Swithun vs. Molly Brant

"Wait, St. Swithun was a real person?" We get that a lot. "Wait, Molly Brant was a real person?" We never get that. Nonetheless, welcome to the first and only Saturday match-up of Lent Madness 2015. Go ahead, sleep late and dally over your coffee while you read about these two saintly souls. But don't get used to it: after today's battle, voting will return bright and early on Monday morning with Hadewijch facing off against Juan Diego.

In yesterday's action, David Oakerhater stunned Teresa of Avila in the first major upset of the season. In heavy voting (another day, another record total), David scored 60% of the vote to Teresa's 40% and will go on to face the winner of William Laud vs. King Kamehameha in the Saintly Sixteen.

Yes, folks, it's called Lent Madness for a reason. If your bracket is busted, you're not alone. But stick around -- the real goal is to learn about some amazing people, not to "win" Lent. Of course if you do stand victorious at the end of the season, you have every right to gloat. In a loving, Christian kind of way, of course. 

As long as you're enjoying a leisurely morning, why not listen to Tim chatting about all things Lent Madness from yesterday's edition of Boston Public Radio? Click here and then scroll to 1:28 of the broadcast to catch the only segment that really matters.


Saint Swithun, often humorously referenced as the patron of the generic country church “in the field” or "in the swamp," was an actual Anglo-Saxon bishop and was enshrined at Winchester Cathedral. He is revered for posthumous miracle working and is believed to hold sway over the weather, especially the rain. According to tradition, the weather on his feast day of July 15 continues for forty days. And Californians, take note: Saint Swithun can also be prayed to for the relief of drought.

Swithun was a pious Bishop of Winchester in the ninth century. He convinced King Æthelwulf to bequeath a tenth of his royal lands to the Church, and with those lands Swithun built and restored churches with noted zeal. The king relied on the revered bishop for spiritual counsel, while another bishop advised him on temporal matters. Swithun was known as a friend of the poor who traveled his diocese on foot. A single miracle was attributed to the bishop while he was alive. Workmen were said to have maliciously broken an old woman’s eggs. He picked them up, and they were miraculously restored.

Very little else of his life was recorded, and the history of his bodily remains was most notable to his sainthood. He died on July 2, 862. On his deathbed the bishop was said to have begged to be buried outside where people might pass over his grave and raindrops fall upon it. Consequently, British lore holds that Saint Swithun’s day foretells the weather.

July, it will rain for 40 days.
For forty days it will remain:
St. Swithun’s day if thou be fair:
For forty days ‘twill rain nae mare.

More than a hundred years after his death, Swithun was made patron of Winchester Cathedral. His body was transferred from its earthen grave to Æthelwold’s new cathedral, and the move was accompanied by many reported miracles. Subsequently, his body was divided among a number of smaller shrines. His head was taken to Canterbury Cathedral, while Peterborough Abbey came to be in possession of one arm. The Winchester shrine to Swithun was demolished in 1538 during the English Reformation, but a modern representation of it was rebuilt in the cathedral, so one can still visit with pleas for rain and egg repair.

Collect for Swithun

Almighty God, by whose grace we celebrate again the feast of your servant Swithun: grant that, as he governed with gentleness the people committed to his care, so we, rejoicing in our Christian inheritance, may always seek to build up your Church in unity and love; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

-Amber Belldene

mbrant-bio-portraitbMolly Brant (Konwatsijayenni “Someone Lends Her a Flower”)

Molly Brant was born in 1736 along the Mohawk River in present-day central New York. In an age when women, much less Native American women, rarely had a voice in public discourse, Molly Brant became a well-regarded Mohawk leader, helping to promote peaceful relations between the Iroquois nation and the British government during the Revolutionary War era. A dedicated Anglican, she came to be known by the Church as the “Witness to the Faith Among the Mohawks.”

Raised in the Ohio Territory, Molly Brant returned to her native village, where she quickly established herself as a leader among the Mohawk Nation. She sought to draw fellow Mohawks into the Anglican faith without dismissing their native culture and spirituality. Her work garnered the attention of Sir William Johnson, a widower and the superintendent of Northern Indian Affairs. She became his common-law wife, and together, they had nine children. As Johnson’s wife, Brant served as an influential and authoritative voice of the Iroquois people in dealing with the British and an essential factor in Johnson’s reception as superintendent among Native Americans. The respect and esteem the British held for Brant was not only unique during that era but it was also key to preserving peaceful relations between the two nations and cultures.

During the American Revolution, Brant remained loyal to Great Britain, providing lodging and food to British soldiers and uniting four of the six Iroquois nations as Loyalists. Two years into the war, she and her family were forced to flee to Onondaga, where she remained until the war’s end in order to avoid imprisonment by the Patriots. Despite her forced relocation, Brant continued to work for harmony among the Iroquois people and their European neighbors. Her deft leadership led one commander of the British military to declare that Brant was “far superior to that of all their chiefs put together.”

