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Margaret, St

by Micha F. Lindemans
Saint Margaret of Antioch

The historical record for this saint is negligible, and her story largely started in the Middle Ages. It's probable that a Marina or Margaret was martyred by Diocletian around 304 ad, certainly there were a lot of Christians being put to death at that time, and a name found on an obscure list turned into legend.

Margaret (Known as Marina in the Orthodox faith) was the daughter of a pagan priest in Pisidian Antioch, Asia Minor (modern Turkey). She was also one of the most beautiful women alive in her time. When her mother died she was raised by her nursemaid, a Christian woman and who converted her. Subsequently she was thrown out of her father's home for turning on the family faith, and lived as a shepardess.

The Roman Prefect of Antioch, Olybrius, saw the young woman, and wanted her. When she refused to marry him, he had her imprisoned. Accounts vary at this point, but Satan or another of his demons visted her in the form of a handsome man, and offered her release from her cell in exchange for her giving up her virginity. She saw through the demon's guise and promptly beat him to the ground, planted her foot on his neck and humiliated the fiend fiercely before commanding him to return to hell.

Enraged by this defeat, Satan sent a dragon to her cell to slay the impudent virgin. All accounts say her crucifix slew the monster, some have her holding it before the dragon and it died, other pictures and accounts give her a crucifix/shepards staff that she was permitted to keep in her cell, and she slew the dragon with it. The best known account has the dragon swallow her whole, but she makes her crucifix grow in size until it rips the dragon open and she emerged from it's belly. This feat is how she became associated with childbirth despite her virginity, though some accounts said that she would hear the prayers of women in childbirth.

She refused to concede to Olybrius' demands and ultimately he had her condemned and sentenced to die. She emerged from fire unhurt, broke her chains and swam out of boiling water, and finally had to be beheaded.

St. Margaret is often depicted as standing on or trampling a dragon, sometimes leading a tamed dragon on a leash. Her heraldry symbol is a silver long sword like crucifix impaling a yellow dragon on a purple field. St. Margaret's feast day is July 20th for the Catholic Church (though her cult was officially supressed by the Church in 1969) and July 13th for the Orthodox church.

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