08 November 2013

8 November - Four Crowned Martyrs; Old Fashioned Rocks

Today we honor the patrons of sculptors and stonemasons.

“On the Lavican way, the birthday of the saintly brothers, Severus, Severian, Carpophorus and Victorinus, called the Four Crowned, who were scourged to death with leaded whips, during the reign of the Diocletian.  As their names, known some years afterwards by revelation, could not then be ascertained, it was ordered that their anniversary should be commemorated with the preceding five, under the name of the Four Saints Crowned.  This appellation was retained by the Church, even after their names had been revealed.”

The ‘preceding five’ saints referenced were “Claudius, Nicostratus, Symphorian, Castorius and Simplicius, who were first sent to prison, then scourged with whips set with metal, and as they could not be made to forsake the faith of Christ, Diocletian ordered them to be thrown into the river.”

The Golden Legend calls them “The Four Crowned Martyrs” and says of them: “… And these martyrs knew all the craft of sculpture or of carving, and Diocletian would have constrained them to carve an idol, but they would not entail nor carve it, nor consent to do sacrifice to the idols.  And then by the commandment of Diocletian, they were put into tuns of lead all living, and cast into the sea… And Melchiades, the pope, ordained these four saints to be honored and to be called the four crowned martyrs before that their names were found.  And though their names were afterward found and known, yet for the usage they be always called the four crowned martyrs.”

The Golden Legend also explains that for a long time after their martyrdom, their true names were unknown, so they were honored under the names of the other five martyrs.  It is under these names that they were entered in an Old English Martyrology [Simplicius became a fellow workman].  Here quatuor coronati  is translated as ‘the four victorious men’: “On the eighth day of the month is the martyrdom of the holy martyrs that are called in the books, quatuor coronate, that is the four victorious men, whose names were Claudius, Castorius, Symphorianus, and Nicostratus.  These were four skilful workers in stone at Rome; six hundred and twenty-two workers were there altogether, and no others were equal to them.  Every morning they marked their iron tools with the sign of the cross, and then they were never broken, but they carved each stone as the emperor designed.  One of the workmen was named Simplicius; he believed in God and received baptism, and since he did all that the others did.  Then God granted greater gifts to these five workmen than to the others.  The other workmen then complained of them to the emperor and told him that they were Christians and that they performed their artificial work by sorcery, because they marked their work with the sign of Christ’s Cross.  The emperor was angry and commanded them to be locked up alive in leaden chests and these to be thrown into the water.  After forty-two days, a Christian pulled up the chests with the bodies and placed them in his house, and many miracles since happened through these holy men.”

Subsequent embellishments and research have muddied the waters even further, so that it is not known which group (the four or the five) handled the carving tools (the other group being either government officials or soldiers); even the locations of their executions – Rome and modern Bosnia – are ascribed to one set or the other.  Or perhaps the Quattro Coronati are an entirely different group of martyrs, as proposed by the entry in the Catholic Encyclopedia.

Whatever.  Our ancestors didn’t care.  They honored four (or five) workmen – with or without names – who gave their lives for their faith. In the 15th century, an English stonemason’s guild entered this in their records:

“Pray we now to God Almighty,
And to His Mother, Mary bright,
That we may keep these articles here
And these points well altogether,
As did those holy martyrs four
That were in this craft of great honor.

They were as good masons as on earth shall go,
Gravers and image makers they were also,
For they were workmen of the best

The emperor had them in great liking;
He invoked them an image to make,
That might be worshiped for his sake;
Such idols he had in his day
To turn the people from Christ’s law,

But they were steadfast in Christ’s religion
And to the craft, without denial;
They loved well God and all His doctrines,
And were in His service evermore.
True men they were, in that day,
And lived well in God’s law;

They resolved no idols for to make,
For no good that they might take;
To believe on that idol for their god,
They would not do so, though he were mad,
For they would not forsake their true faith,
And believe on his false religion.

The emperor caused to take them at once
And put them in a deep prison.
The sorer he punished them in that place,
The more joy was to them of Christ’s grace.
Then when he saw no other way,
To death he caused them to go.

