Saint Agnes of Rome

She was a Christian martyr, beheaded at the orders of the Roman emperor Diocletian, on January 21st, 304 AD. She is the patron saint of girls, virgins, gardeners, and victims of sexual abuse. Her legend includes many supernatural occurrences, and Agnes was one of the most popular saints in 18th and 19th century England. 

Agnes of Rome was said to have supernatural powers. These included the ability to make hair grow at a rapid level, the ability to strike men blind, and even the ability to raise the dead. Her Feast Day falls on January 21st, and on its eve, January 20th, it is said that young single ladies may be given dreams of their future husbands by Saint Agnes. But only if they follow certain rituals. Some of these rituals are quite bizarre and involved—more about them later!

But first, who was Agnes of Rome and how did she acquire such patronage?


Born in Rome, in the year 291 AD, Agnes was the daughter of a wealthy nobleman. She was very beautiful, and very rich. Before her lay a life of extreme privilege. This was both a blessing and a curse, since it ensured, for better or for worse, that many young suitors wanted to make her a bride.

When Agnes was only thirteen years old, the guys came a’ courting. Agnes, however, was a devout Christian. And this was a world where Christianity was illegal, condemned by the government, and Christians were regularly fed to the lions by Roman authorities. Agnes vowed to never marry and keep her virginity. This was a most dangerous decision, indeed. (At the tender age of thirteen, the girl was probably terrified, and rightly so!)

Needless to say, the local young men were not happy about this. They too, were of noble birth and used to getting what they wanted. No way was Agnes going to get away with this pious behavior!


One of Agnes’ suitors happened to be the son of Sempronius, an important Roman prefect. When Agnes refused to marry him, the son got mad and convinced his father to arrest her for being a Christian. For her punishment, Sempronius came up with the most humiliating thing imaginable. Agnes was to walk through the streets naked, subject to all kinds of taunts and embarrassment, not to mention assaults. The walk would end at a brothel, where Agnes would then be forced to work as a prostitute for the rest of her life.  

Agnes was stripped naked and ordered to begin her walk of shame—but her nakedness did not last for long! Agnes’ hair began to grow rapidly, so fast that in no time it was down to her toes, thick and lustrous enough to clothe her entire body. (And you thought Lady Godiva was good?)


Nonetheless, Agnes was forced to enter the brothel. It is said that men came, with the intent of raping her, but upon seeing that she was such a pure and beautiful girl, many could not bring themselves to defile her. The ones that did dare attempt it were instantly struck blind! 

The son of Sempronius, eager to get his due, showed up at the brothel with the intention of raping Agnes. But, before he could even get his toga off, the boy was struck, not only blind, but dead! Agnes, however, was not beyond forgiveness. Maybe she realized she had killed the son of a powerful politician and had second thoughts. For whatever reason, Agnes began to pray over the villain. Miraculously, he was restored back to life.

After this spooky and powerful display of Agnes’ supernatural abilities, Sempronius became terrified. He recused himself from the entire matter. But Agnes was still to be given no peace. Other Roman authorities, sent at the command of Emperor Diocletian, came to the brothel and accused Agnes of witchcraft.  Her punishment was—you guessed it! To be burned at the stake.

They bound Agnes in ropes and tied her to the woodpile. But when they lit the pyre, there was a problem. Apparently, the stakes would not burn, and neither would Agnes!

The Roman authorities were really fed up by now. They ordered one of their guards to behead Agnes and finally put an end to her. And so it was, she died.

Or did she?

Agnes’ parents, being rich noble people, had her buried in a well sealed tomb. According to the legend, eight days later Agnes’ parents went to visit her gravesite. There they encountered a chorus of angels, and Agnes herself, standing outside the tomb. There was also a white lamb by her side.


The lamb, a symbol of purity, is one of the icons still associated with Saint Agnes. She has traditionally been depicted as a young girl with long hair, holding a lamb. The word ‘agnus’ in Latin means ‘lamb’.

The Vatican has even gotten involved with an homage to Saint Agnes!

Ever since the 16th century, the Vatican has performed a ritual of the Blessing of the Lambs on Saint Agnes’ feast day.  On this day two lambs are brought from the Trappist abbey of Tre Fontane in Rome and are blessed by the Pope. The following summer, the lambs are shorn, and their wool is used to weave sacred garments called pallia. On the 29th of June, which is the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, the Pope gives these pallia to the newly appointed archbishops.


Now back to Saint Agnes Eve, as all the single ladies await their dreamy husbands… Be assured that Saint Agnes may send you visions of your future man! But only if you follow certain rituals, which are as follows:

  • You must fast on this evening, and go to bed with no supper.
  • Take one sprig of rosemary, and one sprig of thyme. Place them in each of your shoes. Put the shoes beneath your bed.
  • It also helps to walk up the stairs backwards, if your bedroom is on the second floor.
  • Take pins from a pincushion and transfer them to your sleeve while reciting the Lord’s Prayer.
  • Then, remove all your clothing, and lie naked on the bed.
  • Before you fall asleep, say this prayer:

“Saint Agnes, that’s to lovers kind

Come ease the trouble of my mind.”

Then merely go to sleep, and wait for your dreams. According to some legends, it is said that the man himself will appear in your room, and the two of you will have a great feast (thus making it worth skipping supper!)

For the more adventurous, there is this ritual from Scotland: On Saint Agnes Eve at midnight, girls would gather together in a field.

They would throw grain on the soil, representing growth and fertility. They would then recite this prayer:

“Agnes sweet and Agnes fair,

Hither, hither, now repair;

Bonny Agnes, let me see

The lad who is to marry me.”

So if you happen to live near a field, and have some friends who are game, this might be a fun ritual to try.


