May 30

St Dymphna’s Day

If you think that your family dynamics are odd or distressing, spare a thought for young Dymphna, a 7th-century daughter of a petty Irish king named Damon.

As a teenager Dymphna took a vow of chastity, an act which would lead to her persecution and death. Her father, you see, had conceived an unnatural attraction for the girl after the death of his beloved wife. As she was the image of her beautiful mother, Damon vowed he would marry her. Creeped out by this news, Dymphna fled to the Continent with her priestly confessor and the court fool. This menagerie settled in a village in what is now Belgium.

When Damon tracked her down, he had his men kill the priest and tried to force his daughter to return with him to Ireland. She resisted and, in a rage, she chopped off her head. Her tomb attracted those seeking a miraculous cure from a variety of derangements. To this day, the town where she is buried has a reputation for caring for the mentally ill.

Dymphna may be invoked against sleepwalking, epilepsy, insanity, mental disorders, neurological disorders and epilepsy. She is the patron saint of family happiness, incest victims, loss of parents, martyrs, mental asylums, mental health caregivers, mentally ill people, the demon-possessed, princesses, psychiatrists, rape victims, and runaways.

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