• P.M. Neist

A prayer to Saint Margaret

I am starting a new series about the female saints, the early ones, from the first century BC to the early Middle Ages, when Christianity was the new cool thing and mostly young people defied conventions and authority to be martyred in the name of a religion that was little more than a sect. There are many parallels between those times and ours: a decline of the political structure, terrorism, an out-of-touch ruling class, culture of excesses, and a new generation looking for answers and a redistribution of power.

The female saints had it rough, often raped, beaten, tortured, beheaded or used for circus games. Sainthood never was for the faint of heart.

I came upon Saint Margaret of Antioch at the Cluny Medieval Museum of Paris where I made a quick sketch of the woman cradling a baby while piecing a dragon with her lance. I was attracted bu the matter-of-fact way in which she tackled the task: just another day of casual dragon-slaying.

Patron Saint of childbearing, Margaret never had a kid of her own. It is her ability to overcome her fears that is celebrated. Childbearing used to be a dicey business. We like to think all is well now that we have modern medicine but this is far from reality. In spite of staggering health care costs, the United States has the highest rate of both maternal death and infant mortality than any other developed country.

This Saint Margaret has a definite modern look but her gesture of protection is as ancient as motherhood itself. The dragon is my take on the medieval version I had sketched in Paris. The baby is my granddaughter, Stella. The piece was crated with printed cotton and hand-embroidered vintage fabric .

Just a short week after creating this artwork, our second grandchild was born a month premature. The experience of a less-than-deal birth was sobering and scary. As of today, little Henry is fine, at home and thriving and none of us want to imagine all that could have gone wrong and thankfully, did not. This artwork is dedicated to the nurses, doctors, midwives, social workers and social activists who work relentlessly to make childbirth a safer process.

#chilbirth #portrait #saints #margaret #handembroidery


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