So, folks, I disappeared from the blogosphere. Again. It happens. It will probably keep happening.
Having dispatched all my marking, reorganised my thesis topic, and attempting to buckle down to a solid two and a bit months of writing my goddamn thesis, I am, of course, procrastinating on the internet.
Let me tell you about something I learned while I was in Cairns on the weekend.* I gave myself a break from the actual thesis and spent my lying-about-dying-from-heat time reading the Vie de seinte Audree instead. I really really like St Audrey/Ethelreda/Æthelthryh. Patron saint of No, let’s not, and with a rather humourous afterlife: she’s absolutely my favourite saint.
I was pleased to discover that she is no less entertaining in Anglo-Norman than in Anglo-Saxon. The Vie de seinte Audree is at once fascinating and somewhat badly organised. It keeps repeating itself in odd ways, and the author, Probably-Marie-de-France, has, in her efforts to pull Audrey’s story around to suit 12th-century marital law and theology, ended up contradicting herself in several places.
The story has also got considerably more fun since Ælfric’s day. Audree and her followers get chased across the countryside by her vengeful second husband! And are saved by a divine flood which strands them on top of a mountain without food or water, until Audree miracles up a spring to drink from! I don’t remember that part being in the Old English version, but perhaps I just forgot to put it in my summary.
Also, there’s a story about poo. And because I am secretly five (actually, I don’t think I liked poo jokes at five. Making up for lost time now, obviously!), I am going to tell you this story about poo! I would quote the original, or the translation, at you, but I left them at home so I couldn’t procrastinate with them. You’ll have to suffer through my retelling instead!
St Audrey, or possibly the Devil, gives you the runs!
So, there are monks busy being monastic on the island of Ely, after the establishment of the Benedictine foundation there. One day, one particular monk gets up, runs out of church, and threatens violence upon the refectory table.
Fortunately, one of his fellow monks stands up for the table’s right to continue its existence unmolested. It is concluded that our unexpectedly violent monk has been possessed by the Devil (who clearly has a grudge against furniture). His brothers gather around him, drag him back into the church, and pray to St Audrey for his salvation.
Possessed!monk falls asleep in front of the altar.
When he wakes up, his brothers are standing around, staring at him, waiting to see what the Devil’s going to do next.
Possessed!monk announces that he wishes to empty his bowels. Off he goes into the courtyard outside, and everyone follows him, still wanting to find out if he’s been de-possessed or not.
The poor chap proceeds to fill the courtyard with such spectacularly stinky excrement that everyone understands that he has, in fact, been relieved of demonic possession: St Audrey pushed the Devil down from his stomach, so that he had to come out through the backside!**
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how a bout of diarrohea proves that St Audrey is watching over her followers! And also how you get a poo story and a nice religious message all in one go.
I feel for that poor monk, I really do. Everyone staring at you speculating about the devil while you’re trying to have a tummy bug in peace. And I wonder about his “runs out of church, threatens to strike the table” episode – was he running a fever? Hallucinating? Was he actually running out to attend to his tummy bug, and the story’s been expanded in the telling? No way of knowing, of course, but it can’t have been any fun for him.
* I learned many things in Cairns, such as: for the love of glod, don’t go to Cairns in December! And: people who do intensive physical training in Cairns in December are mad! And: how to rollerskate, and more importantly, how to stop rollerskating, and how to fall without getting yourself run over by other rollerskaters. Also: feeding dinner to small children is no task for the weak!
** I am charmed by the term used here in the original: fundament, or possibly fondament, I can’t recall the spelling with any certainty.