This essay argues that the South English Legendary's life of Saint Margaret, patron saint of childbirth, reflects the devotional practice of imitatio Christi when it represents labor pains not as the shameful curse of Eve but as a miraculous moment in which the mother is united with Christ through her pain. Analysis of five late fourteenth- and fifteenth-century manuscripts reveals that the legend is fashioned as a practical guide to the experience and rituals of childbirth. The legend also suggests that the act of engaging with Margaret's life (whether through prayer, reading, or listening) functions in a way similar to the rite of baptism by evoking the saint's protection of mothers and infants during childbirth. More so than other late medieval versions of her life, the SEL life of Margaret connects bodily and salvific suffering, emphasizing the shared experience of pain among laboring woman, saint, and Christ.
Spiritual Suffering and Physical Protection in Childbirth in the South English Legendary Lives of Saint Margaret
Allison Adair Alberts; Spiritual Suffering and Physical Protection in Childbirth in the South English Legendary Lives of Saint Margaret. Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 1 May 2016; 46 (2): 289–314. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10829636-3491810
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