This morning a dove sat in the sunlight on the lowest branch of our satsuma tree, facing our kitchen. When I went near the window to make coffee, the bird flew straight towards me, then dipped down and disappeared. I thought it might be headed for the bird feeder which is on the other side of the porch, but it seemed to have another idea. It likely never saw me, but for a second it made me hold my breath because today I associate the sight of a dove with Joan of Arc, who, legend has it, released a white dove from her mouth as she died.
While Joan's trials are recorded, and we have other evidence of her life and story, plenty of beautiful myths abound, such as white butterflies following her banner, and the story of the dove, and other tales about what she may or may not have said, seen, or done. While there's certainly no proof for the white doves flying from her mouth as she was burnt at the stake, I love the poetry that has sprung up around Saint Joan, and our parade honors this as much as we honor the historical records about her and the knowledge of the times in which she lived.
Today we celebrate her birthday, though, rather than the day that she was martyred (May 31). Most Saints are honored on their death day, i.e. "feast day", but we've gone a different route with our parade. We honor St. Joan on her birthday because that's the day we think deserves celebration. We also honor her crowning achievement--the placement of the Dauphin in his rightful place on the French throne as Charles VII, King of France. Because of Joan's success at Orleans, France, she became The Maid of Orleans, regained the hope of the populace and the military, and was instrumental in getting Charles crowned. So tonight we'll crown our first Krewe de Jeanne d'Arc king, again celebrating the positives in her life rather than the sad thing she is remembered for--her horrible death.
Still, terrible as her death was, I can appreciate the poetry that has sprung from it. That's why I'll be wearing a white dove on my shoulder tonight when I walk in the parade. I believe that whether or not a real dove every came anywhere near Joan the moment she died, there's no doubt that something wonderful took flight from earth on that day.
Yet rather than celebrate her ending, tonight, with purpose and a healthy sense of New Orleans partying, we celebrate her beginning as we celebrate the beginning of Mardi Gras. Join us for some poetic processioning and partying. Happy 598th Jeanne!