Who so will of their life more know,
By the book he may in learn,
In the legend of the saints,
The names of the four crowned ones.
Their feast will be, without denial,
After All Hallows, the eighth day.”

We can honor the patrons of sculptors and stonemasons with OLD FASHIONED ROCKS:

Heat oven to 350° F.
Grease cookie sheets (enough for 2 – 3 dozen cookies)

Bring ½ cup of water to boiling and pour it over 2 cups of raisins.  Set aside.
Soften ½ cup of butter.
Sift 2-½ cups of flour, then add a teaspoon EACH of baking powder, salt, and ground cinnamon, and sift again.

In a large bowl, cream the softened butter with 1-½ cups of firmly packed dark brown sugar.  Add 2 eggs, one at a time, beating the mixture until light after each addition.

Stir in ½ cup of chopped walnuts, then add the flour mixture and the raisins with the soaking water, and mix well.

Drop by teaspoonfuls onto the cookie sheets and bake for about 15 minutes. 

02 November 2013

2 November - All Souls' Day; Epitaphs

“Waking, sleeping, eating, drinking, chatt’ring, lying, life went by;
While of dying little thinking, down I dropp’d, and here I lie”

One of the Widow’s favorite pastimes is to wander through cemeteries and read the inscriptions on tombstones (although not at night.  Strange things can be found in cemeteries at night, like idiot kids who think desecrating tombstones is the height of cool).  Nowadays, of course, people don’t have the kind of stones on which one can write much (or knock over); most of the headstones have to be a certain (small) size and laid flat and a little below ground-level to make grounds-keeping easier.  Sigh.

(If this seems to be an odd pastime…. I suppose it is.  Genealogists do this sort of thing, you know.  In fact, should I ever deface my car with bumper-stickers, “I brake for cemeteries” will be first.)

Anyway, funeral art is a fascinating study in itself.  It is interesting to see how the ‘spirit images’ (or angels, or whatever current scholarship calls them now) developed over the years, even turning into portraits of the deceased, then moving away from death’s heads to urns and other classical motifs, then again to religious subjects like sculptures of weeping angels.  If you are interested in such things, check out The Association for Gravestone Studies.

I also enjoy epitaphs.  They are little windows into humanity, some of them quite funny, and I’ve considered what I would like the passerby to read on my own stone.

“Here lies the body of Mrs. Rudd
As bombshells go, she was a dud.”

I suppose, though, that if I am allowed a stone (and not just tossed into Potter’s Field), I should have something more useful like, “Of your charity, please pray for the soul of Mrs. Rudd”. 

Mrs. Rudd’s soul can use the prayers.

On those occasions when Mr. Rudd annoyingly channeled his inner three-year-old, I threatened to put this on his tombstone:

“Here lies my man, and for the best,
Because it gives us both a rest.”


“Here lies the body of Mr. Rudd
Deeply regretted by those who never knew him.”


“Here lies my husband.
Tears cannot bring him back,
Therefore I weep.”

He always countered with:

“Here lies my wife,
Cold as in life.”

(Of your charity, please pray for the soul of Mr. Rudd.)

Besides finding gems in the local cemeteries, I have a little collection of epitaph books. Here are some of my favorites.  Quite often the same epitaph with the same doggerel is found in several books, with only the names and/or locations different, so I’ve left the names and locations out.

Very common are the ‘memento mori’ messages, those reminding the reader that they too will face death:

“Remember, friend, as you pass by
As you are now, so once was I
As I am now, so you must be
So be prepared to follow me.”

To which one replies:
“To follow you is my intent
But first must know which way you went…”

“If Heaven be pleased when sinners cease to sin
If Hell be pleased when sinners enter in,
If Earth be pleased when ridded of a knave,
Then all are pleased for __________ ‘s in his grave.”

“Here lies _____________
Who died fighting for a lady’s honor
(She wanted to keep it.)”

I painted this on one of the ‘tombstones’ used for decorating our yard at Hallowe’en:

“He called Mr. Rudd a liar!”

For a talkative person:
“Stranger, tread lightly over this wonder
If he opens his mouth, we’ll all go under.”

