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Washington, United States
loves: you win if you guessed "pets" and "museums". Also books, art history, travel, British punk, Korean kimchi, bindis, martinis, and other things TBD. I will always make it very clear if a post is sponsored in any way. Drop me a line at thepetmuseum AT gmail.com !

Sunday, January 25, 2009

a saintly geese post

Recently I found at my excellent local library Peter Watkins and John Stockland's Winged Wonders: A Celebration of Birds in Human History (New York, NY: BlueBridge, 2007). Contained within are lots of interesting cultural, biological and historical nuggets about a dozen-plus birds: the cuckoo, dove, eagle, owl, ostrich, raven, and robin, to name a few. I wish there had been a duck chapter as we all know how partial I am to them, but there IS one on geese.
I can't say I have ever found geese swell company like ducks. Rather pushy, geese are. I vividly recall one occasion on which I showed up to a relative's condo development with a basket of fresh snickerdoodles, only to be faced by a large flock of white geese in the driveway. Would they budge? No. Could I drive over them? I thought about it. And then I looked at the snickerdoodles, and - well, some sacrifices have to be made, so I jettisoned about six of them and drove like mad.
But there actually are Christian saints who have associated themselves with geese. Here is the pilgrimage badge of St. Werburga of Chester.

She died AD 699, and was a powerful force in convent reform, as she was one of the great abbesses of the Church in Britain at that time. Her badge is based on a deal she cut with some hungry geese:
One of her most famous miracles occurred at Weedon. The lands around the monastery were infested by wild geese which devoured the crops and caused great damage. One day, when they were committing their usual depredations, Werburga drove them into a stable and left them shut up there all night. In the morning, when the door was opened, they came running to her as if asking leave to go away. She allowed them to depart in safety but charged them never again to come marauding about Weedon. They flew off, but when they had gone a short way, they returned and kept clamouring and fluttering about, until they made her understand that one of their number was nefariously detained. She found that one of her vassals had stolen and eaten the missing goose. She restored it to life and full plumage to its companions and the whole flock took their departure. No wild goose has ever dared to molest the agriculturists of Weedon since that day.
I got that from this page, which includes a stunning stained-glass portrait of the saint.

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