Coffee with Mary Magdalene

Would we drink coffee with Mary Magdalene?

Kristy: Okay, this suggestion comes from a colleague, who said if he could pick any historical figure to have coffee with, it would be her. She’s not the first person I’d pick, but I think I’d have coffee with her. I’m not sure I could turn down coffee with her, because what a great opportunity to fill in all sorts of historical mysteries, though on the other hand… asking the questions you’d need to ask could be really awkward. “So… tradition holds that you were a prostitute, but all the Bible says about you is that Jesus drove some unclean spirits out of you… what’s the truth there?” “Speaking of Jesus… you hitting that?” “So… The Davinci Code… what a pile of steaming crap, amiright?” (actually, I wouldn’t feel awkward about that last one at all) But yes, I would like to meet the woman, because I’ve suspected since the first time I read the Bible (yes, I’ve read the whole thing more than once, but I just skim the begats looking for interesting names) that the present perception of her, the folklorized version of her to drag out my dissertation for a second, is probably very different from the real woman. And I’d like to know what the real woman was like.

Cammy: I’m in.  Like Kristy, it’s really a matter of how could I not?  Strangely, I don’t feel any awkwardness in asking those questions (along with the “So, tell me, how do you feel about this all boys club image of Jesus’s road-crew?  Was it really the He-man Woman-Hater’s-Club?  Or is this something I should be blaming Paul/Faux-Paul for?”).   And beyond this, if you get one of the most infamous women in the Bible to sit down for coffee, why not ask her general opinion of how the gender gets treated in the book over all.  If anyone’s ever been entitled to an opinion on that subject, it’s her.  Only thing that would be better is if we could rope the BVM into the conversation at the same time.

What do you get for the girl who just became a saint?

Today Kateri Tekakwitha was officially canonized. It’s a little odd that she is only officially canonized now, since there are several churches and at least one convent already named St. Kateri Tekakwitha, but, you know, you have to appreciate that the Catholic Church has never really discouraged its folk elements. Most sources are declaring her the first indigenous saint from North America; this is highly debatable. There’s also an Orthodox Saint Peter the Aleut; my Canadian friends seem to classify Aleuts as something other than First nations, but this is not something I know a whole lot about, so I’m not going to take a stand. I would hazard a guess he gets left out of the Vatican’s press releases on account of that whole “not being Catholic” thing (his martyrdom is actually said to have taken place at the hands of Jesuits). There’s also Juan Diego. He’s definitely indigenous, but he’s also Mexican. Apparently we’re not counting that as “North America” anymore.

Both the US and Canada want to claim her as their own; she was born in New York and died in Quebec. In reality neither nation existed yet and neither would have given her citizenship rights if it had for quite some time. So it’s all kind of a moot point.

But I don’t care that much about any of that; none of that is what I’m excited about. Why did I spend the day eagerly reading news on the canonization? Because she’s in my dissertation! So while some marked this day by praying and some by rejoicing (and a few by protesting), I spent it googling and saving stuff to Zotero. And man, I have to say, the media did not let me down as far as giving me gems to talk about. From calling her the “Pocahontas of the Catholic Church” to the AP talking about her exchanging the “totem for the crucifix” (btw, that’s totally a dissertation chapter title now, thanks AP) it was like they were just showering me with gifts.

It’s not common for anyone to see the topic of their dissertation in the news. It’s less common in my field than some. It’s unlikely to happen again for me. I can’t quite describe what it feels like. It’s kind of like how suddenly at Halloween folklorists become the cool kids everyone wants to interview. Granted no one has called to interview me about this yet… It’s a different kind of excitement though. It’s the permission to go ahead and be a know-it-all. I’m not saying I’m not one usually, but right now I can back it up.

Coffee with Ælfric of Eynsham

Would we drink coffee with Ælfric of Eynsham?

Kristy:  Yes.  For starters, I just don’t think I can turn down coffee with someone who is known as Ælfric the Grammarian.  It’s definitely up there on the list of awesome Old English names.  I also kind of feel like with him being one of the most prolific Old English writers, at this point in my academic career I kind of have to.  I’ve always had a fascination with hagiography, and he’s kind of the go-to guy for early English hagiography, so there’s that too.  And you know… I just always figured medieval monks were probably interesting guys to talk to.  They were basically the nerds of their day.  I’m also entertained that his reluctance for translating the Bible into vernacular (although he did translate parts of the Old Testament long before people tend to realize anyone was doing it) was that he was concerned without someone to explain the contextual issues to them, people would read it and think they could live like the patriarchs of old.  You know, all those concubines and such.  Had nothing to do with the political position of the church.  And I’m interested on his views on a whole bunch of things, mostly related to education and the position of the Christian church today.

