St. Wilgefortis – or the story of the bearded lady

One of the stories which inspired part of The Devil’s Missal, I found in an old book of Rhine legends. It tells of a young woman, Wilgefortis, who is pursued by a group of men, determined to catch and rape her. She comes to a place where there is a huge wayside cross. Wilgefortis stands under the cross and holds her arms outstretched. As the pursuers arrive the virgin Mary causes a beard to sprout on Wilgefortis’ face. The rapists run on past, thinking she is a statue of Christ crucified and she is spared.

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