Saturday, February 9, 2013

A day for dentists

One of the first things I loved about Saint Apollonia was her name.  I cannot help it, I am delighted when saints have completely not christian names.  I know, I know your name is one thing over which you have almost no control, what with your parent generally choosing it, often before you hit the ground.  Unsurprising, the parents who choose a feminization of the greek god of the sun (& healing & prophecy & poerty & so on)  to name their daughter were themselves not christian.

So, Apollonia.  Martyred because she refused to renounce her (new) religion, which is a popular one among the saints; a sizeable sub-group are the volunteers.  Generally they are women who, when faced with that fate-worse-than-death option opt for death.  In Apollonia's case, it came after what had to be a pretty rough time.  Among other things, her persecutors removed all her teeth, a method of torture that has given me the creeps since Marathon Man.  Finally, when told she was about to be burned to death, she jumped into the flames.  Bringing us to a very large set of saints martyred by fire. 

& given that, it should be completely unsurprising that fire is not one of her symbols. She is not shown in front of a wall of fire or with flames curling around her feet or any other fire themed pose (OKay, OKay she is sometimes standing with a burning pyre off in the background, but I am really talking about what is in the clos-up).  Instead, she is often portrayed holding a tooth in dental pliers.   In an unusual twist, her relics often are teeth which I find, well, odd.

For those who don't know, saintly relics are what was left of the body (the one that had to remain inviolate for a long long long time after death for you to start down that road to sainthood).  These relics are kept in reliquaries (def:  a container for relics).  Usually they are bones, sometimes some hair, sometimes some cloth but Apollonia's are often teeth.  Which would mean that after her teeth were removed someone collected & saved them expecting them to be valuable.  Which I find odd.  Even if you were going to save them à la the opening of Cloud Atlas, how would you know which ones were hers?

Whatever.  If you start getting curious along those lines, the whole business just falls apart.  Back to the woman herself.  Kinda.  Apollonia is the patroness of lots of places. Towns, churches, & at least one train station.  & of course dentists.

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