And an argumentative person:
“Tread lightly over her mouldering form
Or else you’ll raise another storm.”

And a drinker:
“Here lies _________________
Died sober.
Lord, Thy wonders never cease.”

“Here lies _________________
Who shot it out with four horse-thieves
And killed three of them.”

“Here lies the body of ____________, who departed this life suddenly by a cow kicking him.  Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

Epitaph for a beloved Army mule, when the Army still had four-legged mules:

“In memory of Maggie, who in her time kicked two colonels, four majors, ten captains, twenty-four lieutenants, forty-two sergeants, 432 other ranks, and one Mills Bomb.”


Here endeth the first batch of favorite epitaphs.


Master of Mary of Burgundy, 15th century.  Illuminated page from the “Office of the Dead”, in the Hours of Engelbert of Nassau.

01 November 2013

1 November - All Saints' Day

Weather:  If All Saints' Day will bring out the winter, Saint Martin's Day (11 November) will bring out Indian Summer (and vice versa)

All Saints’ Day has a little summer of three days. When it is warm at this time of year, it is called “All Saints’ Rest”.

If on All Saints’ Day the beechnut be found dry, we shall have a hard winter; but if the nut be wet and not light, we may expect a wet winter.

As on November 1st, so is the winter to come.

Well, in the Smallest State, it was warm and rather tropical.  High winds and heavy seas, but warm with a few showers.  I doubt the winter to come will resemble it in the least.
Read more about All Saints’ Day here.

So you think that because Hallowe’en is over, the scary stuff is gone for the year, right?  Au contraire, children!  All Hallows Eve is just the beginning.  Tonight (All Souls Eve) at midnight, anyone visiting the cemetery will see the dead leading a procession of those who are to die in the coming year.

And for those of you who don’t fancy a midnight ramble in the nearest bone-orchard, here is a poem by George MacDonald – verra Scottish, but you should get the flavor of it, even if some of the words are unintelligible.   The title is “Halloween”, but as you can see by the second verse, it takes place “on the night between Saints and Souls, when the bodiless go about…”  Take a warning from Janet and if you open the doors, put the chairs against the wall.

“Sweep up the flure, Janet;
Put on anither peat.
It's a lown and a starry nicht, Janet,
And nowther cauld nor weet.

It's the nicht atween the Sancts and Souls
Whan the bodiless gang aboot;
And it's open hoose we keep the nicht
For ony that may be oot.

Set the cheirs back to the wa', Janet;
Mak ready for quaiet fowk.
Hae a'thing as clean as a windin-sheet:
They comena ilka ook.

There's a spale upo' the flure, Janet,
And there's a rowan-berry!
Sweep them intil the fire, Janet,
Or they'll neither come nor tarry.

Syne set open the outer dure-
Wide open for wha kens wha?
As ye come ben to your bed, Janet,
Set baith dures to the wa'.

She set the cheirs back to the wa',
But ane that was o' the birk;
She sweepit the flure, but left the spale-
A lang spale o' the aik.

The nicht was lown; the stars sae still
War glintin doon the sky;
The souls crap oot o' their mooly graves,
A' dank wi' lyin by.

They faund the dure wide to the wa',
And the peats blawn rosy reid:
They war shuneless feet gaed in and oot,
Nor clampit as they gaed.

The mither she keekit but the hoose,
Saw what she ill could say;
Quakin she slidit doon by Janet,
And gaspin a whilie she lay.

There's are o' them sittin afore the fire!
Ye wudna hearken to me!
Janet, ye left a cheir by the fire,
Whaur I tauld ye nae cheir suld be!

Janet she smilit in her minnie's face:
She had brunt the roden reid,
But she left aneth the birken cheir
The spale frae a coffin-lid!

Saft she rase and gaed but the hoose,
And ilka dure did steik.
Three hours gaed by, and her minnie heard
Sound o' the deid nor quick.

Whan the gray cock crew, she heard on the flure
The fa' o' shuneless feet;
Whan the rud cock crew, she heard the dure,
And a sough o' win' and weet.

