OCTOBER 23. ODA OF SCOTLAND, THE RECLUSE IN THE WOODS
Lived 680 to 726
Patron of sore eyes and illnesses related to the head.
Born blind, Oda's sweet face attracted attention despite her "lifeless eyes." Her father sent her on a pilgrimage to visit Saint Lambert's relics. Prior to this journey, Oda had never seen the light of day. While keeping vigil at the saint's graveside, Oda fell asleep. When later she arose, the maiden had gained her first sight. Vowing to dedicate her life to God, Oda returned to Scotland.
BOTHERED BY MAGPIES
When Oda found herself betrothed, she fled across the North Sea to the Netherlands. Along the way, Oda paused to pray at holy sites, including a shrine where the Archangel Michael once appeared. There, Oda cut a stalk from the reeds which she'd lean on for the rest of her life. Whenever Oda prayed in Dutch and Belgian villages, magpies disturbed her. She was unaware that these little creatures were God sent. Once again, Oda found herself in flight, either retreating from the magpies or being herded by them.
THE RECLUSE IN THE WOODS
Oda landed in a protected wooded expanse, where she passed her days as an anchoress. Oda's father sought to retrieve her, and an inn-keeper gave him a tip that she might be "the recluse in the woods." When Oda's father approached the Moor where she lived, magpies attacked him, blocking his vision. When pilgrims pursued her, Oda retreated deeper into the wilderness. When at last she passed away, a bright light rose from her hut toward the heavens. When villagers came to investigate, they dug a grave for the dead pious virgin. When her bones were unearthed centuries later, they gave off a sweet, pleasant smell.
REGARDING THE MAGPIES
Oda is commonly depicted with a magpie on her hand and a crown at her feet, clad in a long gown with one bare shoulder.
Oda's signature magpie is a sizable member of the crow family called pica pica. According to one account, this breed is possibly the most intelligent animal besides humans. This is because it works in a gang, expresses a bird-version of grief, and can see itself in a mirror. Seen alone, this bird is an omen of bad luck. In groups, it bears goodness and foretells of good weather.
Pieces of Oda's skull and teeth are displayed in the Netherlands.