Cammy:  Wow, in case we all needed more proof that Kristy’s been spending more time with the medievalists…. 🙂  Sure, what the heck.  Like Kristy said, he was known as “The Grammarian” which is promising (side note:  I support the revival of naming people “The Such and Such”  Not sure what I’d be, but I am open to suggestions….).  I think we could get up a fairly heated conversation about the importance of Bible translations into the vernacular (my Lutheran-ness strikes again).  I’m sure listening to Kristy and ol’ Ælfric talk saints will be interesting, too.  I’m fairly saint-ignorant myself, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy hearing the stories (again, with the Lutheran thing, the whole saint stories?  All new literature for me).  And of course this coffee get-together has the no-fail entertainment of seeing Kristy geek out like the nerdy fangirl she is.

Coffee with Molly Ivins

Would we drink coffee with Molly Ivins?

Kristy:  Um… I feel like I should have a cute, colloquial way of saying “Hell yeah” but Cammy’s the one who’s good at that.  So I’ll just say Hell yeah.  I have to give Cammy the credit of introducing me to Molly, and I’m incredibly grateful for that.  For one thing, it’s another case of owing her a cup of something (coffee or something stronger if she prefers) for the hours of amusement she’s given me.  Not to mention a couple of readings I assigned to my composition classes.  Also, there’s a lot I’d like to talk with her about and commiserate on.  Being the liberal daughter of a Texas conservative, every time Molly talks about her father it sounds… very familiar.  But what I’ve always loved about Molly went way beyond political orientation–it was a lot more about her willingness to critique everyone and her ability to point out the humor in everything.  So you can’t tell me it wouldn’t be delightful to people watch with her.

Cammy:  By cute colloquialism, I’m assuming Kristy means something along the lines of “Does a wild bear shit in the woods?”  So to this, I’ll say,”Did Han shoot first?”  YES.   Even though I’m most definitely not a liberal, I still love Molly.  She would lampoon anyone on either side of the aisle with sharp insight and the kind of humor that would literally leave my sides aching–and I love equal opportunity mockery.  Granted, she didn’t have to work hard, at least not when she was covering her native Texas politics.  The utter madhouse of the Lone Star State was (and still is) comedy gold.  She bucked trends, pissed some people off (a lot of people) and even when I totally disagreed with her politics, I had to give her credit for her style.  She painted some of the most accurate pictures of Texas I’ve ever read, and shared them with the world*.  For all that, I owe her several rounds of the beverages of her choice.  I’d love to hear her tell stories–because Lord knows she has them–of the insanity of Austin with the Lege in session that didn’t quite make the article/book cut.   And how pissed is she that she’s not around to address the wonder of Governor Good-Hair trying to go national on us?  I want to know if she truly has the same kind of misguided, twisted pride that our state gave the world people as nutty as H. Ross Perot.  I also want to talk about our mutual love of Texas.  As she once said, “ I dearly love the state of Texas, but I consider that a harmless perversion on my part, and discuss it only with consenting adults.”  I’m always ready to talk about how we can love a state that manages to thrive in a state of total fucked-up insanity, especially with someone, who like me, left the state, got educated on the East Coast….and still managed to love that misfit of a state.

Kristy:  For the record “Does a wild bear shit in the woods?” and “Did Han shoot first?” are what we folklory types call “sarcastic interrogatives.” Totally counts as a cut colloquialism.

*See this article in The Nation: http://www.thenation.com/article/texas-america

Coffee with… St. Teresa

Would we drink coffee with St. Teresa of Avila?

Kristy: Yeah, yeah.  I’m going through an early modern mystic phase.  Bear with me.  But whereas I was largely reluctant about Margery Kempe, I’m down with taking a cup of coffee with St. Teresa.  While Margery whines constantly, Teresa doesn’t.  Now don’t get me wrong, she was crazy, but crazy I can put up with.  The most annoying thing she does is talk about how not great she is and apologize for her inadequacy.  So I have to figure it would be a lot like coffee with Cammy.  And I rather like having coffee with Cammy.  Also, there are a ton of questions I’d like to ask her.  Like did her extended family really convert from Judaism, or did they just pretend to?  How did she feel about devoting her life to a religion that deliberately humiliated her father and grandfather?  What are those dark sins she’s always vaguely referencing?  I’m not sure I expect to get a straight answer to any of those questions, but, you know, I need to ask.

Cammy: Sure, I’ll go for coffee with St. Teresa.  I’ll admit that until 5 minutes ago everything I knew about St. Teresa of Avila was that she was the title of a Nanci Griffith song written for an old school friend who’d committed suicide, and was a one line reference in a different Nanci Griffith song (a personal favorite of mine, “Clock Without Hands”).  Thank goodness for Wikipedia!.  Although, now I’m a little concerned she might be a little too pious to be fun.  I know that can’t possibly be why Kristy would compare her (or any other saint) to me.  But, I am way more intrigued by her form of visions than ol’ Margy’s.  Like Kristy, I don’t think we’ll get a straight story of her, but it’s more than worth the time spent over coffee to give it a shot.

