You know, if we’re all alive next October seventh, it would be the perfect time to celebrate the Feast of St Osgyth.
Osgyth was the daughter of seventh century minor ruler, Frithuwold of Surrey. Historians doubt that Frithuwold ever actually ruled Surrey; but, if you just yelled out, “Hey Frithuwold!”, half the people in the room would’ve turned around. He’d married Wilburga in an attempt to find a spouse with a name more ridiculous than his.
Although records from that era are almost non-existent, historians can deduce that Osgyth was born at some time or another; in fact, since they know her death was in the year 700 AD, they’ve narrowed down the time of her birth to the period of time that was before 700 AD. You might say, at this point, that historians aren’t worth the money that they are paid; however, you probably don’t know how much they are paid.
Osgyth was sent to a convent in Warwickshire at an early age. The convent was run by Modwenna, who would later be Saint Modwen. Back in the middle ages they were knee-deep in saints; in fact, you couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting one or paying homage to Saint Lucian, the patron saint of swinging dead cats…
Legend has it that Osgyth was sent to another abbess with a book Modwenna wanted the abbess to read. Osgyth, not entirely familiar with the concept of mortality, fell into a river and lay at the bottom for two days. It is said that St. Modwen resurrected the girl and healed the book… although not in that order. Thus was the power of prayer back in the old days when lions had riches.
Well, Osgyth couldn’t stay inside the convent forever. Her uncle, King Wolfhere of Mercia, overlord of Essex and defender of the Alamo, decided she should be married off to Sighere of Essex. Well, the marriage was a wonderful one, if wild passionate sex were not one of the criteria. Seems Osgyth was a sweet girl but as frigid as a polar bear’s butt. She prayed to God to deliver her from this guy who kept showing up in her bedroom wearing nothing but a shift and a hopeful smile. A big deer showed up and she took that as a sign she should run away to a nunnery. Ultimately, she established her own convent in the village of Chich.
When anything was going well in medieval Britain, as a rule of thumb, Danish raiders would show up and ruin everything that wasn’t already ruined by the corrupt rulers and bad sanitation. Osgyth defended her nunnery bravely and very very briefly. The Danish raiders chopped off her head lickety-split and, BAM, she was martyred.
Her ghost is rumored to walk the grounds of St Osyth’s graveyard holding her head in her hands. If you go there, bring a sandwich and make an evening of it…