My 2003 Saints and Demons
Anyone who, like me, had the unfortunate experience of growing up catholic (not capitalized on purpose, thank you), knows you have certain saints attached to the day you were born. I always thought of them like favorite celebrities. According to the "Birthday Book of Saints," by Sean Kelly and Rosemary Rogers, I have three. And these aren't the actual saints they had listed for June 25th, but those were a total snooze so I picked ones I lthought sounded appropriate for me. I didn't have to come out and say that, and because I'm honest I get to pick my own saint celebrities. (Since I get bored easily, I pick a new group for every birthday.)
These people also wrote a book called "Who in Hell," which lists every conceivable demon and denizen of Hell. But there's no mention of having certain demons for your birthday like you have saints--a MAJOR failing. That's like trying to have yin without yang or bourbon without ginger ale. So I picked my own birthday demons as well.
All the Sean Kelly/Rosemary Rogers books are really good; you should definitely check them out.
The Feast of Saint Uncumber
Bearded lady, date unknown. Patron of unhappy wives; invoked against men's lust (emblem: bearded maiden crucified)
Where does one start with Saint Uncumber? Her first claim to fame is that she was born as a set of septuplets (that's right, seven babies at once; ouch) -- all-girl septuplets no less. She was named Wilgefortis when she was born, which means "strong virgin." The name must have had a proufound effect on her, because Uncumber wanted to stay a virgin her entire life. So much so that when her father, who happened to be the king of Portugal and a pagan, planned to marry Uncumber off to his pal, the king of Sicily, she prayed that she would become ugly. God must like virgins, because he granted her wish in a flash. Overnight Uncumber grew a full beard and mustache; no wimpy Don-Johnson-in-Miami-Vice stubble for her.
Well, the king of Sicily didn't want a bearded wife, so he put the ixnay on the wedding. Unhappy at having his plan for an alliance by marriage squashed, Uncumber's father had her crucified. However, while dying on the cross, Uncumber promised all women who asked for her help that she would free them from "male encumbrances." And voila, Wilgefortis became Uncumber. From that day on, unhappily married women deposited sacks of oats at her shrine. Why oats? The women hoped oats would motivate their horses (big fans of oats from way back) to give beastly and annoying husbands a quick, free ride to Hell.
The Feast of Saint Homobonus
Devout dry goods salesman, 12th century, patron of garment workers and tailors (emblem: angels sewing garments.)
First off, I swear I didn't make up the name "Homobonus," even though it sounds like I did. Nor am I going to make childish jokes about him being the patron saint of homos (everyone knows that's Saint Judy Garland) or boners (Saint Tom of Finland). If one knows Latin, which I sort of do even though it hasn't helped me get a job, you know that Homobonus means "good man." (If he had been the best man his name would have been Homooptimus, which is much cooler because it sounds almost like "hippopotamus.") And Homobonus was the very model of a good man. He was industrious, sensible in action and thought, and he was dedicated to Saint Giles. He also worked a miracle every now and then, although I don't think any of them were very interesting, since the account I read didn't mention any specifics.
The only other thing Homobonus is known for is how he died. It was at mass, and during the gloria he stretched out his arms dramatically, trying to emulate Jesus on the cross. Then, almost as suddenly, he fell flat on his face. Since he was known for his devotion, people didn't realize Homobonus was actually dead until mass was over and he didn't get up. He was canonized in a big hurry by Pope Innocent III, who was trying to increase the non-martyr, non-clergy group of saints. Pope Innocent described Homobonus as a man who "did ordinary things extraordinarily well." Too bad Innocent III still isn't pope--by this definition even I could be a freakin' saint.
The Feast of Saint Catherine of Alexandria
Intellectual virgin martyr killed on a spiked wheel, date unknown, patron of jurists, knife grinders, librarians, mechanics, millers, philosophers, potters, spinsters, students, and (obviously) wheelwrights (emblem: spiked wheel.)
I like this Saint Catherine for a few reasons. One, because the catholic church doesn't "officially" celebrate her feast anymore. (Meaning, they've basically de-sainted her, but don't want to come out and say that because it makes it look like they have no integrity. Which they don't, but that's another story.) The second is because she was from Alexandria, like I am. She's from the one in Egypt instead of Virginia, but the name is good enough for me. Last but not least, she was a smarty pants.
Catherine was a pagan Egyptian queen. Despite her good looks, Catherine preferred studying philosophy to painting her toenails and looking in the mirror (go figure). She also preferred intellectual pursuits to marrying the Roman emperor Maxentius. Meanwhile, in a nearby desert, the Virgin Mary visited a hermit. Mary must have told the hermit to "visit the bootylicious Egyptian queen," because the hermit found Catherine and presented her with a picture of the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child. I'm guessing this was one of those super-duper 3-D plastic pictures, because Catherine was so moved she immediately became a Christian. Not only that, but somehow Catherine "mystically married" the considerably underage Christ Child, who allegedly even gave her a ring. (Probably made out of gum wrappers or lanyard cord.)
