Sacrificing the Goat - Sarah Woodbury

Sacrificing the Goat

Ann Aguirre, at Writer’s Unboxed, wrote last week:  “People will tell you to do this or that to make it in this business. Sacrifice a goat. Knock three times on the ceiling if you want me. Never write at 3 a.m. Stop killing your main characters. (Okay, maybe that one’s good advice.) The truth of the matter is: there is no one truth path to publication. There are no magic beans. Nobody has a secret formula for success, and nobody’s writing process is cast in gold. For most people it takes trial and error to determine what will work best.”

I’m still stuck on the goat part, so was looking up to whom I could sacrifice a goat, were I to go that route.  First off, is the Hindu goddess Saraswati.  She is the consort of Lord Brahma and possesses the powers of speech, wisdom and learning.  “She has four hands representing four aspects of human personality in learning; mind, intellect, alertness and ego.”  That sounds about right (write:)

Next up is the Greek god Momus:  “the god of satire, mockery, censure, writers, poets; a spirit of evil-spirited blame and unfair criticism.”  Ha.

There was a Celtic god of writers–Ogma–who was the god of eloquence. “Ogma is a god who weaves language, a patron of the filidh (Gaelic poets-seers).”

The one that sounds best, however, is the St. Francis de Sales, the patron Saint of Writers, not only because he himself wrote, but because of the manner in which he did it.  The following web page is worth quoting in its entirety:

“The custom of having a patron saint for a particular occupation is nowadays viewed primarily as a Catholic tradition, but the idea actually predates Christianity.  Before there were saints there were gods and goddesses, and no occupation lacked an appropriate deity to whom one might address one’s prayers.  As an illustration of how far this went, it is documented in ancient sources that Aradia, the daughter of Diana, was the patron goddess of thieves and prostitutes.

Moving from robbers and hookers to writers and saints – a huge leap, one hopes – we come to St. Francis de Sales, the official patron saint of authors and journalists.  Why him?  According to Catholic Online, “He is patron saint of journalists because of the tracts and books he wrote.”  De Sales was quite the writer, but we think there are other reasons as well that particularly qualify him for the job.

Take, for example, his view toward his writing schedule: “”I have more than fifty letters to answer. If I tried to hurry over it all, I would be lost. So I intend neither to hurry nor to worry. This evening, I shall answer as many as I can.  Tomorrow I shall do the same and so I shall go on until I have finished.”  Sound familiar?

But there’s more.  De Sales knew how to deal with rejection; really knew.  Francis spent three years trudging through the countryside with his cousin, determined to convert Calvinists back to Catholicism.  He slept in haylofts when available, elsewhere when not, and on one memorable occasion tied himself to a branch in a tree so that he would not: a) be killed by wolves, and; b) fall out of the tree.  He was so frozen the next morning that he had to be cut down from the tree.  At the end of three years, he’d made zero converts and his cousin deserted him.  So he kept on.  One hardly thinks him a man who would be deterred by the occasional rejection slip.

And then, of course, there’s the self-publishing and promotional aspect.  Since no one would listen to Francis, he wrote sermons, copied them by hand, and then slipped them under people’s doors.  By the time Francis headed back home, he’d made 40,000 converts by this method.  A writer’s writer, if you will.  And certainly, for writers, a sympathetic saint.”

Finally, there’s St. Jude, the patron saint of fools and hopeless causes.  Oh dear, maybe it really should be to him 🙂

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