written by Michael Oudyn
It turns out there is a patron saint of hangovers. Santa Bibiana is her name, preventing hangovers is her game. Why such an obviously useful saint is virtually unknown is one of the great mysteries of our times.
Her hagiography goes something like this. Bibiana lived in 4th century Rome with her pious Christian family all of whom were persecuted and/or martyred by the Romans. Our Bibiana, a real looker, steadfastly refused to renounce Christianity so she was handed over to a vicious lesbian called Ruffina who first tried to seduce her and then tried to force her into prostitution. But our Bibiana held firm. So a totally frustrated Ruffina fell into rage and had Bibiana tortured in various hideous ways, including the drinking of molten lead. But Bibiana “endured the torments with joy” and died a martyrs death. “Her body was then left for the dogs, but none would touch her.” Two days later she was buried.
All this is well and good but how did this teetotaling prodigy of chastity and Christian zealousness become the patron saint of hangovers?
It is said that upon her burial “mysterious and magical herbs” grew up around her grave and that it was these herbs that worked the miracles. A church was built over her grave in Rome. In the Middle Ages pilgrims to the holy site of Santa Bibiana would scrape dust from its columns and eat it which worked the same hangover magic as the original herbs did. Some, heretics no doubt, say the whole thing is nothing more than a harmless little play on words, Bibilus which means “to be fond of drinking” morphs into Bibiana. Or maybe drinking molten lead is the hangover link.
In any case Santa Bibiana has found her way onto several top saints lists. She has been named the third most “useful” saint for Irish people and the sixth “most unusual saint.” Let’s face it, it’s hard to out-unusual the likes of St. Mangus of Fusson, the patron saint of caterpillars, or St. Hubert of Liege who protects us from werewolves. She also turns up #5 on “The best saints for normal guys’ prayers.” St. Fiacre, the saint against STD’s, is #2.
December 2 is Saint Bibiana’s feast day. Oops, missed it again. But how about making amends next December 2 with a totally spiritual Bibiana booze bash? I suggest we first say a little prayer to this much neglected saint. Then we down copious quantities of Frascati which would honor her Roman origins and definitely put her anti-hangover powers to the test. And why not a glass or two of Chianti Ruffino, in memory of Ruffina, her lesbian tormentor.