Whan the goud cock crew, Janet cam back;
Her face it was gray o' ble;
Wi' starin een, at her mither's side
She lay doon like a bairn to dee.

Her white lips hadna a word to lat fa'
Mair nor the soulless deid;
Seven lang days and nights she lay,
And never a word she said.

Syne suddent, as oot o' a sleep, she brade,
Smilin richt winsumly;
And she spak, but her word it was far and strayit,
Like a whisper come ower the sea.

And never again did they hear her lauch,
Nor ever a tear doun ran;
But a smile aye flittit aboot her face
Like the mune on a water wan.

And ilka nicht atween Sancts and Souls
She laid the dures to the wa',
Blew up the fire, and set the cheir,
And loot the spale doon fa'.

And at midnicht she gaed but the hoose
Aye steekin dure and dure.
Whan the goud cock crew, quaiet as a moose
She cam creepin ower the flure.

Mair wan grew her face, and her smile mair sweet
Quhill the seventh Halloweve:
Her mother she heard the shuneless feet,
Said-She'll be ben belyve!

She camna ben. Her minnie rase-
For fear she 'maist cudna stan;
She grippit the wa', and but she gaed,
For the goud cock lang had crawn.

There sat Janet upo' the birk cheir,
White as the day did daw;
But her smile was a sunglint left on the sea
Whan the sun himsel is awa.”

Found in The Poetical Works of George MacDonald, 2 Volumes (1893)


"This name signifies the ninth month, which position it occupied in the ten-month calendar ascribed to Romulus.  The name was retained when two additional months were added.  The Emperor Tiberius was born in this month.  Hence the Senate wished to give it his name, following the precedent set by Augustus, but he declined the honor, saying, “What will you do, conscript fathers, when you have thirteen Caesars?"

“It was the Windmonath or Wind Month, of the Saxons, who knew it also as Blotmonath, for this was the month when cattle, pigs, and sheep were slaughtered and preserved for the winter's meals.”  Now begin the days of salting, smoking, and pickling the larger cuts of meat, while the scrapings go into sausages and head-cheese.

No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member, 
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds - 

Astronomy for November   

Fall Back!  Daylight Saving Time ends at 2:00 AM on Sunday, the 3rd, for those who follow it.  Put your clocks back one hour before you go to bed Saturday night [and gain an hour of sleep, if you don’t have animals whose stomach clocks take priority over your alarm clock.]

The full moon on the 17th is the Full Beaver Moon (also known as the Full Frost Moon). 

A total eclipse of the sun on the 3rd.  Visible from Africa.  Eastern North Americans can see the tail-end at sunrise.

Meteor Showers   
The South Taurid Meteor Shower  peaks after midnight on November 4th and 5th.  There won’t be any moonlight to mar the enjoyment, so even though this isn’t one of the larger showers, bundle up and go watch.

The waxing half moon rises between 1 and 2 pm and sets after midnight on November 11th and after 1 am on the 12th, the peak time of the North Taurid Meteor Shower , so wait for the moon to set before you bundle up again and go outside.  Take a thermos of hot cider with you.

This year is a bust for the Leonid Meteor Shower.  The moon is at full on the 17th, and will drown out all but the brightest shooting stars during the peak on November 16 – 17.

See EarthSky's Meteor Shower Guide for a list of upcoming showers.

November is dedicated to the Holy Souls in Purgatory. 

EWTN has a novena for them and for us.  It takes nine days (nov = nine), so I start on the 1st, start over again on the 10th, and again on the 19th, making the entire month one of prayer. On the 28th, I triple the prayers, so that that the nine prayers are again said on the final three days.

And if that is too much, try to find time each day to say Saint Gertrude's Prayer:
"Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the Universal Church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen."

