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Inspirational Reads

Happy Saint Dunstan Day!!!

May 19, 2010

Today, we celebrate England's second most favored saint, Dunstan. As a fetus, he was bound to do great deeds, as his mother was standing in Mass one day when all of the candles blew out at once. As soon as the candles were blown out, Dunstan's mother's candle miraculously relit, and everyone in the church lit their candles from her holy flame. She knew then that the child she carried within her womb was destined for great things.

Born in the Kingdom of Wessex (it means "Western Saxons"), Dunstan began his holy career early on. With the blessing of his father, Heorstan, he took minor orders and began helping out around the church of St. Mary's, where he was devoted to learning and piety. He eventually garnered the attention of his uncle, Athelm, who happened to be the Archbishop of Canterbury. From there, he became an adviser to King Athelstan.

Just to warn you...get ready to read a lot of names that look really fucking similar.

While serving at the English court, good ole King Athelstan took a shine to Dunstan, which meant that everyone else at the court hated him. They hatched a conspiracy to disgrace him, accusing Dunstan of witchcraft and wizardry. Athelstan cared little for these accusations and ordered Dunstan from his sight, and you would think that would have been enough to sate the jealous courtiers, but it wasn't. Upon leaving the palace, his enemies fell upon Dunstan, kicking the shit out of him, and then to add insult to injury, dumped his battered body in a cesspool.

Finding himself, literally, up shit creek without a paddle, Dunstan pulled himself from the cesspool and staggered to a friend's house which happened to be close by. The friend, overjoyed at having Dunstan, covered in shit and reeking of feces, took him in and nursed him back to health--and then burned the house down because he could never get the stench of festering shit out of his couch.

Freshly healed, Dunstan headed over to his uncle's house, Aelfheah, the Bishop of Winchester. Uncle Aelfheah tried to talk Dunstan into becoming a priest, but Dunstan wasn't sure if he was ready to give up the possibility of being able to fuck someone...although the dip in the cesspool probably took care of that. He politely declined his uncle's offer and went to bed.

The next day, enormous, nasty tumors erupted all over his body. Dunstan, thinking that God was punishing him for turning away the priesthood, immediately swore to take up the cowl and celibacy. He recovered from the sickness quickly; the illness itself was most likely a result of being beaten until he was battered and bloody and then dumped into a pile of shit.

So, Dunstan became a priest. He devoted himself to further study and, of all things, metallurgy at Glastonbury. While working late one night, Satan himself came to call and tried to woo Dunstan over to the darkside. Having none of that, Dunstan grabbed a pair of tongs he used for blacksmithing and grabbed the Devil by the nose, instructing him to begone. Old Scratch finally relented and said he would, be he wanted Dunstan to shoe his horse for him before he left. Dunstan, that tricksy little Hobbit, shod Beelzebub instead. As The Lord of the Morning was howling in agony, Dunstan instructed him never to enter a place where a horseshoe was hanging over the door. Lucifer agreed, Dunstan removed the shoe, and Mephistopheles went on his decidedly unmerry way.

And that, my friends, was the birth of the legend of a lucky horseshoe.

Dunstan continued working at Glastonbury, and as he was related to most of the nobility of Wessex, he was a favored adviser for the Kings of England. In fact, he was so beloved of Lady Aethelflaed, the niece to our friend Athelstan, that when she died, she left him a considerable amount of money. Unfortunately, Heostan (Dunstan's pappy) died about the same time, and he left Dunstan a pile o' cash as well.

Dunstan used this money to help reestablish the monastic life across most of England, but the money and his ties with nobility made him a favorite of the King's Court again. And, again, the other courtiers became jealous. However, a near-miss hunting accident for a new king, King Edmund, inspired the young regent to treat Dunstan better, if only God would spare his life. God's mercy touched Edmund (or, more properly, his horse) and Edmund was spared. He immediately returned to the palace, where everyone thought he was going to give Dunstan the Thomas a Becket routine. Instead, he gathered up Dunstan and went to Glastonbury, where he prayed and promised to protect Dunstan from the evils of court.

This began a long, happy association between Dunstan and the Kings of England. He served as a court adviser and minister for years, until Edmund and, his successor Eadred, died. Then came to the throne a mischievous little brat named Eadwig, who ignored his nobles in order to fuck some pretty young thing named Aelfgifu. Pissed that Eadwig had ignored his nobles, Dunstan went and pulled him off Aelfgifu, called her a "strumpet", had Eadwig do the same, and then dragged him to the meeting of his nobles.

As you might suspect, this caused a bit of friction between Dunstan and Aelfgifu, who ended up marrying Eadwig. Dunstan fled to Flanders (in modern day Belgium) and hung out there until Eadwig was driven from the throne and his brother, Edgar, assumed the crown. Edgar immediately called for Dunstan to return, and once more appointed him with favored status. At this point, however, Dunstan was so wildly popular with the Wessex nobility and the Northumbrians, his safety was not a threat.

Two years later, however, Edgar died. He was succeeded by Edward II, known as "The Martyr", who was Edgar's eldest son. However, Edward II's step-mother wanted the fruit of her womb to sit upon the throne; Dunstan had been instrumental in securing Edgar's seat upon the throne of England, which made him unpopular in the other team's camp. This caused a lot of strife within the realm, and the threat of civil war hung over all of England.

Finally, Edward II was assassinated (thus the moniker "The Martyr") and his half-brother was seated upon the throne. His brother? Everyone's favorite medieval English King, Aethelred the Unready. Dunstan oversaw Aethelred's coronation and then quit the role of the king's advisor. It was his last public service. He retired to his abbey where he continued to preach and to work as a silver- and goldsmith.

On May 19th (see how that works out?), 988 AD, Dunstan died at the ripe old age of 79 (or so). While having a career batting average of .269 and 688 career RBI isn't enough to get you enshrined at Cooperstown, it's apparently enough to earn you a sainthood. Dunstan was officially canonized in 1029; the Shawon-o-Meter reportedly went off the chart.

Dunstan is symbolized by the tongs he used to grab the Devil by the nose, often with a dove hovering near him, or with an army of angels before him. He is the patron saint of blacksmiths, locksmiths, goldsmiths, silversmiths and shortstops.


BeckEye said...

I love that movie he was in, Saint Dunstan Checks In.

carissajaded said...

hahaha at Beck's comment. You are so smart. Way smarter than Dunstan. I can't imagine that you'd ever call a girl a "strumpet." bahahaha I love that word now.

Wynn said...

I love old stories and old.. people. Ya know, from earlier eras, not like old old people because old people have a tendency to be really "I deserve this!" and elbow their way through an entire line, making us young people get all bitchy and give the old people's prejudice against us young people a push, but they don't see the ever revolving cycle of.. oh I'm getting off track here.

I once had a necklace with a replica of a coin that was made by Ethelred II, it got stolen and I still miss it. Somewhat related anyways. Love the story!

*backs out of comment room*

Scope said...

Beckeye stolt my comment. But that is certainly one lucky horseshoe on that T-Shirt.

kate said...

Can I just say right now that if anyone feels like beating me into a bloody pulp that I'd probably rather you just kill me than dump me into a puddle of crap? There's just no coming back from that for me.

corticoWhat said...

You're tellin' me a Cubbie is related to a Saint? Even that hasn't helped!

snowelf said...

Did he really burn the house down?

Okay and I know you love chemistry and all, but why aren't you a college history professor again? I would have loved history a lot more had you taught it.