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St. Juttemis: Patron Saint Of Carnival

Updated on March 29, 2019
St Juttemis in Breda
St Juttemis in Breda

The Dutch city of Breda hosts a statue of the patron saint of procrastinators, civil servants, politicians forced to investigate something they would rather not investigate, bureaucrats and jobsworths everywhere. To redeem him from that dreadful fate, he is also the patron saint of funfairs, wise foolishness and an incarnation of the spirit of carnival.

St Juttemis who is considered a fictional saint (but may have existed) was adopted, for unknown reasons, by the carnival community who descend on Breda every year.

Fiction

The probably fictional story of the life of this probably fictional saint is given by Oncyclopedia (original in Dutch):

One day Sophia, goddess of wisdom, appeared to a Jutlander, married to a farmer's daughter called Jut. Sophia showed him the world only made God laugh since the world was absurd. People had forgotten this fundamental absurdity so Sophia ordered him to go forth and spread the word.

His message was received with ridicule and scorn. One day be came to a fair and began to rant and rage and destroy everything around him with a heavy hammer someone had left lying around. But he fell, the hammer landed on his head and he died. At the same time a bell sounded and the fair goers converted to Sophiasm, repented their wickedly serious ways and devoted their lives to furthering foolishness.

Today, in memory of St Juttemis, every fairground has a device which strikes a bell with a hammer.

In 1009 Pope Jutter Hypocritus XVI canonized Juttemis, and one day of the year, the day of St Jutte’s Fair was dedicated to him.

Over time, St. Jutte became so popular that the most extreme form of Sophiasm threatened the Catholic Church. A later pope moved St Jutte’s Fair to February 29 . When that did not help stem Sophiasm it was moved to February 30, which, as everyone knows occurs once every 70 years, and then only if pigs have wings and the sky is falling.

Fact (Possibly)

St Juttemis is mentioned in the Kroniek van Roermond for 1577. This is a real chronicle but various sources seem to be repeating each other. The full quote apparently is

“met sint-juttemis, als de kalveren op het ijs dansen”

“on the day of St Juttemis when calves dance on the ice”

This led to the theory that Jutte may be a short form of Judith since St Judith has her day on August 17th., a time when cows are least likely to dance on ice.

There is some doubt whether St Judith existed, both because she was Jewish and a Biblical character, and because Jutte was used to mean a dirty untidy woman or a coarse obnoxious person.

In the 17th century Saint Juttemis (Juttemus) appears as an exclamation of surprise , but also as a joking name for a foolish, poor, destitute guy or just a fool (Nederlandse spreekwoorden, spreekwijzen, uitdrukkingen en gezegden(1923-1925)–F.A. Stoett).

The statue of St Juttemis in Breda shows him not just as a fool but also as a dwarf, dressed in a way that makes him look alien not really human.

Moving Northwards to Scandinavia we find four saints who could have become Juttemis.

  • Saint Jutta: descended from a noble family in Thuringia she died on pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1260.

  • Blessed Jutta van Diessenburg, who died in 1136.

  • Blessed Jutta van Hoei, better known as Yvette who, lived from 1160 –1228. At the age of 18 she retired to a hermit cell and stayed there for 40 years.

  • Blessed Jutta of Heiligenthal who died around 1250. She founded the Cistercian Convent of Heiligenthal in 1234 and became the first abbess.

In short there is no good evidence for a historical St Juttemis, despite early reference to him, and even the saint’s gender is unclear.

Never

St Juttemis is assocated with the notion of never. To say something will happen on his day (November 31st or February 30th, take your pick) is to say it will never happen.

On St Juttemis day

  • Everybody pays their debts,

  • Politicians do what they promised,

  • Teachers are reasonable,

  • Industrialists do something for the environment.

This is a good reason to associate him with those who want something to not happen, procrastinators, civil servants and jobsworths.

Speculation

A statue of St Juttemis definitely exists. There are many articles in Dutch citing a real chronicle but no sign of the original quote. The carnival community keep their secrets.
Perhaps Juttemis' story is an urban legend that took root in Dutch culture like Father Christmas (the Medieval one, who, unlike Santa Claus seems to have been the model for Dickens' Christmas Present).

Or he could be an example of the Mandela effect. In an Interview in Fortean Times. Robert Rankin, author of the seven volume Brentford Trilogy, mentions discussing a writer from the 60s called Johnny Quinn with friends, all of whom remembered him. Rankin went home knowing he had some books by Quinn but could not find them. His favourite bookseller also remembered Quinn but could find no books by him. There is however an American Footballer called Johnny Quinn born in 1963. Rankin speculated that perhaps Quinn wanted to exist. Maybe Juttemis wanted to exist.

Or maybe, to borrow an idea from chaos magick, we created him.

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