More saints and friendly animals   Leave a comment

Some months ago I shared some excerpts from the Armenian synaxarion, including parts from the story of Mammas, with whom animals are said to have acted quite tamely. From my recent reading in the Gǝʕǝz synaxarion, here are some passages from two more saints’ stories, one an autochthonous Ethiopian saint, the other Greek, both commemorated on Taḫśaś 12, that illustrate the interaction of saints and animals. The first saint is Samuʔel of Waldǝbba, of the 14th/15th century (BHO 1039; see D. Nosnitsin in Enc. Aeth. IV 516-518), and the second is Anicetus (and companions, BHG 1542-1544), whose martyrdom is set during the persecution of Diocletian. The first text is available in PO 15: 737-741, from which I give two sections, along with my English translation:

§ 5 ወእምህየ ፡ ሖረ ፡ ገዳመ ፡ ወነበረ ፡ ፵መዓልተ ፡ ወ፵ሌሊተ ፡ እንዘ ፡ ኢይጥዕም ፡ ምንተኒ ፡ ወይመጽኡ ፡ ኀቤሁ ፡ አናብስት ፡ ወአናምርት ፡ ወኵሉ ፡ አራዊት ፡ ግሩማን ፡ ይሰግዱ ፡ ሎቱ ፡ ወይልሕሱ ፡ ፀበለ ፡ እገሪሁ ።

§ 9 ወአናብስትሰ ፡ ይትረአዩ ፡ ውስተ ፡ በዓቱ ፡ ከመ ፡ አባግዕ ፡ ቦ ፡ አመ ፡ ይሰፍር ፡ አካሎሙ ፡ ወቦ ፡ አመ ፡ ይበጥሕ ፡ ቍስሎሙ ፡ ወያወፅእ ፡ እምኔሆሙ ፡ ሦከ ።

§ 5 From there he went to the desert and stayed for forty days and forty nights, eating nothing. Lions, leopards, and dreadful beasts were coming to him, bowing down to him and licking the dust of his feet.

§ 9 Lions would appear in his cave like sheep: sometimes he would measure their body, sometimes he would make an incision in their wound and extract the thorn.

The Anicetus story is available in PO 15: 742-746, and here is the relevant section:

§ 2 ወዝንቱሰ ፡ አንቂጦስ ፡ ሰማዕት ፡ ሶበ ፡ ርእየ ፡ መዓብልተ ፡ ኵነኔ ፡ ዘአግበሮሙ ፡ ንጉሥ ፡ ቅድሜሁ ፡ ያፍርሆሙ ፡ ለምእመናን ፡ ተንሥአ ፡ ቅዱስ ፡ እማእከሎሙ ፡ በጥቡዕ ፡ ልብ ፡ ወተዛለፎ ፡ ለንጉሥ ። ወሰሚዖ ፡ ንጉሥ ፡ ዲዮቅልትያኖስ ፡ አዘዘ ፡ ይእስርዎ ፡ ወያዕርግዎ ፡ ውስተ ፡ ቲያጥሮን ፡ ወይስድዱ ፡ ላዕሌሁ ፡ አንበሳ ፡ ጸዋገ ። ወበጺሖ ፡ አንበሳ ፡ ኀቤሁ ፡ ሰፍሐ ፡ የማናየ ፡ እዴሁ ፡ ወመዝመዘ ፡ ገጾ ፡ ወመላትሒሁ ፡ ለቅዱስ ፡ አንቂጦስ ።

§ 2 Now this Saint Anicetus, the martyr, when he saw the instruments of torture which the emperor had had brought before him to frighten the faithful, he stood up among them with a steadfast heart and rebuked the emperor. Emperor Diocletian having heard this, he commanded [the soldiers] to bind him and lead him up to the theater and to set a fierce lion upon him, but when the lion had reached him, it stretched out its right paw and rubbed Anicetus’ face and cheeks.

Across all the traditions of hagiography there are many more stories of the tameness of animals effected and made manifest in the presence of a saint. Some of the types are likewise known outside of hagiographic literature, such as that of removing a thorn from a lion’s paw (Androcles). Hagiographic tales that show an overturning of the expected fierceness of beasts also take their cue from the story of Daniel and the lions’ den (Daniel 6), and perhaps also from the look to a time of the lack of raving violence among animals and of no more enmity between people and animals (Isaiah 11:6-8). At least some of these have been studied in isolated languages (esp. Latin hagiography), but the phenomenon deserves a cross-lingual presentation and investigation.

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