The Daily: 5 February 2023

5 February is St Agatha’s Day. Born in about 231 in Catania, Sicily, she is one of many virgin martyrs of early Christianity. Her story exemplifies why there are so many women among the ranks of martyrs for the faith.

She was said to be a beautiful child born to wealthy nobility, but she turned from the obligatory paths of women and consecrated herself to Christ. This enraged many of her suiters, but one in particular decided to force her acquiescence. When his advances were spurned, Quintianus, the Roman prefect and governor of her homeland, had her arrested “for her faith”. Then follows a series of increasingly macabre acts of desperation by Quintianus to get Agatha to renounce her virginity. He had her sent to endure a brothel, had her tortured and burned in prison, cut her breasts off, and finally sentenced her to burn at the stake. However, she was saved from this last indignity by an earthquake. She died in prison, likely before her 20th year.

St Agatha is the patron saint of many places, but she is most revered as the intercessor for women in all their special adversities. She is patron of breast cancer and midwives. She watches over nurses and wet nurses. She comforts and protects those who live with sexual assault. And she also has a strong association with fire and volcanic activity, especially when it threatens the home.

Most of us today are astonished by tales like Agatha’s. We look to her for strength in adversity, emulating her resilient faith. But might we also learn from her persecutors… there are no limits to what a man in power will do to a woman who rejects him. Best we think on that and notice all the similar atrocities enacted upon a woman’s body throughout history — all for the simple reason that she said no… and he would not accept her right to do so.

On a happier note, the Wolf Moon is full today at 1:29pm. If you live in the Northeast, the best — albeit dangerously cold — time to see it rise was last night. I cracked the curtains for a bit to watch it drifting through the gathering clouds — safely warm in my bedroom. Today, most of the region is under an enormous, if fairly weak, low pressure system. It’s one vast, largely unproductive cloud, though there was snow late in the evening yesterday and there is more possible.

Still, it is the Full Moon, so it’s time for a Full Moon Tale for the Wolf Moon. I thought I might repost one of the first stories I put up on this site. It’s a love story. Since this Wolf Moon is so very close to Valentine’s Day and Lupercalia, it seems appropriate.

Love Story

The full wolf-faced moon shone through the trees as she followed the hare’s trail deep into the night. The scent was not strong in this fresh snowfall, but yet just detectable. It was the only hint of a quarry she’d found tonight. The starved doe her daughter brought to the den back at the dark moon was gnawed to the marrow. It hadn’t yielded up much to swallow in days. Her belly clenched in cold hunger.

It was easier before. When he was alive, somehow the flow of living went more smoothly. True, he was sometimes in the way and often a careless, bumbling oaf. And he always ate more than his share. Yet he was good. A good mate; a good father; a good hunter. It was warmer in the den with his long body curled in front of the door — his kind habit, keeping the cold off his lover and children.

She knew she ought to think about finding another mate. But who? Where? And how could she replace the heart space filled with those eyes, that wolf smile, the very particular soft warmth of him? It was too much to consider in these challenging days of dearth.

Still, that was the very reason she needed to try. Her daughter would leave the den soon. Her sister was too haggard to hunt, would soon be gone. Next winter would be cold and terrible in an empty den. Maybe it would be her last. And yes, maybe that would be the unremarkable end to her story. After all, she’d seen many winters, borne many healthy children, loped in wide-eyed wonder over hills and along streams in her homeland through many starry nights.

But she did not feel ready for the end. She was strong, still sound and able in body and mind. She was not done with rambling through the world. She was not finished with life and all its intriguing mystery. She wanted that next revelation around the bend or over the hillock. She craved the new, the unexperienced, the untasted savor of this juicy living. She was curious and could not give up what the world would reveal to just her. Not just yet.

So she needed someone to help her, to carry some of the load, to keep the den warm. She needed a companion, someone who would walk with her into old age, keep her on the right path, keep her on her feet. Because this hunger, this cold, it was so wearying. She almost — almost — wanted to lay her bones down in this deep snow and just stop.

A sudden soft scuffle in the brush ahead interrupted her morbid musing. She stilled and heeded, directing all her body and mind at the soundscape, at the scents washing over her face, at the chiaroscuro patterns in the snow. Seeking her prey, willing the appearance of an end to hunger for this night.

And it came. A stronger stream of the scent she followed. A frantic heartbeat. A shadow that shifted where no breeze rippled the air. With her upper body fixed and her senses locked, she began to move. Silent, holding her breath, placing each foot into the snow in slow deliberation. She knew one infinitesimal puff of sound or scent would be the end of her hunt. She was no match in speed or agility for a deathly frightened hare.

But then a crack fractured the night into a cascading chaos of sound and motion. A dark blur shot out of the brush; another leaped from the trees to her right. Snow flew in whirling eddies. Snow-muffled footsteps pounded a terrified tattoo in circles around her. She did not know where to turn. She threw her head back and howled in sheer baffled frustration. 

As the noises and scents receded, she pieced together a picture of her lost quarry. Another had pursued the same prey. She should have been more alert to the competition. Hers was not the only empty belly. But here she was, oblivious, ruminating like a stupid lovesick doe. Though, in fairness, it was difficult to remember there were others on the edges of her territory in these days of unwonted isolation.

She blew out a breath and turned back. Maybe her daughter had found better luck. Maybe there was just enough left of the deer carcass to stave off starvation for this night.

But then there came heavy footsteps padding behind her, followed by the sharp must of a stranger. She halted and crouched in preparation, the ruff on her shoulder standing in a nimbus of fear and anger. Perhaps he hadn’t detected her. Perhaps she could live out this night without a fight. Perhaps he could be satisfied with merely stealing away the alleviation of her wretched hunger.

She saw the dark shape of him stopped in the shadow of an oak. His mouth was oddly distorted. She realized she smelled hare’s blood. He was carrying the dead animal. Was he flaunting his kill? Was he not satisfied with causing misery, but he must taunt her? What sort of idiot, who with plenty in his grasp, turns back toward confrontation and risk? 

Still, a part of her angry mind stopped to marvel that he managed to catch a hare in desperate flight. Whatever he was, he was an accomplished hunter!

She began to growl deep in her throat, wishing to flush him out, to move this fight forward if it must be. She wanted her den and sleep. She wanted to not be standing, paws frozen in this snow.

He came forward. Cautiously. Head down. In submission. Then he laid the hare’s body in the snow and backed away.

What was this? What should she do? Was it an offering? Or bait? 

After an agonizing moment he turned and slowly loped off into the night.

She waited a moment more. But she would not turn away nourishment free for the taking. She bounded to the hare and gripped its body in hungry jaws, relishing the taste of warm fur and blood over her tongue.

And as she turned back toward her den with the end of this night’s hunger hanging from her mouth, a full-throated howl pierced the night. She did not stop. She did not turn. But she did listen. For this was a message to her.

From that keening cry to the wolf moon, she knew she would be lonely no longer.

©Elizabeth Anker 2023

1 thought on “The Daily: 5 February 2023”

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