Upon the surrender of the British in Yorktown, Virginia, in 1783, Brant moved with her family to Cataraqui in Canada’s province of Ontario, where she served as a founding member of both the town of Kingston and its first Anglican church. She remained near Kingston until her death in 1796.

Collect for Molly Brant

Maker and lover of all creation, you endued Molly Brant with the gifts of justice and loyalty, and made her a wise and prudent clan mother in the household of the Mohawk nation: Draw us also toward the goal of our faith, that we may at last attain the full dignity of our nature in our true native land, where with Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit you live and reign, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

-Maria Kane


Swithin vs. Molly Brant

  • Molly Brant (58%, 3,955 Votes)
  • Swithun (42%, 2,919 Votes)

Total Voters: 6,874

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279 comments on “Swithun vs. Molly Brant”

  1. I teach at a high school whose core mission is social justice. Love Swithin, but my vote just had to go to the peacemaker Molly.

  2. Molly's work was admirable, but she was a Tory! Longing for St. Swithun to bring the warmth and sun and mend my eggs.

      1. Perfect response. 🙂 I'm reading the comments, hoping to be swayed, as this is a tough call. It's a bitterly cold winter, so I could use some help with the weather, but Brant knew a thing or two about snow & ice as well...

    1. The Liberals and Tories (and NDP!) didn't yet exist as such in the 18th century. It's hard to speculate about what political party she would favour just because she was a Loyalist.

      1. In the US, British loyalists are referred to as Tories because the Whigs, such as Burke, tended to support the American cause of free trade and representation in Parliament. Of course, Molly Brant was looking to the needs of her people in supporting the British, since the Proclamation Act had barred American settlement of the Northwest Territory and promised that territory to the Native Americans.

        1. That is not the sense in which the word is used in textbooks of Canadian history (which, after all, we are talking about) and I would suggest that it is unhelpfully vague.

      2. Your choices were not political parties. She was either a Tory or Patriot as to who she supported in the American Revolution. She was a Tory.

    2. I agree. The revolution was horrible and bloody if Molly had tried to sway the British to leave and free the colonies!

    3. Most Native Americans were Loyalist. Most supported the British during the war of 1812. Considering the outcome of their interactions with the Americans, one really cannot blame them.

  3. The mere fact Molly had 9 children, plus actively brought the Anglican religion to her people without dismissing their culture she has earned my vote.

    1. Brant was advocating for what she thought best for her people. The British representative to the Iroquois, Sir William Johnson, dealt with the Iroquois fairly and respectfully. Compare that with what happened after the Americans won the Revolution.

  4. All tied up at 8:09 am! Sorry, Molly, but I just couldn't bring myself to vote for a Loyalist. Besides, I am hoping that St Swithun/Swithin will reward my vote with a turnup in the miserable weather we have been suffering through this entire winter!

  5. I realize I may have to turn in my social consciousness creds for this vote, but as admirable as Molly Brant may be, St. Swithun has always been one of my faves. Just say that name a couple of times and see how nicely it rolls off the tongue. I just couldn't pass up a chance3 to vote for this old friend!

    1. Yes, but if we knew how to pronounce Molly Brant's native name, would that perhaps roll off the tongue too?

      I can't decide.

      Ah, Archbishops and Maple, I miss your guidance!

  6. For all the times my seminary profs [Sewanee] referred to St. Swithun in the Swamps: Swithun for the Halo!

    1. My seminary profs favorite 'John Doe' parish was St. Tiffany's by the Bank; but today it is Swithun for me -- not only were we married on his feast, but he is also patron of the beautiful cathedral in Stavanger that we visited recently.
      Also, in 18th c. England, Conservatives were called Tories, and Liberals, Whigs. In America Loyalists identified with English Tories, and Patriots with Whigs --or myself I identify with Patriots (who largely set the parameters for American conservativism) but with English Tories so I can sympathize with Molly, though I disagree. In different pairings I might well vote for Molly, but I really do honor Swithuntoo much to vote against him.

    2. Before the introduction of the 1959 BCP, my parish used an Anglo-Catholic adaptation of the 1662 prayer book (we never adopted 1918) called "St Swithun's Prayer Book"!

  7. I voted for St Swithun because there was a bbc tv show Doctor in the House where the Interns worked at St Swithun's Hospital in London - I remember it fondly - this is how thinking works on Saturday am

    1. Gale, I remember it fondly, too! Thanks for the reference. I voted for St. Swithun for many reasons (besides "Doctor in the House"), including the hope he will make it to the kitsch round and we shall behold wonders indeed.

