Peace be with you, my Friends! This is a busy time for many of us with holiday preparations and plans for the New Year. I have been extremely busy myself. Yesterday, December 4th, was the Feast Day of Saint Barbara, a saint to whom I am very close and whom I often invoke when performing spiritual work for myself and others.
Saint Barbara was martyred at the hands of her own father.
According to legend, Barbara was a young martyr who lived during the third century AD under the reign of the Roman emperor Diocletian, a notorious persecutor of Christians. Little is known about her life and various accounts place her birth, life and martyrdom in various locations as far apart as Northern Italy and Armenia. What we do know is that from the very early Middle Ages, there has existed a devotion to this powerful virgin, martyr saint and there is no denying her powerful intercession.
Barbara was the daughter of a powerful Pagan chieftain named Dioscuros who had a fierce hatred of Christians. Barbara began to associate with local Christians who taught her about Jesus and His message of peace, love, hope, charity and eternal life. In secret, she accepted the faith and was baptized. Upon hearing of his daughter’s conversion, Disocuros was enraged and ordered that she be imprisoned in a tower until she returned to her Pagan roots. While imprisoned, Barbara held tightly to the Christian faith and even converted her father’s workers and asked them to build three windows into the tower representing the Holy Trinity-The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This was the final offense for Dioscuros and he sentenced his daughter to death, himself carrying out the sentence taking a sword to her neck.
As Barbara was martyred at the hands of her own father, a lightning bolt came down from heaven striking Dioscorus dead on the spot. That is why Barbara became associated with thunder and lightning and throughout the centuries has been invoked for protection during storms. In fact, in the Spanish language there is an old saying often recited when lightning strikes,
“Santa Bárbara bendita en el cielo estás escrita con papel y agua bendita,”
“Blessed Saint Barbara, you are written in the sky with paper and holy water.”
A popular custom from Cuba and Puerto Rico is to burn a small piece of palm that has been blessed on Palm Sunday and recite the above refrain during a thunderstorm to invoke Saint Barbara’s blessing and protection.
Devotion to Barbara is popular in various cultures and locations throughout the world. She is venerated in the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Coptic Churches. In parts of Lebanon and Syria, Christian children observe her feast day as an equivalent to the western celebration of Halloween, wearing costumes and gathering to have parties and eat sweets. In the Afro–Cuban religion of Santeria, Saint Barbara is associated with the Yoruba Orisha Changó, a powerful warrior who has dominion over thunder and lightning. We will not concern ourselves with Changó here, since the focus is the Christian Saint Barbara and not her syncretic relationship to Changó. The associating however is worth mentioning since it inspired one of the most iconic, and I feel powerful and motivating, songs of popular Cuban music of the past century: Que Viva Changó, by Celina Gonzalez.
According to Celina herself, when she was newly married, in the late 1940’s, she was cleaning her modest country home, and out of nowhere Saint Barbara appeared and stood in her kitchen. Celina fell to her knees and promised the saint that she would compose a song in her honor. Celina Gonzalez in a known practitioner of Santeria, but other than the refrain “Que viva Changó,” “Long Live Chango,” the lyrics to the song are clearly about Saint Barbara.
Celina sings in Spanish, “Blessed Saint Barbara, my lyre rise for you, we become inspired to sing and compose in front of your beautiful image. Venerated and pure virgin, Blessed Saint Barbara, you stand with your chalice and most holy sword.” In the end, she promises,
“haré que tu nombre suba, en el nombre de mi Cuba este saludo de envío,”
“I will make your name rise up, in the name of my Cuba and I send you this greeting.”
After recording and releasing this song, Celina shot to unprecedented levels of fame and instantly become an icon of Cuban culture. Curiously, Celia Cruz, another amazingly talented singer, mentions Saint Barbara in her song La Dicha Mía, saying,
“Santa Bárbara bendita, de mi suerte eres dueña,”
“Blessed Saint Barbara you are the mistress of my luck.”
These two examples are proof to me of how this miraculous saint blesses and protects those who are devoted to her.
Saint Barbara is often invoked in matters of protection and to overcome difficult situations, as she is a fierce warrior for God, firm in her faith. She is part of a special group of saints known as the Fourteen Holy Helpers, popular since the 1300’s and invoked against illness, sudden death and death without receiving the last rites. In more modern times, especially in Voodoo and Hoodoo circles, she is invoked in love rituals because she is filled with passion and zeal, qualities desired in a lover. In any case, there is no denying that she protective of those devoted to her. I encourage those reading this blog to include Saint Barbara in their prayers. It never hurts to have a powerful and protective saint on your side!
I hope you have enjoyed learning about Saint Barbara. If you decide to seek the help of this miraculous saint, please share your experiences with me. I will come back later this month with some ideas about what services you can perform at the end of the month to bring luck in the New Year. Until then, I wish you peace, love and the sweetest of blessings!