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18: St. Valentine

Today I learned something interesting and thought I would share it with others who read this blog. It started with a meme that was posted on a Facebook group I frequent. It said that Saint Valentine is commonly known as the patron saint of lovers, but is also the patron saint of epileptics. I was curious if this was indeed based in fact, so I did a bit more digging. While I do not subscribe to organized religion, and consider myself more of an agnostic, being a student of anthropology has nonetheless fascinated me with religion in general.


I usually don't like to discuss religion, but I will try to approach from an unbiased point of view and keep things academic. From an objective point of view, the idea of patron saints is interesting. It gives a face to otherwise faceless concepts, and having something relatable to rest your troubles on gives hope to those in need of it.


There is no sure reason as to why St. Valentine is the patron saint of epilepsy. But there are two leading theories. When trying to find a patron saint for something like epilepsy, it is hard to find any strong ties. St. Paul was recorded to have experienced something like seizures during his travels, but when the assignation was made, that may have been too estranged a concept to the common person, most of whom could not read and likely only knew the most basic of Bible stories. Considering this, an audible correlation was easiest and most powerful.


The first, and most likely, is that it may come from the German word for falling "fallend" when pronounced it sounds very similar to "Valentine." Epilepsy, once known as the "falling sickness" was likely connected via the aforementioned similarity. St. Valentine is also known to protect from fainting. While there is no audible similarity, it does also tie in to the concept of "falling sickness." The second, and less likely theory, is based on an unverified story of a 3rd century bishop named Valentine Von Terni who stopped a child's seizure through supernatural means. This would sound like the number one theory, but there is very little evidence to support these events, or anything like them, ever occurred.


What do you think? Did I miss a likely reason? If you think so, let me know in the comments!





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