Saint Agnes Eve became wildly popular in 18th and 19th century England. John Keats, the famous poet, even dedicated one of his most beloved poems to it, titled “The Eve of Saint Agnes”. 

“They told her how, upon St. Agnes’ Eve,  

 Young virgins might have visions of delight,      

And soft adorings from their loves receive      

Upon the honey’d middle of the night,      

If ceremonies due they did aright;  


As, supperless to bed they must retire,     

And couch supine their beauties, lily white;      

Nor look behind, nor sideways, but require

Of Heaven with upward eyes for all that they desire.”

The entire poem can be read here:

Have a beautiful and blessed feast of Saint Agnes.

Friday and Thirteen: A Brief History

Today is Friday the Thirteenth. How are you feeling? Many people fear this day. They just want to get the day over with, and they will be extra careful to avoid ladders, cracks in the sidewalk, and black cats. There is even a scientific name for fear of Friday the Thirteenth! It is technically called “Paraskevidekatriaphobia”. (I can’t pronounce it, either.) But it’s a thing, discussed among psychiatrists and medical professionals. For many, the fear is real.

But is there any truth to the rumors? Are Fridays and the number thirteen so very bad? Read on to find out some facts and fictions of this superstition…


Have you ever noticed that notorious killers have 13 letters in their names?

JACK THE RIPPER (count ’em)

CHARLES MANSON (count ’em)

JEFFREY DAHMER (you guessed it!)

Cue eerie music.

Humankind has long associated the number 13 with evil.  Some office buildings and hotels have been built without a 13th floor. Some airlines, including  Continental and Air France, do  not have a 13th row in their planes. Even Winston Churchill, the ultimate pragmatist, refused to sit in the 13th row in theaters.

But wait!  Thirteen may not be as bad as we think.

Consider the ancient Aztecs. They were pretty smart, and they  revered the number 13.   The Aztec week lasted 13 days.  They measured their year in 260 days.  It was divided into 20 thirteen day periods. The thirteen day period was called a Trecena.

The Aztecs even had a goddess of the number 13.

In Aztec mythology, the goddess Tlazolteotl ruled the 13th Trecena. She was, to be fair, a bit of a bad girl — the goddess of sin and patron saint of adulterers.  However, Tlazolteotl  was also beneficent and wise. It was her place to forgive sins of a sexual nature. In Aztec culture, she was associated with the steam bath and encouraged it as a purification ritual.

In Tarot, although 13 is the Death card, it is not necessarily to be feared, as the card represents true change and reinvention that can only come about through symbolic death.


One of the reasons 13 got its bad rap was because of the Last Supper. Jesus had 12 disciples, so including himself there were 13 people attending the infamous dinner.  Some say Judas Iscariot was the last to arrive (the 13th guest). Judas eventually betrayed Jesus with a kiss, pointing him out to the Roman soldiers as a political agitator. This, of course, resulted in the crucifixion of Jesus.

It is believed that Judas the betrayer later committed suicide by hanging himself from a tree, thus adding to the horror.

On the other hand — these events were necessary for the salvation of humankind. The Gospel of Judas speaks of these events as a Divine plan, conspired between Jesus and Judas, all necessary for the enlightenment of planet Earth. So maybe 13 turned out to be lucky in the long run…


In 19th century America, a society was created to dispel the myth of unlucky 13, once and for all!

In 1881, Captain William Fowler,  an American Civil War veteran, took it upon himself to form “The Thirteen Club”.  Fowler  had taken part in 13 major battles and had been forced to resign on August 13, 1863. On September 13, 1863 he purchased the Knickerbocker Cottage in New York. The cottage would later be used for his club dinners.

The first dinner of The  Thirteen Club took place at 8:13 P.M. on Friday, January 13th, 1882, in Room 13.  There were of course, 13 people in attendance.  All subsequent meetings took place in room 13 on Friday the 13th.

On the December 13, 1886 meeting, Robert Green Ingersoll, a member and prominent lawyer, declared:

“We have had enough mediocrity, enough policy, enough superstition, enough prejudice, enough provincialism, and the time has come for the American citizen to say: “Hereafter I will be represented by men who are worthy, not only of the great Republic, but of the Nineteenth Century.”

By 1887, the Thirteen Club was 400-strong, over time gaining five U.S. Presidents as honorary members: Chester Arthur, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. Not bad pickings!

It should also be noted that the United States came from 13 original colonies.  The 13 stripes on our flag represent these. (Count ’em!)


And what about the day itself? Is the day so intrinsically evil? According to the nursery rhyme, “Friday’s child is loving and giving…” Besides, that, most folks love Friday, as it is the beginning of the weekend.

Friday got a bad rap because of its association with evil events in the Bible. A lot of bad stuff allegedly happened on Fridays. Besides Jesus crucifixion, the Great Flood, which wiped out all humankind, except Noah and his brood, is believed to have begun on a Friday.

Also, the day the Devil tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden also supposedly took place on a Friday. This led to the fall of humankind, the banishment of Adam and Eve from paradise, and a lot of bad stuff in general.

But Friday can also be good. Even the day of the Crucifixion, for example, is known as “Good Friday” — the implication being that even great suffering will eventually lead to wisdom, enlightenment, and happiness.

The name Friday comes from the Old English work  frīġedæġ, meaning the “day of Frig”, thus associating it with the Germanic goddess Frigg, and also the Roman goddess Venus. Both are goddesses of love.

In Norse mythology, Friday is the day of Freya. She is the goddess of love, sex, beauty, fertility and gold. Freya was also quite fond of black cats. They accompanied her during her various visitation, and she often had black cats riding around with her in her magic chariot! What’s not to like?

Have a safe and happy Friday the 13th!