Tuesday, 17 July 2012


“Faith is a knowledge within the heart, beyond the reach of proof.” - Kahlil Gibran
Margaret the Virgin, also known as Margaret of Antioch, virgin and martyr, is celebrated as a saint by the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches on July 20; and on July 17 in the Orthodox Church, where she is known as St Marina. Her historical existence has been questioned and she was declared apocryphal by Pope Gelasius I in A.D. 494. However, devotion to her cult was revived in the West with the Crusades. She was reputed to have promised very powerful indulgences to those who wrote or read her life, or invoked her intercessions; belief in these indulgences no doubt helped the spread of her cult.

According to the Golden Legend, she was a native of Antioch, daughter of a pagan priest named Aedesius. She was scorned by her father for her Christian faith, and lived with a foster-mother keeping sheep, in the country, which is now modern day Turkey. Olybrius, the praeses orientis (Governor of the Roman Diocese of the East), offered her marriage at the price of her renunciation of Christianity. Upon her refusal, she was cruelly tortured, during which various miraculous incidents occurred. One of these involved being swallowed by Satan in the shape of a dragon, from which she escaped alive when the cross she carried irritated the dragon's innards.

She was put to death in A.D. 304. The Eastern Orthodox Church knows Margaret as Saint Marina, and celebrates her feast day on July 17. She has been identified with Saint Pelagia - “Marina” being the Latin equivalent of the Greek name “Pelagia” (meaning of 'of the sea'). There are no historical documents on St Margaret as distinct from St Pelagia. The Greek Marina came from Antioch, Pisidia (as opposed to Antioch of Syria), but this distinction was lost in the West. It has been argued that the legends of Saint Margaret are derived from a transformation of the pagan divinity Aphrodite into a Christian saint. Such syncretism is a common finding with many Eastern Church saints.

The cult of Saint Margaret became very widespread in England, where more than 250 churches are dedicated to her, most famously, St. Margaret's, Westminster, the parish church of the British Houses of Parliament in London. Some consider her a patron saint of pregnancy. In art, she is usually pictured escaping from, or standing above, a dragon. She was included from the twelfth to the twentieth century among the saints to be commemorated wherever the Roman Rite was celebrated, but was then removed from that list because of the entirely fabulous character of the stories told of her. Margaret is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, and is one of the saints who spoke to Joan of Arc.

The birthday plant for this day, is caraway, Carum carvi.  The name is derived from a place in Asia Minor, Caria.  The seeds have been used form ancient times to flavour food, especially breads and cakes. The plant signifies the sentiment “you will grow to love me”.  Astrologically, it is under the rule of Mercury.

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