Samui Wining & Dining
Saints Above!

A light-hearted look at some of the saints you might find useful during your stay on Samui!

16

 

Quite honestly, it was a mess. What was going on in the so-called ‘civilised world’ during the thousand or so years after the death of Jesus Christ takes some untangling. Everyone was at war with everybody else. The Roman Empire was firmly set in its task of conquering the world, but it wasn’t all plain sailing. Every new country it marched upon was busy raping and pillaging its neighbours – which is possibly why the Romans did so well. But those Dark Ages were full of devils and demons. And that’s one of the reasons why the idea of patron-saints took off.

        To begin with, the first Christian churches in the Roman Empire were built over the graves of martyrs. But it didn’t take long for churches to become dedicated to other entities, usually a local person of unusual piety who’d come to one kind of sticky end or another. Remember, these were not gentle days. Murder and mayhem (sometimes of a very sticky sort indeed) were the daily norm and ‘women’ were married-off at the age of 12. In fact, there are more than a few pre-pubescent girls in the ranks of the saints, mostly those who threw themselves off high places rather than be betrothed to some rich and drooling old baron.

       But by the time the Middle Ages came around, the practice of adopting patron-saints had spread beyond the church and had begun to reflect the more comforting and vital aspects of daily life. Health, family, trade, maladies and perils were all woven into the fabric of the new saints as the populace prayed to them directly for divine intervention. For example, fellow carpenters looked to St. Joseph, father of Jesus, a carpenter by trade.

       And so it has emerged that, today, there’s a saint for every occasion. Well, almost, as there’s as yet no divine patronage for restaurants! The closest you can get is to murmur a few words to St. Martha, who takes care of cooks, hotelkeepers, servants and waiters. But, as for the rest, there are a goodly few who can certainly ease your stay on a sunny isle in the Gulf of Thailand.

       Right away, you’d be advised to spare a thought for St. Joseph of Cupertino. He began having visions at the age of eight and by the time he was a young man he would hear heavenly music and levitate and float about. He got into quite a lot of trouble because of this but survived the Inquisition to die comparatively simply; merely racked by fever. He’s now been promoted to be the patron-saint of air travel.

       Having thus arrived with divine intercession, your next supplication should be directed towards St. Gertrude of Nivelles. Although of noble birth, her dastardly father had arranged for her when just 13 years old to become wed to … a Moor! She fled and hid in a cave but was dragged forth and ‘martyred’ – a euphemism used in only the ‘stickiest’ of situations. She is now the patron-saint of accommodation, hopefully of the sort that’s more lavish than a cave.

       Having sorted out some of the basics, you’ve now got a choice but I’d firstly have a word with St. Acricolus of Avignon who became a bishop at the boyish age of 33. His intervention ended a troubling invasion of storks in 674 AD and his prayers usually led to fine harvests and good weather (it’s probably best to focus on the latter, under the circumstances). If you’re really serious, though, you’ll hedge your bets with St. Medhard. He drew attention to himself whilst still a youth when, in a sudden downpour, an eagle appeared and hovered over him, keeping him dry. And this feathered umbrella earned him the title of ‘Patron-Saint Against Bad Weather’. Double whammy.

       Right then. As well as the insect sprays and creams, it’s perhaps an idea to take out a bit of extra insurance, too. St. Magnust of Fussen is the patron-saint against caterpillars (including those huge multicoloured hairy ones), but it’s time to call on the big guns with St. Mark the Apostle, as he’s the fellow to intercede against insect bites in general. You probably won’t need it but, whilst you’re at it, you might as well light an insect coil in the name of St. Hubert of Liege. He’s the patron-saint against mad dogs.

       Having settled in efficiently, after a day or so it could be worth your while to check out the invaluable St. Columbanus – well, if you fancy a look around the island, that is. Better add St. Dymphna to the list, too. Whilst he is the saint-in-charge of motorbikes (or whatever the equivalent was in 540AD) she is the patron-saint of ‘nervous disorders’; something one is prone to suddenly acquire whilst riding a motorbike on Samui. (She’s well-qualified, too. Her father was, loosely speaking, mad, and when she was 15 he decided to marry her. The matter of her disagreement was settled by the sword – his sword cutting off her head.)

       Which brings us to more relaxing activities and the arena of wining and dining. Here you are spoiled for choice and, undoubtedly, whatever saint you evoke will merely enhance your Samui culinary experiences. But if your session with St. Dymphna didn’t quite do the trick, then have a word with St. Neot. He was Irish, just 35 inches tall and liked to stand up to his neck in a (shallow) well. He’s the patron-saint of fish (for some reason) and you’ll eat a lot of those on Samui.

       And no doubt consume moderate amounts of alcohol, too. So praise be to St. Augustine of Hippo, as he looks-after the brewers, and his mother, St. Monica, might also come in handy as she’s the patron-saint of alcoholics (hic). But, on a more temperate note, make a point of being nice to St. Bibiana because she’s in charge of the hangover department.

       Which more or less wraps it up, apart from another short chat to St. Joseph again, whilst you’re at the airport on your way back. That is, unless you want to put all of this under one big banner. In which case you’ll have to make an appointment to see St. Flairpool of San Seriffe. He’s the patron-saint of patron-saints!

 

Rob De Wet


 


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