachtskrippenspiel).

[126*] Panzer, F., Beitrag zur deutschen Myth., 1848, p. 273.

[127*] Simrock, K., Handbuch der deutschen Myth., 1887, pp. 344,349, gives lists of their names.

[128*] Grimm, Wörterbuch, 'Bett'; Mannhardt, W., Gerrnanische Mythen, 1858, p. 644.

[129*] Panzer, F., Beitrag zur deutschen Mythol., 1848, p. 180.

[130*] A. SS. Boll., St Einbetta, Sept. 16.

[131*] A. SS. Boll., St Kunegundis, June 16.

[132*] Panzer, Beitrag zur deutschen Myth., 1848, p. 379.

[133*] Menck-Dittmarsch, Des Moseithals Sagen, 1840, pp. 178, 258.

[134*] Grimm, Wörterbuch, 'Marge.'

[135*] Lersch, Centralmuseum rheinl. Inschriften, vol. 1, p. 23; also Jahrbücher des Vereins von Altertumsfreunden im Rheinlande, Bonn: J. 1852 Freudenberg, 'Darstellungen der Matres oder Matronae'; J. 1853, 'Neue Matronensteine'; J. 1857, Eick, 'Matronensteine'; J. 1858, Becker, 'Beiträge' etc.

[136*] Stadler und Heim, Vollständiges Heiligenlexicon, 1858, St Lufthildis.

[137*] Ibid. St. Rolendis.

[138*] A. SS. Boll., St Cunera, June 12.

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