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Hagiography of Deaglán

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MessagePosté le: Lun Fév 22, 2010 1:36 pm    Sujet du message: Hagiography of Deaglán Répondre en citant

    Hagiography of the Blessed Deaglán

    As translated by Nuada Silverhand from an entry in Old Irish in a book of church records in the church of Cill Chainnigh (Laighean, Ireland), and found by further research into the documents of that church and the nearby monastery and into the tales told by the local people in 1457.

    Patronage and Associations:
    Greater: Woodcutters, Gardeners, Squirrels
    Lesser: Travellers, Bloody Blisters, Carpenters, Petunias
    Patron of the church of Cill Chainnigh
    Feast Day: August the 3rd

    The Life of Deaglán

    Birth, Childhood and early life in the Church

    Not much is known about the birth and childhood of Deaglán. The records of the monastery show that he was accepted there at an early age as a postulate, some notes also indicate that he was born as the youngest son of a farmer living near the monastery in Laighean, and taken in out of a sense of pity for a father struggling to feed a large family. Deaglán's life in the monastery was quiet and productive as he became a novice a few years after his entry and took his vows soon afterwards. He was a sought-after illustrator in the scriptorium and was head of the monastery gardeners for the three years before he left the monastery on his holy mission.

    Chainnigh's plight and Deaglán's Calling

    In the days when Ireland was still a pagan land and few had heard of the love of Jah, there was a small village called by some Chainnigh and by others nothing at all. There was a fine forest near the village that provided the people with hunting and wood for their ovens, however a quarrel broke out over who had the rights to the best trees and the best game. So the village chose sides and each brought their relations from far a field, they forgot that each of them was also related in one way or another and they forgot that they were sisters and brothers.

    Soon they were cutting down trees to make staves for fighting, and they cut down more trees to make fires to keep them warm as they camped in the forest while each side tried to guard what they could and take what the others couldn't. Each morning they cut trees for staves and they fought, and each night they cut trees for fires and they cooked, and each day and each night they cut trees for coffins for those who had perished in the fight. Day by day and night by night, the forest grew smaller and the people grew fewer, but neither side would give way to the other.

    One day as the sun rose over the field (for only a field it was by then), there was left but a single small oak tree on a tiny hill, and there were but two men left to fight for it. They each broke off a branch and made a stave, the one swung at the other and the other swung back. They missed and they hit; they stabbed and they clubbed; they cursed and they bled, and at sunset one breathed out a final curse, fell face down in the mud, and he died as did the other.

    The women, children and old men of the village came out to see who had won. They saw that the forest was gone, that there was only mud and one small tree. They saw that their young men were gone; all their husbands and brothers and fathers and cousins and lovers and friends, all were gone. Together at last in their grief, they chopped down the last oak tree, and from it they made two final coffins. They buried the last two hard-hearted warriors in the spot where the tree had stood; they then all went home and vowed to never fight each other again.

    It so happened that word of what had happened to the sad little village and it’s once lovely forest eventually reached the north and the west. In a cill* in that far country was a mainchín*, who was planting flowers by the new church of Jah. Upon hearing another tell the tale he was deeply moved and wept, it is said that his tears watered the flowers which bloomed at once, and were never more beautiful nor brought more joy to those who beheld them, than that blessed year.

    He prayed to Jah for guidance and sought with tears the permission of the abbot, that he might go at once to the village and help guide them to Jah and to peace. The abbot agreed and Jah filled his heart with joy and determination, he did not tarry but at once he arose and began his long walk to the village of no trees and no young men. For this reason some have called him Séadhna*, but he called himself only Giolla Aristote*.

    Along the way he gathered the nuts and seeds of many trees, but not so many that the creatures that needed them for food would be hungry, and he gathered small seedlings with their roots and soil, but not so many that another forest would be without enough for new trees.

    At last he arrived at the barren soil that had been the forest of Chainnigh. When he saw it he sat on the tiny hill where the last fighters had died, and the last tree had been cut. He wept and he prayed for hour after hour, even as the sun had nearly set he wept and he prayed, and the people of the village heard him and began to gather around the hill. However none dared disturb him, for they too were deeply moved that a stranger would care so deeply about their sorrows.

