Thursday, September 1, 2011

In the garden

You know how you lose time in a garden?  Well, today's saint, the patron of gardeners, has some feast-day time-loss.  Fiacre is lauded August 18th,  except in Ireland where his day is September 1.  Maybe it isn't losing track of time in a garden, maybe it is losing track of time in Ireland.  Nope, another source lists the Feast Day of Saint Fiacre as August 30.  If it were the 31st I would say well they just got confused with that whole feasts begin at sunset thing, but August has 31 days....right? 

One of the things I like best about the saints, all of the saints, is the chaining that happens when it comes to patronage.  We start with Fiacre (& we will get back to him, I promise) & then we go to Paris where we have a hotel named for him, which is conveniently located for temporary hired transport (today we would say a cab, the French word for which is still fiacre or fiaker) to gather & so he becomes the patron of cabs & cabdrivers.  What do cabbies suffer from?  Why hemorrhoids of course.  Guess who is invoked when you have them!  I am anxiously awaiting the next link in this chain.  I am banking on Fiacre becoming the patron of sheetrockers & drywallers.  Little window into my post-adolescence:  I was never so admonished not to play with fire as I was to never ever under any circumstances ever sit in sheetrock or drywall directly. I will let you all figure out why. 

Like the cabs that were once named for him, you see Fiacre in the background more often than you might think.  His most frequent role is pretending to be Francis of Assisi.  I have lost track of how many little garden chachkahs I have seen labeled Francis of Assisi that are really Fiacre.  Let me help you out here:  if there are no animals but instead Saint Francis is holding a bucket & spade...he is really Saint Fiacre.

Back to the man:  Fiacre was, well, difficult.  I know, I know a medieval misogynist who would be considered hard to get along with by today's standards: what a shock!  But Fiacre was hard to get along with by his day's standards. His first miracle involved clearing land by dragging a shovel across it (the bishop said he could have whatever land he could establish for farming in one day).  A local woman claimed Fiacre was a sorcerer but the bishop decided he was favored by the lord & so continues his relations with the local women until he eventually banished all women from his monastery.  I cannot help but notice how much his area of expertise (herbalism) might overlap with women's work & that might be the root of the problem right there.  It is certainly the beginning of his patronages.  Fiacre was first patron saint of herbalists; growers of food, general gardeners & florists came later, probably around the same time as potters  While never the patron of healERS, Fiacre is often prayed to for healING (that herbalism thing again).  He is also invoked against venereal diseases (a happy marriage of healing & misongeny), sterility/barrenness (ditto), & as I mentioned earlier hemorrhoids (whatever).  He oversees the occupations above (cabbie, gardener) as well as boxmakers & needlemakers, two professions I had never thought much about but are thriving even today.  I guess that is another humming-along-in-the-background quality of old Fiacre himself.

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