Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Hallowe'en Saints: Saint Wilgefortis

Saint Wilgefortis, also known as Saint Uncumber in England, was betrothed to a pagan king. However, being very pious, she had taken a vow of chastity, or maybe celibacy[1] so prayed to be made too hideous to marry. Her prayers were answered and she grew a beard. Rather than calling for his barber or maybe investing in a really thick veil, her father was so unamused by this turn of events that he had her crucified.

St Wilgefortis
St Etienne, Beauvais, Oise, France
16th Century

This costume basically creates itself - white dress, beard, optional crucifix. Her traditional depiction involves one missing shoe and a small fiddler at her feet.

I should probably note that the cult of St Wilgefortis has been officially suppressed by the Catholic church as it most likely came from trouser wearing Northern Europeans seeing an androgynous but bearded figure of Christ in a long robe and coming up with a story about a crucified bearded woman.

[1] The one being abstinence from sexual activity, the other being the state of being unmarried. One can be celibate, but not chaste, and even chaste, but not celibate.

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