Thursday, August 01, 2013

Santa Bárbara / Sainte Barbara / Saint Barbara: Red Lightning

Not too long ago, I received a Catholic prayer card featuring Saint Barbara. For those who may wonder, Catholic prayer cards are sort of like baseball trading cards, usually featuring a colorful picture on the front and on the back, maybe a little information about the saint or other holy figure, plus a short prayer. This is one of the fun things about being Catholic -- carrying around prayer cards.  

Saint Barbara is, among other things, the patron saint of artillery. Yes, indeed. Usually her attire includes quite a bolt of red, bright red, but in this Rosselli depiction, Saint Barbara has more blue, green and brown, with a castle in one hand and a quill in the other. She looks like a saint you wouldn't want to irritate. Notice what she's standing on. . .
Here in Jan van Eyck's depiction, Saint Barbara holds a seriously dramatic quill or its equivalent in one hand and a book in the other. A cathedral goes up behind her, workers laboring diligently to make it happen.

In the image printed on my Saint Barbara prayer card, she wears a gold crown and red robe; in her left hand there's a palm leaf (or quill) and she sports a sharp sword, too. In her right hand, she holds up a golden chalice. And in the background, there's a castle-church-village complex.

Move to the Americas, and you might see double duty for Santa Bárbara via Santería. Emanating outward from the Caribbean region, she serves as a stand-in or avatar of Ṣàngó /Changó / Shango / Xango.  In most iconography, Chango and Saint Barbara share a red color-energy, as well as a strong association with the production of lightning, storms, thunder and fire. Though of a different outward gender, this makes perfect sense for both the patron saint of artillery and Ṣàngó. 

Finally, I've always understood Saint Barbara to offer extra protection against jealous, chattering enemies; plus she looks over architects, miners and prisoners, among others. Feast Day (not officially sanctioned by the Roman Catholic Church): December 4.      
Today's Rune: Wholeness.   


the walking man said...

Then she must be looking over the majority of humanity for most all of us are prisoners to something.

jodi said...

Erik, I will fill in the couple of Barbara's I know on these fun facts. My Gramma always had prayer cards. Now I want to learn more!