    Then before darkness had set in one old man spoke. “Welcome to our sorrowful village and to the barrenness that we have brought upon ourselves. I am called Eoghan*, 'born of the yew,' but I am an orphan now, for the yew is no more. We have lost all our young and strong men, and we have destroyed the forest in our desire to keep it from each other. Now we have no wood to burn in our ovens to make our bread or to warm our beds, we have no wood to make staves or axes, we have no wood to build homes for our families or sheds for our animals. So we sleep in cold beds and live in mud huts, our animals have all gone or been devoured by wolves, and we cannot even protect ourselves with a simple wooden stave. We have nothing left but our grief."

    Deaglán's Promise and its Fulfilment

    The traveller listened to Eoghan’s sad tale and answered him, my parents gave me the name Deaglán* but Jah has given me the name Giolla Aristote. Your tale had reached me from far away, but now I have heard your sorrows from your own lips.” But instead of crying more, he stopped weeping and stood on the stump of the last tree that had been cut and he spoke to the people of Chainnigh. “I have been sent by the one true God, Jah is his name so you will know him and his love for all people., and to show his love for you Jah has told me to give you back your forest. For every tree that was lost another will rise in its place, and from the wood of these trees you will build a church for Jah.”

    The people shook their heads in wonder and disbelief and went back to their homes of mud and peat and the traveller turned and walked away. The people thought he was leaving for shame after making such a foolish promise, but the traveller walked for two days and two nights until he found another forest. There he unearthed the choicest saplings of many kinds of trees, as many as he could carry. Then he began to walk back to the village of sorrow and disbelief.

    That night the traveller grew weary and lay by the road to sleep, when he awoke he found that the tiny saplings he carried had all taken root and grown all around him to the height of a man. He was astonished at such a miracle, however now they were too big to carry. So he forced himself between them to escape the circle of trees and walked back to the forest where he had found them. Again he unearthed the choicest saplings of many kinds of trees, as many as he could carry, and again he began to walk back to the village of sorrow and disbelief, and this time he did not stop to sleep.

    When he arrived back at the village of sorrow and disbelief he planted each sapling in its proper place, he planted the strongest one on the tiny hill where the last fighters had died and the last tree had been cut, only then did he lie down to sleep. When he awoke the tiny saplings he carried had all taken root and grown to the height of a man, but the sapling planted on the hill had died.

    He rose again and again he walked, this time for three days to find another forest with many saplings. Again he unearthed the best ones that the forest could spare; he then walked back to the village of sorrow and disbelief and planted each sapling in its place however he did not plant one on the hill, but lay down on the hill to sleep. Now his feet were bleeding from his long walk, so to let them heal he rested them upon the stump of the last tree to be cut.

    He slept for two days, and when he awoke the saplings had all grown to the height of a man, and where the blood had dripped from his wounded feet onto the stump, a new green shoot sprouted and grew. The people came to see the miracle and he told them, “It was for blood that the tree was cut down and blood has now given it back its life. It is as Cristos bled and gives life. It is the wisdom of Aristotle that it should be so, let the blood of Cristos and the wisdom of Aristotle show you that Jah is your God. This new forest will be Jah’s gift to you.” And the people began to believe.

    For forty years the traveller walked to distant forests and unearthed the choicest saplings that could be spared, and for forty years he walked back to the village — no longer of sorrow and disbelief, but of joy and faith — and planted the saplings. Each time when he slept they grew to the height of a man, and each time the blood from his wounded feet fed the tree on the hill and the tree on the hill grew to be the tallest, fullest and strongest tree in the forest.

    The people of the village cut some of the wood, but not too much to harm the forest. They used the wood to build a church for Jah, and they built a churchyard in front of it and filled it with flowers. It was beautiful, so they named the village Cill Chainnigh after the churchyard, and the forest was the most beautiful in all of Ireland. The people said, “Now we have wood to burn in our ovens to make our bread and to warm our beds, we have wood to make staves and axes, we have wood to build homes for our families and sheds for our animals. So we sleep in warm beds and live in wooden houses." But the traveller slept always in the forest.

