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is medically impossible for a human being (but maybe not for a saint) to still live with his head severed from his body. History loves to have these sorts of twists from early centuries which we define in our modern times as legends. But, what if these legends are true? Even if people back in the day would believe everything you would tell them, they also spoke a lot more truth than today.

Legend or Divinity?

Saint Justus was only 9 years old when he was beheaded because he was a Christian in third-century France. However, his body raised its head and he began to say a prayer. This frightened the soldiers who beheaded him and tried to attack him again, then fled. The boy’s body was found by his father, holding his head in his hands, and at that moment he began to speak again. His head became a sacred object of worship.

Other such examples are those of Saint-Denis in Paris, considered the most famous, for the fact that he carried his head in his hands for 6 miles from Montmartre to the place where his basilica was to be built. The number of these cases is 120, those who went through this experience of being martyred by the Church.

An unexplained Phenomenon

Christian saints are not the only ones who survived after having their heads separated from the body. In the Celtic culture, there was a fixation on this part of the body, and some pre-Celtic stories also evoked this theme, which makes us ask: Were the stories of these Christians inspired by these elements of Celtic culture? Or did they appear independently?

The cases of Christian saints are not the only ones. In the myths of ancient Greece, the head of Orpheus, separated from the body by Maenad (the Thracian priestesses of Dionysus), continued to transmit prophets. This idea is also found in Welsh legends.

Pentheus being torn by Maenads (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

It is tempting to believe that the legend of Justus is closely linked to Celtic culture, especially since the Celtic winter holidays are likened to Christmas. However, art historian Scott Montgomery studied this problem and discovered a series of legends that had the same theme and which, according to him, signified the power of the saints after death and located them in a position of superiority, deifying them. In his view, there is absolutely no connection between Celtic culture and these legends of Christian saints, and the reason for this connection was the geographical distance between the two types of legends and the conjuncture in which they were disseminated.

“We have no evidence that anyone knows these Celtic legends, which are isolated from the western part of the British Isles, before this practice appeared in Italy or France. The place where this method appeared has nothing to do with the place where the legends appeared “, he stated.

There is clear evidence that in Celtic culture, which spread to Europe and the British Isles until the time of the Roman conquest a few hundred years before the first millennium of our era began, there was no such fixation on the head separated from the body. However, the evidence on Celtic religious culture is extremely fragile, and researchers have become increasingly skeptical about how these legends can give us valuable information about the past of Celtic culture.

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