 Liturgical Celebrations
All Saints                             1 November
All Souls                              2 November
St. Martin de Porres             3 November
St. Charles Borromeo          4 November
Dedication of St. John Lateran (Lateran Basilica)  9 November
St. Martin of Tours             11 November
St. Josephat                         12 November
St. Francis Xavier Cabrini  13 November
St. Albert the Great             14 November
St. Margaret of Scotland     16 November
St. Gertrude                         16 November
St Rose Philppine Duchesne  18 November
Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary  21 November
St. Cecilia                             22 November
St Clement                            23 November
St. Columban                         23 November
Blessed Miguel Agustin Pro  23 November
Christ the King                      24 November (new calendar)
St Catherine of Alexandria    25 November
St, Andrew, Apostle              30 November

Novenas for November
Holy Souls in Purgatory  .......... continues from 24 October
Saint Martin de Porres .............. continues from 25 October
Saint Hilda …………………… begins 8 November
Christ the King ........................   begins 15 November
The Miraculous Medal ………. begins 18 November
Saint Francis Xavier  …………  begins 24 November
Saint Nicholas ………………..  begins 27 November
The Immaculate Conception …. begins 29 November
Advent Novena .......................... begins 30 November

Dull November brings the blast
Then the leaves are whirling fast. 

Weather for November 
Based on the 12 Days of Christmas: Clear skies and very cold. 
Based on the first 12 Days of January: Overcast and cool. 
Based on the Ember Days:  Bright, clear, warm.

[Perhaps a little of each?]
Weather Lore for November: 

If the latter end of October and the beginning of November be for the most part warm and rainy, then January and February are likely to be frosty and cold. [A pretty safe bet, no matter what the weather of October and November]

And vice versa:
If October and November are cold, then the following January and February will be mild and dry.

If the robin becomes more familiar than usual at the fall of the year, a severe winter may be expected [I have a couple who sit outside the window and complain that I haven’t filled the feeders.  Is that familiar enough?]

Ice in November brings mud in December.

If there's ice in November that will bear a duck, there will be nothing at Christmas but mud and muck.

Flowers in bloom late in autumn indicate a bad winter [even if the bad winter won’t show up until the following year]

As in November, so the following March.

A heavy November snow will last until April.

Thunder in November, a fertile year to come.

A wet November, a plentiful year.

11/1 - If All Saints' Day will bring out the winter, Saint Martin's Day will bring out Indian Summer (and vice versa)

         All Saints’ Day has a little summer of three days. When it is warm at this time of year, it is called “All Saints’ Rest”.

         If on All Saints’ Day the beechnut be found dry, we shall have a hard winter; but if the nut be wet and not light, we may expect a wet winter.

         As on November 1st, so is the winter.

11/4 – If it storms on the first Sunday of the month, it will storm every Sunday.

11/10 – The weather on Martinmas Eve is supposed to indicate the weather for the winter, and where the wind is, there it will be for the coming winter.

            If there is a frost before Martinmas, the winter will be mild.

11/11 – Around St. Martin’s day, we can expect some warm weather.  This is called St. Martin’s Summer.
            At St. Martin’s Day, winter is on his way.

            If ducks do slide at Martintide, at Christmas they will swim;
            If ducks do swim at Martintide, at Christmas they will slide.

            If the geese stand on ice, they will walk in mud at Christmas.

            If Martinmas is fair, dry, and cold, the cold in winter will not last long.

           If the wind is in the south-west at Martinmas, it remains there until after Christmas (Candlemas for the optimists), and we shall have a mild winter up to then and no snow to speak of.

           Wind north-west at Martinmas, severe winter to come.

           If the leaves of the trees and grape vines do not fall before Martin’s Day, a cold winter may be expected.

           If this day be fair, the next winter will bring but little rain and snow along with it; but if the first half of the day be clear and the other half cloudy, the beginning of winter will accordingly be fair, but its end and spring will turn out rigorous and disagreeable.

11/21 - As November 21st, so is the winter.

11/25 - As at Catherine foul or fair, so will be next February.
            As on Saint Catherine, so will be the New Year.

            If there is snow on St. Catherine’s day, winter will be hard.

November take flail,
Let no more ships sail.

Farming and Gardening for November

"The business of the garden this month is principally in preparing manure, making all clean and neat, and defending plants against the coming frosts."

Thunder in November, a fertile year to come.

A wet November, a plentiful year.

When in November the water rises, it will show itself the whole winter.

