Wednesday 13 February 2013

A Purple Heart

St. Valentine is a name familiar the world over, especially on the 14th of February. However, in the same way there is actually more than one St. Valentine, the saint has more than one major patronage apart from that associated with love.
For those of you who started reading this blog last year, you'll know that he is also the patron saint of epilepsy. So a purple rose or heart, would be very appropriate to celebrate the 14th of February with, except the human heart is in fact, red. So it seems to make better commercial sense for gifts to be that colour.

It's somewhat ironic that a condition, that in many cases has the potential to cause issues in the romance department, would have the same patron saint as love. But then irony probably never really occurred to those in religious circles, when they chose patrons.

Why St. Valentine and other saints became associated with epilepsy, is more logical to an extent, but exactly the reasons for this being the case, gives a massive insight into just how much further forward with medical knowledge we are today.

Along with other patron saints of epilepsy, the reason's for St. Valentine being associated with the condition is because he is seen as a healer. In particular, he was one of the many saints associated with healing epilepsy. Since it was thought the condition was caused by an individual being 'possessed' by an evil spirit, it was the saint's job to pray for and heal these individuals. Since saints were generally judged on their success, it's likely the law of averages played in Valentine's favour, thus explaining the first reason for his connection with epilepsy.
The second, came from the phonetic similarity in the German language between the words "fallen" and "Valentine" and since in certain types of epilepsy, particularly tonic-clonic seizures, cause the sufferer to fall in many cases, the condition even came to be known as 'Saint Valentine's Illness, or Affliction'.

Perhaps though, a more appropriate patron saint of epilepsy, would be one of the most famous Christian missionaries in religious history, St. Paul.
This is because it is extremely likely that Paul the Apostle had the condition of epilepsy himself. It's reported in parts of the bible and by the man himself, symptoms that are identical to those experienced in epileptic seizures. In fact the connection between the saint and epilepsy was so strong, that in old Ireland, the condition was known as 'Saint Paul's Disease'.

Today however, despite beliefs that existed hundreds of years ago, we know now that it is extraordinarily unlikely that any saint had the affect of actually curing epilepsy.
What the connection with our patron saint does bring however, is a link to an extremely high profile day within western calendars. Whereas Valentine's day may be seen as over commercialised, epilepsy could do with some of it's publicity.

If that is the case, then it's only to the benefit of people who live with epilepsy today and maybe even our patron saint would help make it easier to find love, by curing the stigma of the condition.

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