Saint Margaret of Antioch by Peter Candid (second half of the 16th century)
Feast: 20 Jul
In the West Margaret is known as Margaret of Antioch of Margaret the Virgin. However, in the Eastern churches, she is referred to as Saint Marina the Great Martyr.
Margaret was born in 289 in Antioch. Her father was named Aedesius and was a pagan priest. Her mother died shortly after her birth and she was cared for by a Christian woman who lived near the city. Margaret embraced Christianity and consecrated her virginity to God which resulted in her being disowned by her father. The woman who raised her adopted her.
Olybrius, Governor of the Roman Diocese of the East, asked to marry her demanding that she renounce Christianity, but Margaret refused. She was tortured for refusing but, during her imprisonment, experienced various miracles.One of these miracles involved Satan taking the shape of a dragon and swallowing her. She escaped alive when the cross she carried irritated the dragon’s organs. The Golden Legend, a collection of hagiographies compiled by Blessed Jacobus de Varagine in 1260, describes this as “apocryphal and not to be taken seriously”.
Another version of this miracle has the dragon vanishing when she made the Sign of the Cross before he was able to devour her.
Some accounts say that a demon approached her in the form of a man asking her to leave him alone but Margaret was not fooled. She grabbed him by the head, threw him to the ground, put her right foot on his head and said: “Lie still at last, proud demon, under the foot of a woman!” to which the demon cried out “O blessed Margaret, I’m beaten! If I’d been beaten by a young man I wouldn’t mind, but by a tender girl …! And I feel even worse because your father and mother were friends of mine!”
Despite its dubious status, the account seems to have inspired a passage in JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. During the final battle a warrior approaches a demonic creature called the Black Captain who is riding a dragon-like creature.Black Captain: Hinder me? Thou fool. No living man may hinder me!
Warrior: But no living man am I! You look upon a woman. Éowyn I am, Eomund’s daughter. You stand between me and my lord and kin. Be gone, if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you, if you touch him [Théoden].
… A swift stroke she dealt, skilled and deadly. The outstretched [dragon’s] neck she clove asunder, and the hewn head fell like a stone. Backward she sprang as the huge shape crashed to ruin, vast wings outspread, crumpled on the earth; and with its fall the shadow passed away. A light fell about her, and her hair shone in the sunrise.
Éowyn, with help from Merry, strikes the Black Captain in the face with her sword causing him to disappear from Middle Earth.
There is a complete lack of any documents supporting the existence Margaret of Antioch. It is likely there never was such a person. Technically she is still recognized by the Roman Catholic Church
© 2018 Gary J. Sibio. All rights reserved.