01 March 2012

1 March - Seth the Patriarch

Weather – If it snows on the first day of March, there will be snow for thirty days.

Wherever the wind lies on St. Eudoxia’s day, there it will remain during the spring and summer.

First comes David, next comes Chad,
Then comes Winnall as if he was mad.  (March coming in like a lion)


Gardening – Upon St. David’s day
                         Put oats and barley in the clay.

David and Chad
Sow peas, good or bad.

Sow the seeds of the Sweet Pea flower between St. David and St. Benedict [21 March]

Today is, of course, the feast of Saint David of Wales, and I shall enjoy Cawl Cennin (Leek Broth – must have leeks!) and Glamorgan Sausages.

Today is also dedicated to Seth the Patriarch, third son of Adam and Eve, and an ancestor of our Lord.  Not much is given in Genesis about him:

“Adam also knew his wife again: and she brought forth a son, and called his name Seth, saying: God hath given me another seed, for Abel whom Cain slew.  But to Seth also was born a son, whom he called Enos; this man began to call upon the name of the Lord…. And Adam lived a hundred and thirty years, and begot a son to his own image and likeness, and called his name Seth…Seth also lived a hundred and five years, and begot Enos.  And Seth lived after he begot Enos, eight hundred and seven years, and begot sons and daughters.  And all the days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years, and he died.”  Genesis 4:25, 26. 5:3, 6-8.

Of course, a paucity of material never bothered medieval man.  Perhaps Seth’s name, which means placed or planted, engendered the traditions from which a legend emerged tying his father and him to the Cross on which our Savior died.  As there were several traditions, there were also a few differences here and there, but the story goes something like this:

When Adam came to the end of his 930 years and desired to die, he sent his son Seth to fetch the oil of mercy from Paradise, which he had been promised when he was thrust out of Eden.  Seth followed the footsteps of Adam and Eve back to Paradise and found an angel bearing a sword of fire guarding the gate, who barred his way, but permitted him “a glimpse of the Paradise lost by his father's transgression.  Seth beheld a crystal fountain whose sands were of silver, through which the water rolled in four mighty rivers.  Before the fountain was a gigantic tree, but bare of fruit and foliage; around its trunk a terrible serpent had writhed himself and had burned the bark and devoured the leaves.  Beneath the tree was an awful precipice, for its roots reached to the depths of Hell. The only human inhabitant there was Cain [Seth’s older brother], who strove to climb the tree to re-enter Paradise, but the roots, as if instinct with life, twined around and entangled the murderer, even penetrating his flesh.  Appalled, Seth raised his eyes to implore mercy, and gazed at the top of the tree.  Its head reached unto Heaven, and its branches were covered with foliage, flowers, and fruit, and what was most beautiful of all, a little babe was listening to the songs of seven white doves circling around him, and a woman more glorious and lovely than the moon bore the child in her arms.

The angel refused to give Seth the oil of mercy, but gave him instead, as a token of future grace and pardon, either three seeds from the Tree of Life or one of its branches, to be buried with his father.  Seth returned and told his father what the angel had said, whereupon Adam laughed for the first time since his transgression and happily died.  Seth placed the seeds/branch in Adam’s mouth and buried him in the Valley of Hebron.

As time passed, the seeds/branch grew into a sapling (some versions say three saplings which grew into one) as seen here.  Now the histories of this sapling diverge slightly.  It is said that Noah took the tree and Adam’s remains into the ark; afterward, the skull (with the sapling still growing out of it) was reburied where, many centuries hence, it would be called ‘Golgotha’, the place of the skull.  Moses uprooted the sapling and used it as his rod, but not being allowed to carry it into the Promised Land, he planted it in Moab.  King David, following a vision, found it and transplanted it in his private garden in Jerusalem.  It grew to gigantic size and King Solomon had it cut down to form one of the columns for the Temple, but no matter how it was measured, it was either too long or too short for the purpose.  A prophecy by the Queen of Sheba and/or a prophetess of Jerusalem – that the kingdom would come to its end upon that wood – caused the Jews to bury the log in the ground (another version says that Solomon’s greedy grandson stole the gold and jewels with which the king had adorned the wood, and buried the log to hide his thievery).  Where it was buried, a pool of healing water emerged, called Bethesda.

At the appointed time, the log floated to the surface of the pool, and from it the Cross of our Lord – the Tree of Life – was formed.

Well done, Seth.

Artwork: Hours of Catherine of Cleves