In a diary that chronicled events and personages connected with the days of the year, I spotted that today was linked with the Christian saint Osyth, who was a minor Saxon Princess who died around the year 700.
She married a sub-King of East Anglia, (who seemed unworthy of being named, at least in the account that I was reading), and founded a nunnery at what is now St. Osyth (funnily enough) in Essex. According to an unreliable biography she was killed by robbers, but if you are of the type who needs substantiated facts, I’m afraid that the famous-as-well-as-venerable Bede does not give her a mention.
Osyth’s nunnery died out, but was re-founded as an Augustine monastery, containing her shrine, in the early 12th century.
I love the old legends that permeate these islands, especially those that concern (perhaps) historical figures partly obscured by the myths and mists of time.
There are various fantastical events surrounding St. Osyth, and some of them are just perfect for this time of year, as the nights draw in and Halloween approaches:
**when she was young she drowned in a stream, but revived after nuns from a local convent prayed for her for three days. (If this was a time-travel story, they would be from the nunnery that Osyth founded in the future. Did Osyth found the nunnery in gratitude to those nuns who resurrected her as a child? Or did the nuns travel back to save the child in gratitude to the adult who established their nunnery? Then again, if she died as a child she wouldn’t have created their nunnery. I’m confusing myself, let’s leave science fiction out of it.)
**she was executed by beheading; where she fell a spring issued forth from the ground. She picked up her severed head and walked to the door of the nunnery where she knocked three times before collapsing. (Knock knock knock. “Who’s there?” “Osyth.” “Osyth who?” “Oh syth down, I’m dead anyway.”)
**her ghost walks along the priory walls, carrying her head, one night each year. (I would guess that would be tonight, then? Anyone up for a vigil?)
The place name of St.Osyth rang some bells for me, so I looked it up.
The village was a focus for witch persecutions in the 16th and 17th centuries, ten local women being hanged. In 1921 the skeletons of two women were unearthed in a garden, one of them claimed to be the first of the women that was tried for witchcraft. I hadn’t heard this story before.
Then I found the source of my familiarity:
In 2012 there were reports of a lion being sighted near the village. After twenty four hours, an armed search was called off.
Is it safe to come out yet?
Beheadings; ghosts; witches; skeletons; lions: I’m packing my bags now. It sounds like a great place to live!
Part of its beach being used for nudist bathing doesn’t come into it.
Must go now, someone has just knocked on my door three times. I’ve looked through the spy hole but cannot see anybody there. At least no-one at head height.