    The death of Deaglán and his Tomb of Trees

    The day came for Deaglán's journeys to end. He brought an armful of choicest saplings to the last place in the forest with no trees, but he was too weary to plant them. He lay down and slept on the ground and he did not awake, the saplings took root and grew all around him and became a wall of trees one joined to the other. They covered him with their branches and their leaves, the villagers tried to cut down the trees to free him from them, but their axes made no mark on the trees that protected him. To this day the traveller lies in his crypt of trees and the forest grows, and the village of Cill Chainnigh has become a great town, and the people worship Jah in the church the traveller bid them build.

    (The precise location of that tomb is no longer known, though it is rumoured that some local people have passed down the knowledge and visit it on the saints’ day to thank Deaglán for the forest.)

    Sayings of Deaglán

    "The trees of the forest are not gods, but they belong to the only one who truly is a God, Jah is his name."

    "Peace is like the forest. It is much harder to grow than it is to destroy."

    "A people filled with greed will cause many a man to bleed."

    "A long day's walk, a hard day's work, and a faithful night's prayer will bring joy and Jah's blessing to any man, woman, or child."

    "Whoever tries to keep everything for himself will end up with nothing, but whoever shares with friend and stranger will end up with treasures beyond counting."

    Relics and Customs

    In the churchyard of Cill Chainnigh, there grows a spreading plant with large trumpet-shaped flowers that are patterned with a fine net of dark violet veins that run together to form a dark tube the like of which is not seen in any other. This plant is called a petunia* or by some locals, the "despair-flower," and is said by them to have been bred and planted by Deaglán himself. If asked why such a beautiful flower would be associated with despair, the locals explain that it was the "never-despair"-flower, of course. Cuttings and seedlings of this plant only grow in churchyards and then only with a different patterning of the flowers.

    In Cill Chainnigh axes are collected by the town hall to be blessed by the church priest before they are handed out to the woodcutters again, and no other axes can cut the wood. The woodcutters in the area give thanks to Jah, invoking Deaglán, and ask for forgiveness from the forest before cutting wood. Stories are told about woodcutters who were greedy and took too much wood, and never returned out of the forest.

    Once a year on the 3rd of August, the woodcutters (and sometimes normal citizens as well) each plant a seedling, make a small cut in their heel and spill a few drops of blood to feed it. They then spend a night sleeping in the forest (without blankets), guarding that seedling.

    Squirrels are often greeted as Deaglán's Little Brothers, because they distribute the seeds and nuts of the wood.

    Gardeners have been known to use cut onions to make their tears flow onto their cherished plants in the hope of improving their growing, but that does not work. Real followers of Deaglán pray a night over their garden, thanking Jah for his bounty and the splendour of nature and in the morning cut their finger on a thorn (usually roses, but any other thorny plant can be used) to collect the up welling blood and any resulting tears into the watering cans. They then fill the cans with water and pour it out upon their gardens, they report that their gardens always grow well when this is done, but whether it is the prayers or the blood and tears or both that blesses the plants only Jah can say.

    Some carpenters say a short prayer over their finished wood products and scratch a sign of Deaglán into it.

    A prayer said by travellers setting out on a long journey by foot includes a reference to Deaglán: "Please Jah protect our feet from Bloody Blisters! And if you decide to give us Bloody Blisters, we ask they should serve a noble purpose as did Deaglán's."
    Dark chips of wood, purporting to be parts of the blood-soaked trees that make up Deaglán's tomb, are sometimes sold in the towns around Cill Chainnigh (it would be unwise to try to sell such in that town itself), but of course they are obviously fakes, since those trees remain impervious to all earthly axes.

    * cill (kil); churchyard
    * mainchín (MAN cheen); monk
    * Séadhna (SHAY uh na); traveller, wayfarer
    * Giolla Aristote (GYIL la AIR-iss-tah-tuhl); servant of Aristote
    * Eoghan (OH in); born of the yew
    * Deaglán DEG-lawn "full of goodness"
    * Of course Petunias are South American, but we have maize, so why not Petunias?

Beatified by the English Speaking Pontifical Council, on the 19th of February, 1458.

Former Bishop of Clifton
Former Roman Cardinal-Elector and Prélate Plénipotentiary
Former Cardinal Chamberlain of England, Scotland, and Ireland
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