The New England regional author Edward Rowe Snow (1902—1982) related a strange and fascinating piece of Nantucket lore in his 1979 book Tales of Terror and Tragedy. Since the volume is long out of print, I will retell it here.Continue reading
In our lives we often encounter people whose behavior seems to make no rational sense. I am referring to people who do things that seem to be against their own self-interest: those who say one thing, but do something else. We ourselves can fall into this trap on occasion. It is almost as if there exists some morbid consciousness in all of us, a voice calling out for us to exactly what we should not do.
Most of us are familiar with the idea of the “patron saint” in Christianity. The doctrine is even found in some branches of Islam. It is a comforting thing to believe that there is someone out there watching over us, and protecting us in an hour of need. I never used to give this idea much serious thought until recent years. But the idea predates Christianity; it was absorbed into Christianity from beliefs that came before it. The idea of the “guardian spirit” was a commonly-accepted one in the late classical world, as this passage from the historian Ammianus Marcellinus reveals: