Historical setting: 589 C.E. cottage between Annegray and Luxeuil
I can understand our visiting neighbors are not favorable to Christian Saints and foreign missionaries murdering sacred trees of Pagan worship. And it doesn’t take very much chatter to discover our guests are not the variety of Christians who would make a pilgrimage to a monastery. They’ve just explained that there is another church, the bishops of Gaul would call “secular,” but it is a Christian church with a local priest rather than an assigned abbot or bishop. And I learn that these hunters have simply added Christianity onto their own pantheon of Pagan gods. Clearly they aren’t of a mind to accept the kind of exclusive Christianity that conjures sainthood from chopping down the sacred oak. It’s a strange warp of irony that the church in the woods is named for Saint Martin who was said to have put the ax to the most attributed of the Pagan sacred trees.
The older man who speaks for the group affirms my guesses. “We aren’t Pagans. The children are all baptized Christian. But sometimes Christian comes with fires smoldering into ashes to the old gods. If someone would tell the monks something is sacred immediately Christians call it a Pagan idol and it is gets a Christian curse. It’s never a good thing. We hide the charms we keep from saints and monks who are glad to eat the meat we offer, but they would never let us pray to Diana for the bountiful hunt.”
The younger of the men abruptly asks the yet unspoken question. “You aren’t Christian here, are you?” Then he answers my telling silence. “I mean, we aren’t talking about all Christians. Only those from far away places. They come here with their foreign monks to change us from our old ways.”
Colleen is listening to all of this neighborly talk then speaks in her relentless brogue, “But you don’t mean the Irish Christians surely? The Irish Christians surely wouldn’t smash and curse Pagan idols.”
The silent glances and the scowls make it clear these new neighbors don’t much like Colleen’s ruffling of the shared language.
“Did you come here with those monks, Girl?”
Colleen is obviously distraught and excuses herself to go check on Ana and the children.
So let me intervene for her. “Colleen isn’t with the monks of Annegray she is of our household. That monastery has only men. I think she was hoping to find neighbors who would be accepting of her.”
(Continues Tuesday, January 3, 2023)