Tuesday, 20 January 2009

St Agnes's Eve

St Agnes's Eve, probably more famous that the saint's feast day itself, thanks to Keats's poem. It wasa day on which girls and unmarried women who wished to dream of their future husbands would perform certain rituals before retiring for the night. These included transferring pins one by one from a pincushion to their sleeve whilst reciting the Lord's Prayer, or abstaining from food and drink all day, walking backwards up the stairs to bed, and eating a portion of dumb cake (previously prepared with a group of friends in total silence, and often containing an unpleasantly large proportion of salt) before lying down to sleep.
St Agnes, patron saint of virgins, was martyred in the early 4th century AD at the tender age of 12 or 13, apparently for refusing to consider marriage (unlike the superstitious females mentioned above) and consecrating her maidenhood to God. Her emblem is a lamb, perhaps because of the similarity of its Latin name, agnus, to her own.

Chambers Book of Days

I won't post Keat's poem here, it's long at 42 stanzas, but here's a link if you would like to have a read:


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