Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

For sale: one skull. Slightly used.

New from the No Way Am I Creative Enough To Make This Story Up Department: the severed head of the patron saint of genital diseases is for sale in Ireland.

St. Vitalis of Assisi was a monk and hermit who died in 1370.  During his early years he was known for being a ladies' man, but realizing the error of his ways, he went on a pilgrimage.  When he returned to his native Italy, he became a hermit at St. Maria di Viole, near Assisi, and lived in complete poverty.  Perhaps because of his overuse of those organs when he was a young man, he became the patron saint of genitals.

All of which makes me wonder: how do you get appointed patron saint of anything?  I know there are plenty of patron saints of things other than bodily organs.  My grandmother used to pray to St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes, which always struck me as being a little on the pointless side; why would you expect a lot of help from a guy whose philosophy seems to be "it's hopeless?"  St. Catherine of Alexandria is the patron saint of knife sharpeners.  St. Julian the Hospitaller is the patron saint of clowns.  St. Matthew is the patron saint of accountants.  St. Florian is the patron saint of soap boilers.  St. Frank the Flatulent is the patron saint of Taco Bell.

Okay, I made the last one up.  But according to the official Catholic Patron Saints List, there are some that are even weirder.  There is a patron saint of button makers, pigs, football, earaches, urologists, reformed prostitutes, and hemorrhoids.  And I don't think they're joking, either.  The Catholic powers-that-be take their saints pretty seriously, even if it leaves the rest of us trying not to laugh.

But I digress.

You might wonder how the head of the patron saint of naughty bits, who was Italian, ended up in Ireland.  When a family representative was asked how they acquired the skull, they basically shrugged and said, "We're not sure."  Apparently the story is that when a member of this family went on a tour of Europe in the 19th century, he came back with the skull.  Instead of asking questions, the family had a wooden case built for it, and displayed it in the main hall.

Me, I think this is a pretty peculiar reaction.  I'm trying to picture what my reaction would be if one of my kids returned from a trip to Europe with a human body part.  I'm thinking that, "Cool!  Let's build a shrine for it and put it up on the mantelpiece in the living room!" would not be the first thing that would occur to me.

Anyway, should you yourself not be subject to such scruples, the head of St. Vitalis of Assisi is being auctioned by the County Louth family that owns it.  It is given a recommended price of between $1,100 and $1,700, and comes with its own really nice Queen Anne case.  The day of the auction is May 29, so you still have time to go there if the idea appeals to you.

I think I'm gonna pass.  For one thing, I doubt Carol would be all that happy about my blowing over a thousand bucks on a used skull.  For another, I think I'm going to wait until the skull of Saint Sebaldus goes on sale.  He's the patron saint of protection against cold weather.  Now there is a guy whose help I could use.

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