Ever since the first St. Fiona Day in 1996, my friends and I have celebrated this little known saint on April 1. While her day may coincide with April Fools’ Day, I assure you that she is no joke. One day back in 1996 when two young women were hanging out in their dorm room, the story of St. Fiona made itself known to them. Call it divine intervention or a whimsy of imagination, but that was the moment that St. Fiona Day was invented. This story is dedicated to Ann, the co-discoverer of St. Fiona. Here’s to our 19th year celebrating this day! May the spirit of St. Fiona inspire poems, stargazing & tasty beverages!
St. Fiona O’Shniggy of the Village Kincaid
Patron Saint of Drunkards, Poets & Stargazers
St. Fiona Day: April 1
St. Fiona O’Shniggy is the patron saint of drunkards, poets and stargazers. She lived during the tenth century in Ireland when she popularized the constellation Orion in song and verse. Unfortunately her songs have not survived over the centuries as they were destroyed shortly after her death at the tender age of 23. After her death, Fiona’s ideas were found to be against those held by the Catholic Church. This led to her eventual excommunication and the destruction of all of her work. Fiona wrote extensively in her journal about the equality that should exist between women and men. These private journals were found by her uncle shortly after her death. Unfortunately, he passed them on to the Catholic Church, thinking this is what Fiona would have wanted due to her extreme devotion to God. Although this is what led to the destruction of her writings, brief glimpses into Fiona’s life and ideas live on through the writings of her uncle. After handing over the journals to the church, he was so moved by his gifted niece that he put down his own thoughts on her writings in his journals and letters.
Fiona had learned to write in secret from her brother, who was four years her senior. Very few women were allowed to write at this time in Ireland. Ever since she was a child, Fiona was fascinated by everything around her in nature and in the human spirit. Fiona would often wander around at night, looking up at the stars, and Orion came to be her favorite constellation. In a letter to her brother she remarked, “Something so beautiful must surely be a gift from God.” She wrote seventeen poems and six songs about it. Several of her songs were turned into drinking songs by the locals that she helped when they passed out drunk in one of the many local pubs. As a devout Catholic and the daughter of two alcoholic parents, Fiona felt it was important to help those less fortunate than her (this of course included the town drunks).
As for her fascination with Orion, it eventually killed her at the age of 23. One night she was out wandering through an open field, admiring her favorite grouping of stars. She never saw the well below her feet, and fell down it. Nobody knows how long she was there. They found scratch marks on the side of the well like she had tried to get out. The most remarkable thing about the scene was the position of the body. Fiona’s head was tilted up as if to take one last glance from earth at Orion. The last that anyone heard from her was what she said to her brother before she left on that fateful night. She told him that she was going to look at her beautiful Orion that God had given to her and all the world.
Several years after her excommunication, a man that she knew when he was a child became Pope. He had remembered the wonderful soda bread that Fiona had made for him as well as her stimulating philosophical conversation, and he figured that maybe she was not as bad as the Catholic Church originally had said she was. His first official act was to see to Fiona’s canonization.
UPDATE : Want more about St. Fiona? Check out this April 2017 post, which includes part of a lost poem of St. Fiona and more details about her life.