Friday, May 16, 2008

Feast day of St Brendan the Elder (aka, the Navigator, or Voyager)

Today according to Australian Eastern Standard Time when this item was posted

This most widely diffused of all legendary saints, St Brendan, is found in manuscripts of all Western European languages, and the travels of St Brendan are the subject of a popular medieval romance, Navigatio Sancti Brendani Abbatis (The Voyage of Saint Brendan).

Some say that Brendan sailed from Ireland and found America in the 6th Century. In the 1970s, Tim Severin showed that it was possible to sail a coracle (a small boat made of wood and leather) to America, so it is possible, if unlikely, that Irish monks might have preceded Christopher Columbus by several centuries.

Founder and first abbot of the monastery at Clonfert, Galway, Brendan went looking for the island that had once contained Adam and Eve's paradise, encountering the monstrous fish named Jascon (Jasconius) along the way. He got a ship victualled for seven years, and for 12 monks, but two more wanted to come. "Ye may sail with me", he said, "but one of you will go to perdition ere you return".

After 40 days they saw land and sailed around it for three days, when they went ashore. A dog came up and made him welcome "in his manner". The hound took them to a fine hall with a feast spread out, which they ate. There were beds ready for them, so they slept, and the next day they put to sea again and went a long time without seeing land.

After some time they found a beautiful land with green pasture and a flock of the whitest, fattest sheep they'd ever seen, every one as big as an ox. A kind old man came and said "This is the Island of Sheep, and here is never cold weather, but ever Summer; and that causes the sheep to be so big and white". He told them to sail east, whence they would come to the Paradise of Birds, where they could keep their Easter-tide celebrations.

As they soon came to land, they made a fire to cook dinner, but their island began to move and Brendan's intrepid travellers fled to the ship. The sainted leader of this fabulous expedition told his crew that the cause was a great fish called Jasonius, or Jascon, "which laboured night and day to put its tail in its mouth, but for greatness it could not" ...

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