Maxentius wasn't pleased losing Catherine or her becoming a Christian. He brought in 50 pagan philosophers to debate Catherine about religion, hoping to put her in her place for picking the underage Jesus instead of him. What he forgot though is that Catherine was smart as well as being a babe. She not only debated rings around the pagans, she got them all to convert to Christianity. In response, Maxtentius had the 50 killed. He still had the hots for Catherine, so he spared her, but she kept rejecting him. At the end of his rope, Maxentius ordered that Catherine be killed on a spiked wheel, AKA "the Catherine wheel." Being Mrs. Christ Child must rate, because before the wheel was started up, angels showed up and blew the torture device to bits with lightning bolts.
Sore loser to the end, Maxentius then had Catherine beheaded. Milk flowed from her neck instead of blood, and while this was a nice trick, Catherine was still headless. And dead. Angels took her body to the Monastery of Saint Catherine below Mount Sinai. No word on whether Maxentius ever got another girlfriend.
The Feast of Saint Sebald
Icicle-burning hermit, 8th century. Patron of Nuremberg, invoked against freezing (emblem: two oxen)
Saint Sebald was a priest whose mission was to convert pagans to Christianity. Specifically, he chose the people of Nuremberg, Germany. He wasn't full of tricks and miracles like some flashier saints, but Sebald did pull off a couple of good ones of note. The first occurred while he was preaching. An I'd-rather-fight-than-switch kind of pagan made the mistake of heckling the preacher. Sebald opened the earth and had the heckler swallowed up. (Thus creating the famous one liner, "Take my heckler, please. . .")
The second miracle is better and much more, uh, Christian. One winter day, Sebald asked a peasant couple for shelter from the cold. They let him in, but their hospitality was more show than go. They refused to make the fire any bigger, saying they didn't have enough wood. Sebald was tired of being cold and told the old woman to pull some icicles off the house and throw those on the fire. Perhaps she was just an idiot, or maybe she was afraid of the big bearded guy in the dead animal hat (see photo). But she dropped the icicles in the fireplace and they burst into a roaring fire. We don't know whether Sebald had the earth swallow up his hosts before he left the next day.
Gugland is only a minor demon, and like his friend Frimost he's just a trifle anal. You can only conjure him to appear to you on Saturday night between 11 p.m. and midnight. Why give up a date to stay home and summon up Gugland? Because he can answer any question you ask him--but only if you feed him a piece of toast. I haven't been able to find anything that says the toast needs to be buttered.
Before "the Fall" (you know, when Satan gave God the finger, at least metaphorically), Baalberith wasn't only good, he was very good. He was a Cherub prince, and the Cherubim were second in the first hierarchy of angels and the group that held the knowledge of God and kept the celestial records. While all this sounds fairly high level, it doesn't sound all that fun. So I think the Fall was a step up for Baalberith, because now he's Hell's "master of ceremonies." Not only that, but he also functions as Hell's notary public. Anytime someone makes a pact with the Devil, Baalberith is there to notarize it and make if official. Hell's master of ceremonies AND notary--the perfect combination of creative and admin. What a job!
Baalberith is most powerful in June, although I haven't found out why but am sure it has nothing to do with June being the month of my birth. And it was Baalberith who wreacked havoc at the convent of Loudon in the 1600s, by taking possession of Prioress Jeanne de Anges and then making her spit a host in a priest's face and chew up her own veil. (Would you like fries with that?)
Who knew that Hobgoblin was the name of a specific demon instead of just a generic Halloween fiend? Hobgoblin was once a powerful devil, but for some reason over the years he's been demoted to a much less threatening nature sprite, similar to the more well known Puck ("A Midsummer Night's Dream). Hobgoblin is supposed to be homely, although I don't know of any demons that are known for their good looks, and he gets to wear a snazzy suit of green leather. Hobgoblin's only powers are being able to change his shape, spoil milk, and cure whooping cough.
Azazel is a pretty popular demon, as he shows up in many different religions in a variety of guises. He appears in the Qur'an as one of the angelic "wild bunch" who refused to worship Adam. When Allah asked this of him, Azazel responded, "Why should the son of fire fall down before the son of clay?" (Excellent question.) In the middle ages, Christians described him as having 12 wings and seven serpent heads, each with two faces. (No word on if this is where the expression "two faced" originated.) Supreme purveyor of doom n' gloom, "Paradise Lost" author John Milton, said Azazel had a Cherub tail and was Hell's standard bearer, i.e., demonic grand marshall.
However Azazel's main claim to fame is as the first demon to boink human women and then sire human-demon hybrids. (Known today as republicans.) In the Hebrew alternative creation story, The Book of Enoch, Azazel was a leader of the Watcher Angels, the group of angels God put in charge of teaching man the arts of civilization. Azazel's speciality was to instruct humans how to make weapons, cosmetics, and perfumes, thus making him the patron of angry drag queens throughout the ages. One day while going about their usual instructional business, Azazel and some pals ran into the daughters of Cain, who were "perambulating around and displaying their private parts in the matter of harlots." Before you could say "hubba hubba," Azazel and crew were on the girls like white on rice, thus turning themselves from angels to demons and siring human/demons (known today as republicans) with the human harlots.
If all that's not enough, Azazel is also often referred to as the Spirit of Uncleanliness, and because of that is often pictured with a goat. I don't know why, since the goats I've met have always been extremely clean.