11/1 - Set trees at Allhallowtide, and command them to prosper; Set them after Candlemas, and entreat them to grow.

           If the weather holds clear on the first of November, sow the last of your wheat for the year.

           Begin making cider today

11/5 – Tulips should be planted today.  In fact, if the weather holds, and you have not already done so, now is a good time to dig up, separate, and replant any spring-flowering bulbs – tulips, daffodils, narcissus, hyacinths, etc.

11/9 – Plant raspberry canes today.

The 1817 Almanac advises the gardener: "If the season proves mild, you may continue to prune Apple Trees, be they Standards, Wall Fruit, or Espaliers; but you should not prune them later, lest Rains and Frosts should hurt the Trees, when the Wounds are fresh.”

“Trench your Ground, by laying it up in Ridges to mellow.  Set Crab-Tree Stocks to graft on; continue to plant Suckers and Cuttings of Gooseberries, Currants and Raspberries; make Hot-beds for Asparagus; fell Coppices, and lop Trees, plant Timber and Fruit-Trees, if the Weather be open."

Cassell’s Illustrated Almanac 1871 for November
Flowers —Plant hyacinths early in the month, and tulips should also be in the first week, if possible. Climbing plants and flowering shrubs may now be obtained and planted. Take up dahlias; watch any plants you may have in pits, giving them light and air freely on the few milder days of the month, and carefully covering them again as soon as the sun goes down.

Vegetables —A sowing of early beans may now be made, at a depth of about two inches, and when they rise they must be well protected with litter. Clear away all decayed leaves from your young crops, and keep the ground well cleaned between the plants. Cover over the crowns of rhubarb and seakale with dry dung, sand, or some similar material.

Fruit —The pruning and transplanting of fruit trees should now be completed. Newly-planted trees of a tender kind should be well protected against frost, and fruit trees on walls may now be freely pruned, and their training attended to.

… Mushrooms and the Fungus race,
That grow as Allhallowtide takes place.   (Nov 1)
Soon the evergreen Laurel alone is seen,
When Catherine crowns all learned men.    (Nov 25)

Health Advice for November 

"The best Physic this Month is good Exercise, warm Clothes, and wholesome Diet.  But if any Distemper afflict you, finish your Physic this Month, and so rest till March."

November. Limbourg frères. Grandes Heures of Jean, Duc de Berry, Fifteenth century.
The calendar pages of the Grandes Heures carried more religious symbolism than that of the more famous Très Riches Heures.  Each month was dedicated to a part of the Apostles Creed, with the relevant prophecy from the Old Testament and scripture from the New Testament. November is dedicated to the article of the Creed which says “…I believe in… the resurrection of the body…”.  Here we see (left to right) Saint Paul instructing Philemon and his companions from Corinthians 15:51: “…we shall all indeed rise again…”.  Above the gates of the New Jerusalem, Our Lady holds a banner depicting the Hand of God returning the soul of a righteous man to his body [the artists have finally caught up].  Beneath the arc of heaven, Sagittarius, the Archer, astrological symbol of November, fires an arrow at the trees whose leaves are dying and falling off.

“All Souls”, woodcut from a Dutch copy of The Golden Legend, 1489.

November. Limbourg frères. Grandes Heures of Jean, Duc de Berry, Fifteenth century.
Depicted at the bottom of the calendar pages in the Grandes Heures is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets of the Old Testament by the articles of the Apostles Creed.  In each, a prophet (cloaked to show the obscurity of prophecy) takes a stone out of the building representing the Old Law and offers it to an apostle, who, by raising the cloak ‘uncovers’ the prophecy with an article of faith.  Here, the cupolas of the citadel of the Old Law have fallen and the walls have been breached, while before it the Prophet Ezekiel stands holding a banderole with the words “…I… will bring you out of your sepulchers, my people…” (Ezekiel 37:12).  St. Thaddeus the Apostle presents the relevant part of the Apostle’s Creed, “…the resurrection of the body…”

November – Group Around a Fire. Engraving based on an 11th century manuscript. William Walsh, Curiosities of Popular Customs (1898), p. 755