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A note on the name Kumerana

I ran into this name in my genealogical researches where it appeared in the 18th century Black Forest area. It was the name of a first wife of an ancestor of mine, Kumerana Essig, who not in my direct line, but the name is so unusual that it drew my attention. What does it mean? Could it be a clue of some kind?

I asked everyone, but none could tell me. "Some very old Latin name," some conjectured.

But happily, after so many years, I have finally found out!

It's a saint's name.

This makes it even stranger though that I was unable to find out before. After all, the saints are well documented.

But there were a couple of wrinkles. First of all, this saint is not an officially recognized one, but rather more of a cult figure. She was officially de-canonized in 1969 (along with Nicholas, Christopher and others I suppose). Secondly, this saint's tradition apparently started in Portugal, but in every land bears a different name. So it's no wonder she was difficult to track down.

Actually, this fact makes me suspect that the story is older than saints and Christianity.

Anyway, here it is, the story of St. Kumerana, better known as St. Wilgefortis (from Old German "heilige Vartez", "holy face"), who is also known as St. Uncumber (England), St. Kümmernis (Germany, meaning "grief"), St. Komina, St. Comera, St. Hulfe, St. Ontcommene or St. Ontcommer (Low Countries), St. Dignefortis, St. Eutropia, St. Reginfledis and St. Livrade (Gascony) amongst others, her story appears to date from 14th century Flanders, and features in the writings of Pope Gregory the Great.

However, in the story Wilgefortis is a septuplet daughter of the king of Portugal. The king was a pagan [already this story is problematic as there was no pagan king of Portugal], but by the time of their twelfth birthday God had revealed himself to the children and they had converted to Christianity.

One day the king, for reasons, of political expediency settled on the King of Sicily as a marriage candidate for Wilgefortis. Unfortunately, she had sworn a solemn vow of chastity and the king of Sicily was a pagan. She begged and pleaded with her father, but he stood resolute: she must marry the king.

On the night before the wedding Wilgefortis prayed one last time: "My God, I have sworn to you a sacred vow of chastity, and yet tomorrow I shall be a bride. If it is your will that I may be saved from this fate, then let it be, but I am your servant, and your will be done."

The next morning she came out from her room and went downstairs to breakfast, but as she entered the dining room she was greeted by looks of astonishment on the faces of everyone. It was immediately obvious to everyone that her prayers had been answered, that God had indeed performed a miracle, and that the wedding could not go ahead. For overnight, on her young face, by God's will, Wilgefortis had grown a full beard and moustache.

The wedding was cancelled and Wilgefortis' erstwhile suitor returned home. Shamed and humiliated in front of his friends, his allies, and his country, the king ordered that Wilgefortis should be immediately crucified.

While Wilgefortis was hanging upon her dreadful cross, there was passing through the land a homeless fiddler, who had come to try to make a little money by playing his fiddle for the entertainment of the crowds at the wedding. Of course the scene that greeted him was very different from the mass-celebrations that he had been expecting. But as one would expect when instead he found a twelve-year-old bearded girl being crucified, he took out his fiddle and played her a few tunes, in an attempt to bring a little pleasure to her final agonising moments. In gratitude for this kindness Wilgefortis kicked off one of her royal boots, made of the finest gold cloth, and worth we may assume a considerable amount of money. The fiddler took this, thanked her, and went on his way. However before long he was arrested, and accused of having stolen the boot. He protested his innocence, but was away taken to be locked in prison in preparation for his execution. Desperately, he begged to be allowed to play his fiddle for Wilgefortis one more time. He was granted this wish, and in the company of the arresting officers, he approached the crucified girl, now all but dead, and played for her once more. As he finished, miraculously Wilgefortis kicked off her other golden boot. Of course this established his innocence beyond all doubt, and he was allowed to go free and to keep the boots which now made him a wealthy man.

Read more on this at wikipedia


This page last updated Tue Aug 21 21:53:00 UTC 2007 (created Tue Aug 21 21:53:00 UTC 2007).
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