Saint Valentine and Seizures

Emma Murphy by Emma Murphy Additional Needs

Emma Murphy

Emma Murphy

I’m Emma, a special needs teacher and Mum to two boys and a slightly crazy springer spaniel. My youngest son has a rare genetic disorder called FOX...

St. Valentine is actually the Patron Saint of epilepsy.

So, in honour of that, here’s some facts about St. Valentine and about epilepsy that you might not know.

1) Saint Valentine isn’t the only Patron Saint of epilepsy.

Other Saints include, St. John the Baptist, St. Christopher and St. Dymphna.

2) There are conflicting theories as to why St. Valentine is linked to epilepsy.

One is that in the German language the words, ‘Valentine’, and, ‘fallen’, sound similar and for many years epilepsy was known as the, ‘The Falling Disease’.

In German speaking countries epilepsy became commonly known as ‘Saint Valentine’s illness’.

Yet, in other, non-German speaking areas the link between Saint Valentine and epilepsy was not so strong.

In France, for example, it was known as, ‘mal de Saint Jean’, and in Anglo-Saxon countries, particularly Ireland, as, ‘Saint Paul’s disease’.

3) Another theory is that St. Valentine cured someone of epilepsy – a young woman who was engaged to be married.

4) There are a number of references to epilepsy in the Bible:

In one instance Jesus is described as healing a boy with epilepsy by driving out an evil spirit.

It has been suggested that Paul (or Saul as he was known at the time) suffered an epileptic seizure on the road to Damascus – "And suddenly a light from heaven shone around him.  

And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”  

And he said, “Who are you, Lord?”

And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.

But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”  

The men who were travelling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one."

And for three days he without sight.

(See Acts 9)

St. Paul himself refers to his ‘physical ailment’ in his letters; this is thought to be a reference to epilepsy.

5) Epilepsy has a history dating back at least 4000 years.

The ancient Egyptians, Hindus in ancient India and the Aztecs and Incas in Central America all linked seizures to their respective gods/idols.

With no other explanation for epilepsy, the ancient people believed that gods inflicted epilepsy on people and had the power to cure it.

Epilepsy was often thought of as an evil spirit or a demon possessing a person.

6) The Greek philosopher Hippocrates (460-377 BC) was the first person to think that epilepsy starts in the brain.

7) There are about 40 different types of seizure and a person may have more than one type.

8) In the UK, 600,000 people, or almost one in every 100 people, has epilepsy.

9) Epilepsy can affect any one, of any age, race, gender or social status at any time in their life.

10) Only 52% of people with epilepsy in the UK are seizure free. It is thought that with the right treatment this figure could rise to 70%.


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