Thursday 20 January 2011

St Agnes Eve

Saint Agnes (St Ines) was a daughter of a Christian Roman noble born at the end of the 3rd century AD. She lived only until her early teens before she was martyred in the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, on 21 January 304. She became patron saint of young girls and chastity. Tonight, the eve before St Agnes' Day is the time of year when young women once believed they would gaze on the face of the one they would marry. Providing they followed certain rituals as retold here by John Keats:

They told her how, upon St. Agnes' Eve,
Young virgins might have visions of delight,
And soft adorings from their loves receive
Upon the honey'd middle of the night,
If ceremonies due they did aright;
As, supperless to bed they must retire,
And couch supine their beauties, lily white;
Nor look behind, nor sideways, but require
Of Heaven with upward eyes for all that they desire

The embroidered image of S Agnes in 14th or 15th century. Sweet dreams!

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