Kristy: Definitely isn’t the piety.  It’s the impostor syndrome.

Holy Time Vampire, Batman

I’m not sure why, but I’ve always had a fascination with hagiography.  The earliest connection I can remember to it was my 5th grade Spanish teacher who had a poster on the wall with the patron saints for every day of the year.  I spent a lot of classes tuning out the horrendous pronunciation of my classmates my squinting at that poster and, no lie, trying to memorize it.  I don’t know if it’s the sheer craziness of so many saints’ lives, the fact that there are just so gosh darned many of them, or the fact that there are saints for some of the most bizarre causes.

I own a couple copies of Lives of the Saints that I got off the bargain racks at Barnes & Noble, but the internet has gone a long way towards furthering my addiction.  There are several websites with saints indices, but the most thorough I’ve found so far is at The Catholic Community Forum.   Haven’t explored the website as a whole enough to make any comment on it.  In part because I can’t tear myself away from the “Patron Saints Topics.”

The index has the official patrons for places you never would have known had an official patron saint.  And saints to pray for every ailment and misfortune under the sun.  There are separate saints for the prevention of physical and verbal spousal abuse.  Say what you will about the Catholic Church, you have to love their specificity.  There are occupational patrons—this is how I found out that one patron serves acrobats, circus performers, jugglers, fiddle players and travelling musicians.  But my absolute favorite saint at the moment?  Saint Amalburga—the saint you pray to for bruises.  Her feast day is July 10, which is also coincidentally my birthday.  If you could see me now, you’d understand why this is hysterical.

Long story short, I found this index by googling one particular saint because I needed to confirm one particular fact.  And an hour later I was a lot more knowledgeable and had accomplished nothing.  So for fellow hagiography buffs this site is a mixed blessing.  A font of knowledge, but an incubus where time is concerned.

Happy St. Cyril and Methodius Day

Happy St. Cyril and Methodius Day, gentle and not-so-gentle readers.  Yes, St. Valentine was officially taken off the Catholic Calendar of Saints for Universal Liturgical Commemoration in 1969.  Someone should notify Hallmark.  February 14th, however, is the feast day for St. Cyril and St. Methodius.  If you’re Roman Catholic, Lutheran, or Anglican.  If you’re Eastern Orthodox it isn’t until May 11th.  If you’re Methodist your world is too warm and fuzzy to celebrate Slavic saints.  If you’re Unitarian/Universalist you can celebrate whenever you want.  Isn’t that kind of the point of being Unitarian/Universalist?  If you’re non-Christian, atheist or agnostic my advice is to just eat some chocolate and make fun of the Christians for not knowing anything about their own religion.

St. Cyril and Methodius brought Christianity to the Slavs in the Ninth Century, translated portions of the Bible into Old Church Slavonic and created the predecessor of the Cyrillic alphabet (hence the name).  There’s no set way for commemorating these saints in the United States, at least to my knowledge.  So I say we create one!

Cammy suggests that it include eating sour cream.  They did minister to the Slavs after all, and Slavs love their sour cream.  Much like Cammy does.  I would suggest writing in Cyrillic in public places, but I’m concerned that you’ll call me when you get arrested for defacing public property you’ll call me.  Perhaps to be timely we could all dress up like Russian figure skating coaches in blond wigs and big fur coats.  Could be fun.

Oh, and don’t forget tomorrow is “That’s what she said” Day.  Follow everything anyone says with the phrase, “That’s what she said.”  Say it suggestively while wiggling your eyebrows.

“Good morning.”
“That’s what she said.”

“Hey, did you get that memo typed?”
“That’s what she said.”

“Seriously, cut that out.  It’s annoying.”
“That’s what she said.”

See how long it takes for someone to kick you hard in the shins.

Happy St. Brigid’s Day! FIRST POST!

So it’s St. Brigid’s Day. Traditionally the first day of Spring in Ireland. Also when you’re supposed to plant potatoes, I’m told. But here in the Midwest it doesn’t feel a bit like Spring and even if Cammy or I had the inclination to plant potatoes, I’m reasonably sure the ground is too frozen. I’m sure there’s some sort of fertility ritual we could be participating in, if we really wanted to celebrate our heritage (because as my mythology students will tell you, everything can be construed as a fertility ritual). But fertility rituals really aren’t our thing. I did eat some leftover colcannon, but that’s really about me looking for any possible excuse to eat colcannon.

So instead of potatoes, we’re planting this little blog on the interwebs. Welcome!