Saint Odhran

Saint Columba, one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland, once wished to construct a chapel on the island of Iona, off the west coast of Scotland.  However, whatever was built each day, was destroyed each night.  It seemed that the task was impossible.

Eventually, a voice spoke to Saint Columba, and told him that the chapel could only be constructed were someone buried alive in the foundation.  Columba’s son, Odhran, volunteered himself, was thusly buried, and the chapel was duly completed.

One day, however, Odhran pushed his head through the floor, and said that there was no heaven or hell, as people speak of them.  Alarmed, Saint Columba had Odhran’s body removed from the foundation, and properly buried in consecrated ground, lest Odhran reveal more secrets of the afterlife.  After this burial, Odhran never bothered the people of Iona again.

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The Missionary Position

The “missionary position” is axiomatically considered to be the most boring of all sexual positions, in which the man is on top of the woman and both are lying down.  The name of it comes from the Trobriand Islanders.  When Christian missionaries reached the islands, they preached that only this position was acceptable, a fact that was much to the islanders’ distaste, for they considered it impractical and improper.  They even performed caricatures of the position around the communal campfire for entertainment, so strange did they find the idea.  It is from them, via Bronislaw Malinowski, the famous anthropologist who studied them, that this term entered the English lexicon.

Saint Patrick’s Staff and the Quiet Druid

Saint Patrick, as most people know, is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland and converting the natives to the religion.  As such, before him, they were relatively ignorant of Christianity and its practices.

Once, Saint Patrick baptized a Druid priest.  We led the man into the water, thrust down his heavy staff, and recited the proper prayers.  After he finished, he told the Druid that he could now leave.

“But I can’t,” he replied.

“Why not?”

“Your staff is on my foot.”

Saint Patrick looked down, and so it was.  His staff had been driven into the man’s foot.  “Why didn’t you say something?” asked the saint.

“I thought it was part of the ceremony,” replied the Druid.

Now She Was Sure She Should be Damned

During the early years of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the following event occurred.  There was a woman who lived in Boston who was a Calvinist, and consequently worried every day whether or not she was among the Elect, and destined for Heaven or Hell.  Her despair grew so great, that she sought an answer to her question at any cost.

She took her infant child to a well, and threw the child in.  She then returned home and said that now she was sure she should be damned, because she had just drowned her own child, and by this action, she removed her doubt about her final destination.

The Cherokee Abandon Their Gods

The Cherokee Nation has a reputation for having adopted the ways of the Europeans, perhaps more than any other American Indian nation.  Perhaps the reason for that is this.  The Cherokee Nation was ravaged by a terrible smallpox epidemic.  The damage was so great, that the Cherokee lost faith in their gods, and their priests destroyed the sacred objects of the tribe.

Yermak’s Prayers

In the late 1500s, the Stroganovs, a wealthy and powerful Russian family, began sponsoring forays into Siberia, hoping to profit from the mineral and natural wealth of the land.  One of these expeditions was led by the Cossack Vasily “Yermak” Timofeyovich, whose cognomen came from the word for millstone.  Yermak and his band received material support from the Stroganovs, who insisted that the assistance was not a gift, but a loan, and wished to specify the terms of its repayment.

The Stroganovs at first wished for the loan to be secured by indentures, but Yermak and the other Cossacks rejected this.  Instead, they promised to repay the Stroganovs through the spoils of war, if they were successful in their attack.  If they failed and died, however, Yermark sarcastically promised to instead repay the loan by praying on the Stroganovs’ behalf once the Cossacks reached heaven.