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November 23 | Feast day of St Clement (Pope Clement I, or Clement of Rome), martyr

(Convex wood sorrel, Oxalis convexula is today's plant, dedicated to this saint)

St Clement, the fourth pope of the Roman Catholic Church, the first of the successors of the Apostle St Peter about whom anything definite is known, and the first of the ‘Apostolic Fathers’, is the patron saint of tanners, as, by tradition, he was one himself. His symbol is an anchor, as he was thrown into the sea tied to an anchor. He is also patron of boatmen, marble workers, mariners, sailors, sick children, stonecutters and watermen.

A Clement is mentioned by St Paul in Philippians, iv, 3, but there is no evidence to assume that he was this Clement, who is said to have been the third or fourth pope (the Vatican's Annuario Pontificio (2003) cites a reign from 92 to 99). A 9th century tradition says he was martyred in the Crimea in 102, but earlier sources say he died a natural death.

After Clement, or Old Clem as he was known to English blacksmiths, was martyred (if he was), two of his disciples prayed to find his remains: the sea retreated for 3 miles, and they could walk to where an angel-built chapel was, with St Clement's remains in a chest of stone, by the anchor. Every year the sea did so, on St Clement's day and remained dry for seven days.

Children in pre-Reformation England went in procession on this day, and at night, adults went out to beg a drink. Hence this day was marked with a pot on old ‘clog almanacs’. (A clog almanac was a primitive almanac or calendar, originally made of a 'clog', or log of wood. The sharp edge of each of its four faces was divided by notches into three months, every week being marked by a large notch. The face to the left of the notched edge contained the saints’ days, festivals, phases of the moon, and so on in Runic characters, for which reason the 'clog' was also called a Runic staff.)


In the Midlands of England, children used to go 'clementing' for fruit and pennies, singing a rhyme about St Clement....

Sources include Pennick, Nigel, The Pagan Book of Days, Destiny Books, Rochester, Vermont, USA, 1992, p. 129; Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1911; Wikipedia et al

More after the jump.

St Clements, St Clements comes once in a year
Apples and pears are very good cheer
Got no apples, money will do
Please to give us one of the two
Father's at work and Mother's at play
Please to remember St Clement's Day.

St Clement is also patron of blacksmiths. On November 22 in the Book of Days we looked at St Clement’s Eve activities amongst that trade. At the annual blacksmiths’ feast held at Burwash, Sussex, St Clement was said to stand protectively above the tavern door.

Effigy of carpenter hung, Tenby, England
In Tenby, England, followers of St Crispin (see October 24, 25) hung up on St Clement’s Day an effigy of a carpenter, which they kicked around. Why is uncertain to your almanackist, but presumably due to a rivalry that still tends to exist between metalworkers and woodworkers.

Old Clem and Wayland the Smith

Used in 'Fair use'

Wayland (far right) works in his smithy, while his brother Egil fights King Nithuth of Nerike (Nidud of Nericia; 'Bitter Hater').
Detail from the lid of the Franks Casket, a chest of carved whale-ivory from Northumbria, England c. 700 CE.

There was a king in Sweden named Nithuth. He had two sons and one daughter; her name was Bothvild. There were three brothers, sons of a king of the Finns: one was called Slagfith, another Egil, the third Völund. They went on snowshoes and hunted wild beasts. They came into Ulfdalir and there they built themselves a house; there was a lake there which is called Ulfsjar. Early one morning they found on the shore of the lake three women, who were spinning flax ... read on at Völundarkvitha, The Lay of Völund

St Clement’s day marks the first day of Winter in the Julian (OS) calendar. As patron of blacksmiths and metalworkers, Clement is an aspect of the Saxon and Norse godling Wayland the Smith (Weyland; Weland; Watlende), cognate of the North-Germanic/Norse Völundr, the smith of the gods, who was the son of the giant sailor Wate and of a mermaid. We know from the Volundarkvida/Volundakvitha, a chapter in the Elder Edda. He is sometimes said to be the ruler of the dark elves (svartalfar).

Swords made by Wayland are regular properties of medieval romance. King Rhydderich gave one to Merlin – King Arthur’s famous sword Excalibur. Rimenhild made a similar gift to Child Horn. Wayland forged the sword Balmung, and the armor in which Beowulf fought Grendel. In Teutonic legend he is also said to have forged a sword for his son Heime that was wielded by Miming and then by Hodur.

In the Dietrich cycle of sagas, Völundr’s brother Egill was compelled to prove his skill as an archer by shooting an apple off the head of his three-year-old son; he is thus the prototype of William Tell.
The earliest known record of the Wayland legend is the representation in carved ivory on a casket made by Northumbrian craftsmen not later than the beginning of the 8th century. English local tradition has it that Wayland Smith’s forge (Wayland's Smithy) is in a cave, known as Wayland's Smithy, a long barrow and chamber tomb site located near the Uffington White Horse and Uffington Castle in the English county of Oxfordshire, close to the famous White Horse of Uffington.

If a horse that needs to be shod, or any broken tool were left with sixpence (or the smallest silver coin, a groat) on the capstone at the entrance of the cave the repairs would quickly be done, presumably either by the deity or his apprentice, Flibbertigibbet. Or, so it is said. The apprentice so exasperated his master that Wayland once lifted the boy and hurled him as far away as he could and where Flibbertigibbet, or Snivelling as he is also known, landed he remained, petrified. He became a stone used as a boundary marker in a field called Snivelling Corner by Odstone Farm.

It is believed by some that Wayland might have been associated with the Neolithic site at Uffington for many centuries before the Saxons recognized him as Wayland. The Ancient Britons might have been accustomed to making votive offerings to a local god.

In recent years, at this and other ancient sites, such as the West Kennet Long Barrow, offerings have been left in the form of flowers, nuts, grain, fruit, and feathers, presumably by visiting Neo-Pagans.

The earliest extant record of the Wayland legend is found in carved ivory on what is known as the Franks casket (Auzon casket), made in Northumbria not later than the beginning of the 8th century. It only came to light in the 19th century, in France where it was being was used as a family workbox at Auzon, France, and was donated to The British Museum by one of its greatest benefactors, Sir Augustus Franks, after whom the casket is named. The carvings of images and runes depict other characters and events from history, myths and legend, including Romulus and Remus, the Adoration of the Magi, and the Fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE to the Roman Emperor Titus.

In Celtic mythology, a certain blacksmith was known as Cullan of Ulster, owner of a fierce hound; when Setanta the son of Lugh, killed the cur, he became known as CuChulain, the Hound of Cullan.

Sources include Pennick, Nigel, The Pagan Book of Days, Destiny Books, Rochester, Vermont, USA, 1992, p. 129; Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1911; Wikipedia et al