DECEMBER 31. Columba of sens, WHOSE PROTECTRESS WAS A SHE-BEAR
Patron of rain
Intercessor for and against witches.
Represented (1) with a bear at her feet eating a man; (2) in chains; (3) beside a fire, which is being quenched by a cloud.
Born into a noble pagan family of Saragossa, Columba "always had an insurmountable horror of idols." As such, she fled Spain and was baptized. The emperor chose her to marry his son, and when she refused, he "turned her over to persons of ill-repute." While she was imprisoned in a brothel, a jailer attempted to rape her. A she-bear that was being used at a nearby amphitheater came out of the wood, knelt at her feet, and attacked the jailer in order to spare Columba's virginity.
The emperor wanted Columba and the she-bear to be burnt up alive, but the she-bear escaped and abundant rains / a heaven-sent downpour put out the fire. The she-bear refused to leave until Columba dismissed her protectress, and then the Emperor had her beheaded. Per tradition, Columba's murderers left her headless body on the ground. Upon invoking Columba, a blind man's sight was restored; in return, he gave her a decent burial.
Before she became a virgin martyr, Columba may or may not have been a witch. One day she encountered Christ on a Galician road. "Go ahead and be the witch," Christ remarked, "but you will never enter my kingdom." This inspired her to convert.
A small chapel marked the spot where Columba suffered martyrdom. Toward the close of spring, young girls deck her shrine with wreaths of roses in remembrance.