  8. I'm reading about both of them for the first time. Both impressive both vote would have to go to Molly if I could get my tab to open!

  9. Could not get on Twitter to hear your wonderful radio program, SORRY. What is wrong with NPR ?

    1. That is a very open ended question as to what is wrong with NPR. Nevertheless, I cast my vote for St Swithun.

    1. Why not think of Molly as a Canadian? That makes her someone who valued peaceful means of separating from Mother England. Give peace a chance: Vote Molly!!!

    2. Several people have said "I cannot vote for a Tory." I knew from the beginning that would be the case, but it makes me wonder: When John Wesley was up for the Halo last year, did he lose votes because he was a Tory?

  10. Hard to vote for someone who ended up with his body parts scattered around England. So I
    in the spirit of the command to love l my enemies, and in support of native peoples and women, I voted for Molly.

    1. After reading this reply I am truly sorry I did not vote for Molly. What was I thinking and why did I vote for St.S? Have to examine my reasoning and honestly come to grips with my selection.I think it was based on pure sentiment. This is not a good enough reason.....I am now condemned to be a long Saturday....snowed in and thinking....

  11. Time to erase Swithun's name as a punchline and grant him some well deserved respect! And no cracking of raw eggs today - soft boiled in the shell in honor of the saint!

      1. Tim - I have tried to vote from email - it does not work today. Only when I view comments and go to webpage can I view results and vote myself.

          1. The 'vote' at the bottom of the email has never worked. It seems like it should be a button that would take you to the website but isn't. The best way to go to the website is to click on the heading at the top of the email body.

          2. Thanks to all the replies regarding my voting problem. Although I happened to figure it out before I got replies, these replies will help me to remember next time! God Bless You all.

      2. I also had trouble with the vote button replaced by a field name in a bracket in the original email. However, following the saints examples, I persevered and was able to vote once I clicked on the comments.

  12. I like them both. Anyone who can stave off rain during the rainy season must be good. BUT a Native American with an Irish name? She managed nine children, brought others into the Christian faith while maintaining her connection to Native spirituality? She is a winner in my book.

  13. My family has roots in the Mohawk Valley so this is an easy choice for me. Too bad Molly defected to Canada. Interesting the Fonda NY area has a shrine to St. Kateri Tekakwitha but I don't recall any special recognition for Molly Brant. Maybe a Fulton County resident can enlighten me.

    1. Tom it's like you read my mind. My mother was born and raised in Johnstown, and I knew the name Molly Brant was familiar, but didn't make the connection 'til I read her bio. She got my vote!

  14. Molly may have worked toward reconciliation and peace, but it was at cross-purposes with her common-law husband, who was actually pretty notorious for isolating the tribes and discouraging alliances between them. I didn't know about Molly before I read this, but I knew about Johnson!

  15. While I can't blame Molly for siding with anyone against the invaders of her land, my vote goes to St. Swithun! He convinced a king to tithe, mended broken eggs (and a woman's heart), and walked his Parish giving him more time to contemplate his relationship with God.

  16. I know she's a loyalist, but seeing as how we know more about what she actually did, I'll go with Molly Brant.

  17. I've always had a fondness for Swithun, and hadn't heard of Molly Brant until now. I'm ignoring her politics and voting for Molly, though I will be praying to Swithun to end the winter weather! This is in honor of my 10x-great grandmother, who was also of the Mohawk nation.

  18. I have served too many congregations with too many parishioners with wide ranging political views to slight Molly on that count. Social justice and pastoral care are too important. I am compelled to vote for Molly and her drive for harmony in the Church.

  19. I've a wide Anglophile streak, but reading about St Swithun's remains getting split up just turned my interest away. Not his fault, of course, what people did after his death, but I stayed with the "party line" today and gave my vote to Molly. It's just fun madness, after all 🙂

  20. You need to decide the correct spelling of St. S's name. Is it Swithin or Swithun? Please correct ASAP.

    My father's ancestors were Loyalists in Providence RI; after the Revolution they decamped for Nova Scotia. My father was the only descendent to return to America - happily. I have 'bonds of affection" for both countries. Voting for Molly Brant was easy!

    Liz Massey

    1. I had to vote for Molly for the same reason as Liz: my dad used to say that his Tory/Loyalist ancestors high-tailed it for Nova Scotia after they lost the war, and no one dared return until his father (my grandfather), in the late 1800s. Besides, Molly was a peacemaker and a church-planter!

      But if St. S doesn't win, does that mean we are condemned to snowfall until July 15? (and yes, it's started snowing yet again out here in western Mass, altho' we have nothing to complain about with a mere half the Boston totals.)

      Great interview, Tim... and it was nice to hear Jim Braude's voice; I miss him already after his retirement from NECN only a week ago.