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History and the Legend of St. Bunstable

I, Mistress Ealasaid nic Phearsoinn, can claim the honor of bringing the legend of St Bunstable and the celebration of his feast day to the Jararvellir.
 
The legend of Bunstable, Patron Saint of Madrone, was set down by Mistress Deirdre Muldomhnaigh, Baroness of Madrone in AS IX.  The celebration of the Feast of Saint Bunstable began in the Barony of Madrone, Principality of An Tir, and in fact my first SCA event was the feast of St Bunstable which was held at Lechbury Abbey (a house jointly rented by several folk of Madrone) in November AS IX. At this time, it was not truly a feast but an informal gathering where the wine and spirts flowed freely. Lechbury Abbey is named for St Lech (another tale set down by Baroness Deirdre Muldomhnaigh).  Subsequently the celebration in Madrone became more formalized, but meanwhile I had moved to Jararvellir and decided to serve as a missionary by bringing the celebration there. My Lord and I held the Feast of St Bunstable in Jararvellir several times between AS XI and XIV and established the new tradition of a Bunstable subtley complete with blue brandy-fire.  Although we moved on, not to return for more than a score of years, we were delighted to hear that the celebration of St Bunstable has survived in Jararvellir.

Bunstable, Martyr, Patron of Madrone
As told by Deirdre Muldomhnaigh

Prologue

These Northern lands are cold and damp and drear
Our weather far too cold for drinking beer
Makes us all flock together for to raise
Our spirits good St Bunstable to praise
How we did learn of this good martyr meek
Will warm thy heart—of this I will now speak

This wondrous tale one night to me was told
By a friar somewhat more dissolute than old.
Better to hear the marvels he did utter,
I sat me down beside him in the gutter

In times long past, in distant Lechbury,
An English abbey far across the sea,
The monks had learned a secret—later lost—
They made from simple wine a splendid sawse.

The spiritual elevation of Bunstable

Since in that abbey Bunstable did dwell,
To his lot in obedience, it fell
To guard the brandy stored in oaken casks,
He bent with humble heart unto his task.

The cellar he did watch in proper spirit,
And vowed he’d never let intruders near it,
But those were troublouos days, the Viking horde
Would oft attack with fire and with sword
Destroying peaceful towns and villages
For there was no defense against their pillages

One day the folk of Lechbury did shiver
When dragonships appeared upon the river.
As the alarm rang out o’er farm and field
Lechburians prepared to flee or yield,
But to the abbey’s cellar came no din,
To where lay Bunstable, with saintly grin
As he lay in well-besotted slumber
And dreamed of casks of brandy without number
His brothers fled to save their mortal hides
From Norsemen who sailed in upon the tide

Their leadr, Bjorn the Terrible, did boast
His hapless victims he was want to roast
Over the ashes of their manuscripts
He thought of well-fed friar and licked his lips.

But when the dragonships had reached the beach,
He found the people fled beyond his reach.
Bjorn, unable to contain his ire
Swore he’d put the abbey to the fire

Thought he that stone would burnz/ We do not know,
For that was far away and long ago.
But wait, spoke up his second in command—
Smite not this building with thy mighty hand
Until we’ve searched it carefully for treasure—
Tis said the monks have hoards beyond all measure.

Well-spoke, cried Bjorn—a-hunting we will go.
Take thou the tower—I will search below.
In poverty this abbey was quite pure—
The monks cared less for gold than for liquer,
And all their liquid measure they did hide
In the casks poor Bunstable did sleep beside.

Bjorn brought a torch to light the darkness vast—
To flames did light the brandy fumes.  A blast
Much like the trump of doom on judgement day
Did shake the earth and even Bjorn did pray,
For he was covered o’er by strange blue flame.
When it died down he found out to his shame
That he’d become completely egg-like bald
“Bjorn the Hairless” he was henceforth called.

The casks had burst, and Bunstable, who’d tended
Them faithfully, to heaven had attended.
He was declared a martyr, in due time
And long did Bjorn the Hairless rue his crime

Bunstable among the saints

The angels stopped Saint Bunstable in flight
And garbed the holy martyr all in white,
Showed him a cloud on which to sit all day
And handed him a golden harp to play

Said he, although I am a martyred monk,
I’d rather be the patron saint of drunks.
This could is cold, the robe is far too soft—
I am unsuited to a life aloft,
And though I wish not to offend the Lord,
I could be honest—frankly I am bored.
He plucked his harp and uttered silent curses,
For all his favorite tunes had bawdy verses.

Poor Bunstable felt very out of place
And hoped he might be banished in disgrace.
Now down below, a thousand years had passed
Since Bunstable had risen on the blast,
But still he missed the life he’d known on earth—
And, sad for want of revelry and mirth,
He asked to visit for a little while.
The angels bathed him in their gentle smiles,
And said, the world has changed more than you know
But, if ‘twoud make you happy, why then go.
So Bunstable was free to walk again,
The world he knew—of common men.

Saint Bunstable’s Mission

First Bunstable went back to England,
But there he saw such changed on each hand
That he did shake his head and sadly sigh
While thinking how the years had passed him by.
Does naught remain? cried Bunstable in woe.
Where are the simple people I did know?
This modern world’s too grim and gray and stark.
It lacks a certain joy, a merry spark
We had in Lechbury in years long gone,
But time has passed and centuries march on.

So traveling with many a mournful moon
He crossed the sea to the Barony of Madrone.
At last he stood with weary body sore
Before a hall and knocked upon the door.
Full stunned was he when it did open wide
To see that his own people were inside,
As though the years between had disappeared.

For joy, the martyr wiped away a tear.
Come join us monk, each reveler did call
As Bunstable stepped forth into the hall.
These are my folk, he thought.  I’m home at last.
He smiled as ‘round the brimming cup was passed

Ambrosia was never like this, he laughed,
And to the dregs another cupful quaffed.
The folk made merry late into the night—
Some reveled faithfully until first light.
The martyr stayed among them till the last
A-singing songs and passing ‘round his flask.

My spirit stays among you! He did cry
Strive not to go to heaven when you die.
A paradise on earth is far more fun
For men of spirit—brandy, gin or rum.
The blessing that I give yo is as follows—
Like Capistrano, you’ll be fame dfor swallows
And then Saint Bunstable did disappear

But he returns from time to time, I hear,
The friar said, he looked at me and smiled.
You know not who I am.  Bless you, my child.
Then as I watched, the friar’s face became
Illuminated by a flickering blue flame
I’ve seen in restaurants that serve food flambé
I realized it was Saint Bunstable’s Day,
And fell upon my knees there in the street.
Stay, Saint Bunstable, I thee entreat!
He shook his head and faded from my sight
And I got most devoutly drunk that night


Posted by: Ealasaid nic Phearsoinn Kingdom Webminister on 11/1/2007

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