Today was the Feast of St. George, and I’m posting late, but I’ve had “post something that isn’t whining or apologizing” on my list of things to do for so long that I’m going to post it anyway.
Dragon Hill is a large mound with the top lopped off, and like the surrounding area that’s home to the Uffington White Horse, there’s natural chalk under the surface of the grass and soil. Steps have been carved into the side of the hill and you can climb up – when I was there, it seemed to be prime kite-flying real estate. It was one of several spiritually significant sites I was determined to visit when I was in England a few years ago, and I think I hiked a total of about 15 miles that one afternoon to get to all of the ones that were accessible from the Ridgeway. But it was worth it.
Legend has it that this is the site where St. George slew the dragon. The dragon’s blood spilled and poisoned the soil so nothing can grow on that scarred patch of white chalk showing in the photo. Like many popular saints, George lived and was martryed during the reign of Diocletian, who had a real thing for killing Christians; lots of martyrs were made during his reign. George was a soldier in Diocletian’s army and was tortured before his death in an effort to get him to renounce Christianity, so medieval iconography sometimes included a wheel of swords. The most popular image of George, though, shows him slaying a dragon. A legend grew around him in the centuries after his death, apparently, in which he killed a dragon threatening a woman (in some versions, a maiden who was being sacrified to it so it would spare a city, and in some versions the wife of Diocletian himself, though of course the dragon is also allegorically held to be Satan and/or a suppressed pagan cult/religion).
Crusaders brought the dragon legend back to England with them from the Middle East and over time there were various versions of it. All good medieval romances have knights battling fierce and even monstrous enemies, so this tale circulated along with those of King Arthur and the giant of St. Michael’s Mount and the various escapades of Lancelot and the like, which is how a hill in medieval England came to be associated with a solider serving in the Roman army in the 4th century.
reproduction of a medieval Byzantine icon of St. George
CC BY-SA 3.0: orlovic
For a long time, St. George was the most popular of the military saints in the English-speaking world. Over time, St. Michael’s popularity eclipsed George’s among the so-called military saints, but he remains a popular saint petitioned by those who need assistance in spiritual or secular warfare or battle. He’s also the patron of Boy Scouts, horseback riders, horses, and farmers, and is petitioned by those with disfiguring diseases such as leprosy, syphilis, and herpes.
Sale covers anything in the Saints sale collection, and I’ve included stuff related to prayer and blessing in general in addition to stuff that is strictly saint-related. In addition, anyone using the sale code during checkout will be entered to win the drawing for a relic of sorts – some dirt taken from Dragon Hill in Uffington and a hand-painted St. George holy medal. I don’t have one photographed already, but you can get the idea of what they look like from the below collection of previously painted medals.
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