Thursday, 18 February 2010

'Cuando llueve en San Canuto, tres meses justos'

That's an old Spanish saying (refrán) that loosely translated means 'If it rains on Saint Canute, three exact months' - in other words, it rains for another three months. The Day of Saint Canute (image of Knut the Holy being murdered - find out why below) was on January 19th. Was it raining then? You bet it was. So, Dear Reader, according to the refrán and a good friend we met this morning who told us about old Canute, it will rain until April 19 - off and on in Southern Spain. Another saying adds that if it rains on Ash Wednesday (yesterday) it will rain until Easter, which this year starts on April 1. Double whammy! But who was Saint Canute?>
To start with, he was Denmark's first saint. According to Wikipedia, Canute IV of Denmark (c. 1043 – July 10, 1086) was King of Denmark from 1080 until 1086. An ambitious king who sought the English throne, he attempted to strengthen the Danish monarchy, and devoutedly supported the Roman Catholic Church. Slain by rebels in 1086, he is recognized by the Roman Catholic Church as patron saint of Denmark.

He was the illegitimate son of Sweyn II Estridsson. Before he became king of Denmark, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle reports that Canute was one of the leaders of a Viking raiding expedition against England in 1075. On its return from England, the Danish raiders' fleet stopped in the County of Flanders. Because of its hostility toward William I of England, Flanders was a natural ally for the Danes. (He was martyred Read more on Wikipedia here.)

Was he the same one who sat at the seaside trying to turn back the tide? No, that was his great-uncle Canute the Great, no saint he and an ineffective wassermeister.

So what has he to do with Spain? Not a lot, except that, as a Roman Catholic Saint, his feast day is celebrated by the church.

But there is more. In Spanish a canuto has several meanings: 1. a tube; 2. a joint or spliff; 3. a Protestant (in Chile at least). Pasarlas canutas is translated as 'having a terrible time', too. A fairly obvious etymological conclusion if related to the saint's being assasinated back in 1086.

The second meaning, however, has its devotees. A website called Friends of María might easily be confused with that of devotees of the Virgen Mary, but no, maría is a Spanish euphemism for marihuana. And there is the 'alternative' image of San Canuto pictured here (note his book and his right hand). Saint Spliff's Day is naturally on January 19 in a nice piece of religious syncretism. Has this alternative saint anything to do with rain? No idea, man, leave me alone...

1 comment:

Tanya said...

Well thats really cheered me up reading that!