december 4. barbara, protectress against sudden death
Patron saint of armourers, architects, artillerymen, bomb technicians, brewers, dying people, fireworks manufacturers, geologists, gravediggers, firemen, mathematicians,milliners, and prisoners. Protectress against sudden death and vermin.
Barbara, the daughter of a rich pagan, was "brought up as a heathen." Her father kept her locked and guarded in a tower in an effort to "preserve her" from the outside world aka protect her virginity. Many note that Barbara was a mega-babe and her Dad secluded her out of jealousy. One chronicler ascribes the following thought to her father: "If I build a very Tall Tower and then fill up the front door with a brick wall, she can never get out and no one can ever Get In to marry her." Another notes: "because of [her father's] love for her, Barbara was a special kind of prisoner."
WHAT HAPPENED IN THE TOWER?
Barbara hauled her food and laundry up and down Rapunzel-style by means of a basket on a rope. Stealthy Christians slipped reading materials into her basket. Here, in forced solitude, Barbara gave herself to prayer and study and somehow received a secret baptism "by post" and/or from an enterprising priest disguised as a doctor. Alternatively, she was tutored by philosophers, orators, and poets from whom she "learned to think, and decided that polytheism was nonsense."
Barbara's father commanded that a private bath-house be erected near her dwelling, and she revised the building's design behind his back to include 3 windows rather than the 2 he'd commissioned. The 3 windows symbolized the Holy Trinity.
Next, Barbara came out to her father as a Christian. He begged her to reconsider, but when he presented her with idols she "scratched them in their visages." Outraged, her father withdrew his sword to kill her, but her prayers created an opening in the tower wall and she was transported to a mountain gorge where shepherds watched their flocks.
Eventually Barbara was recaptured. Her own father renounced her before the civil tribunal, and Barbara withstood a long bout of torture by torches. That night, Christ appeared to her in prison and healed all her wounds. Outraged at her restored body, Barbara's tormentors made her parade naked in the streets as punishment. Christ again intervened, cloaking her nude figure in light so that no one could make out her shape. In a different version, the angels hid her in a "convenient fog." Exhausted, the governor permitted Barbara's father to behead his own little daughter. Now that's what I call intimacy.
LIGHTNING STRIKING AG-AI-AI-N
Shortly after he executed Barbara, her father got what he deserved in the form of a bolt of lightning also known as "fire from heaven." In one version of the story, a stupendous storm made a mountain fall over and "squash" him.
In yet another version, the moment she died, the earth shook and swallowed Barbara's body whole.
BARBARAZWEIG: IT'S LIKE GROUNDHOG DAY FOR BELIEVERS
Bored in her tower, Barbara spent time "moistening" a dried cherry branch with droplets of water each day. Leading up to her execution, Barbara was "greatly consoled" by the cherry blossoms that sprouted. In German-speaking countries, believers cut off small cherry branches on December 4th and moisten them in hopes they will bloom by Christmas. This tradition is known as barbarazweig. A branch that blooms on December 25 foretells of good fortune.
RETOLD FOR CHILDREN
I am pretty pumped on this weird children's version of her tale, which includes passages like this one:
"I do believe Christians must be Quite Nice. Daddy seems to have got hold of the wrong end of the stick (because he is so Bigoted)."
So she wrote a letter to Origen-who-had-written-the-Book, and this is what she wrote:
DEAR ORIGEN, My Father (who is Very Bigoted), has put me in a very Tall Tower because of not Getting Married and because of not being a Christian. But I read your book from the Library, and I think Christians are quite nice, so will you please write and teach me about them and Baptise me by Post? With love from BARBARA.
"DE-SAINTED" IN 1969
In 1969, Barbara was removed from the Catholic liturgical calendar.