St. Blaise was widely popular in Britain from the eighth century to beyond the Middle Ages, although nothing for certain is known of his life. He is believed to have been Bishop of Sebaste in 4th century Armenia, but stories of his martyrdom and miracles are later inventions. According to these stories, while hiding from persecutors in a cave he healed sick people and animals and, in particular, saved the life of a boy who had a fishbone stuck in his throat. He was also said to have been tortured by being torn with iron combs, and these combs became his recognised symbol.
In English tradition, Blaise was adopted as the patron saint of woolcombers – an important and widespread occupation before machinery wiped it out.
Blaise is also still remembered for his aid in cases of throat ailments.
[© Steve Roud: The English Year. 2006]