Poem: for Kentigern (January 13)

Kentigern lived in the second half of the 6th century (AD 550-600), and reputedly founded Glasgow during a preaching tour. Shirley Toulson’s book gives him a lengthier bio than some of the other saints, and there’s also a line-art drawing of the saint standing next to a tree with a bell hanging on it, with a cow lying down.  It’s some strong medicine, I think.  Kentigern’s name means “capital lord”, and I think it may be the case that he is a disguised pagan divinity of some kind; hence his nickname, Mungo – “dear one”.  Druidic?  Yes, likely.  Parts of his story are also heart-breaking, particularly bits about his mother (who should really be a saint in her own right, hence the first verse is for her).

Thaneukes, you wanted a holy life,
but also you hoped to be a mother.
Choosing to be like Mary led to strife:
you were passed from one man to another
then driven off a cliff into the sea.
The villainy men did, God turned to good:
your son Kentigern, full of kindly peace.
By Culross beach, beneath an old oak tree,
he came to this world, the Capital Lord;
the hermit Serf  smiled to see his face.

When time came to leave your foster father,
you traveled with Fergus and untamed bulls
who lay down by Clyde, would go no farther,
and there, at the sea-side, with crying gulls
your choir, you summoned all to prayer.
To become bishop at such a young age!
Truly you were a child of the Sun,
so blessed with peace and knowledge, and so fair.
the men who shamed your mother screamed with rage —
but their power passed, and their reign was done.

The ground rose up to meet you at Annan,
so all the crowds could watch you crown the king,
and trade gifts with many a holy man —
and, it’s said, you could hear the angels sing.
Kentigern, intercede for us this day:
help those who rape women to feel this shame;
and bring honest seekers in range to hear
the angels’ singing; when we stand in clay
of riverbanks, grant us to hear the Name
sung forever – as you heard, in your ear.

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