Women Saints & Tarot: Spiritual & Religious Legends, Part 1

Aside from general knowledge picked up from living in the Western Christian cultural tradition, I never learned much about saints. We were Methodists and most Protestants don’t look to the powers of a hail Mary unless it’s the final minutes of a football game.

At one time, I had a St. Christopher necklace that I dutifully wore while traveling (though I’ve since lost it). I also remember when some fellow middle schoolers who attended the local Catholic church chose (or were assigned) saints to study for their confirmation; if I recall correctly, my closest friend had to study St. Francis of Assisi. Other than those instances (and the fun legends of St. Nicholas at Christmastime), I’ve had very little relationship with saints.

It wasn’t until I traveled more that I realized I had only a very vague, generalized knowledge-base of specifically male Christian saints. Of course, traveling changed this perspective (as traveling will do), but it wasn’t until I traveled to Mexico that the idea of saint work really affected me. Why Mexico? Because I recognized the intense authenticity in which our tour guide spoke about Our Lady of Guadalupe. To see the way he looked as he told us her story, anyone would have to admit, there is power there.

Through my tarot exploration, I became much more curious about the use of saints in spiritual practice for myself. Why not?

I’m writing this series as a reference for the saints I felt most connected with after reading the book cited below, which is a great overview for someone like me who has little background in this side of spirituality.

Anna Pendragon

Part of Arthurian legend, some versions tell that Anna Pendragon supposedly nursed Arthur and raised him alongside her own children. Eventually, she spent time at court when Arthur became king and, after remarrying, gave birth to Saint Samson and would eventually be grandmother to Saint Teilo. From what I understand, her relation to these saints is what makes her a Roman Catholic saint. There’s also a bit of overlap between the grandmother role of this Anna and Jesus’s grandmother, Saint Anne.

For Anna Pendragon, I imagine the Queen of Pentacles in tarot.

Saint Bernadette of Lourdes

Saint Bernadette of Lourdes was the oldest of a large, impoverished family and claimed to see nearly twenty apparitions in six months as a young girl. The apparition, a beautiful young woman, told her to dig for a natural spring that was not visible to anyone. The spring appeared at the spot where she dug, but most people continued to mock her. Eventually, her visions were made official and a church was built near the spring; however, they removed Bernadette from the area to keep her from being the focus. She lived a short life of ill-health and became the saint called upon for those who are mocked for their spirituality, poor health, and poverty.

In tarot, I see Saint Bernadette of Lourdes as the 5 of Pentacles due to her life of poverty, ill-health, and ostracism.

Saint Brigid

Saint Brigid was a Druid goddess turned Christian saint as the area converted to Christianity. The stories associated with her describe a woman of varied talents, particularly gifts related to fire and providing unlimited food and milk. One Irish tale even places her in the role of Mary’s midwife in birthing Jesus.

I associate Saint Brigid with the Queen of Wands because of the fire element and also a phrase describing this court card as “one who makes something from nothing.”

Saint Comba

Saint Comba is a Spanish folk saint best known for being a witch. In her story, she met Jesus one day while traveling and had a spiritual transformation. She converted to Christianity and becomes quite the miracle-worker (and claims to have done away with her former sorcery…).

In tarot, I see Saint Comba as The Lovers, which may sound odd, but she represents a unity of Christianity and witchcraft. Though she converted to the Christian faith, she continued to intervene for witches and never denied her association with it.

La Ghriba

La Ghriba, or the Marvelous Girl, is a Jewish saint who, essentially, did not make much of an impression until she died. In one story, she died when her house burned down, but her body was miraculously untouched. In another story, she died of exhaustion after escaping Jerusalem with a burden of stones from the temple there. In both instances, her sainthood came to her post-humously.

To me, La Ghriba is The Tower in tarot because of the fall of Jerusalem in one story and the burning down of her house in the other.

Guadalupe

Guadalupe is the matron saint of Mexico, and first appeared to a man named Juan Diego in the 16th century, performing a miracle that led to the building of her requested abbey on Tepeyac Hill. Pilgrammage to the sacred Basilica of Guadalupe is second only to the Vatican. Some associate her with the Virgin Mary, others reject this.

I think the obvious association here is The Empress, but ignoring more traditional meanings and reading tarot intuitively (and based on my impression in Mexico), I would actually choose The World for Guadalupe.

Saint Gudula

Saint Gudula’s story is short and bittersweet. Her cousin, Gertrude of Nivelles (the more famous of the two), educated her at the abbey of Nivelles, but when Gertrude died, Gudula returned home. Once there, she began intense spiritual study and would honor her cousin with late-night visits to the local church, walking two miles with a lantern. Each night, the lantern was extinguished by a demon — and quickly relit by an angel.

I think Saint Gudula makes a sweet little Hermit in the tarot.

 

 

 

Other Posts in this Series

Women Saints & Tarot: Spiritual & Religious Legends, Part 2

Women Saints & Tarot: Drawing Upon Trinities (Coming Soon!)

Women Saints & Tarot: Unoffcial Saints (Coming Soon!)


Reference:

Illes, J. (2011) Encyclopedia of Mystics, Saints & Sages: A Guide to Asking For Protection, Wealth, Happiness, and Everything Else. San Francisco: HarperOne.

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