Origin of: “Cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face”

(Post Script to previous article: “Extreme Spite: Man spent 19 years in a Israeli prison rather than agree to a divorce.”)

This phrase “cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face,” means “to do something that is meant to harm someone else, but also harms the person who does it.” The suggested origin of this phrase is based on the following gruesome historic event.

Sister Ebba (Ebbe/Aebbe), the Younger, was the faithful governess of the great monastery at Coldingham in Scotland. In 870 A.D. Viking raiders, led by the sons of King Ragner Lothbroc, invaded Britain.

As the Norsemen approached Coldingham, Sister Ebba gathered her nuns in the convent.  She counseled that, in order to protect their virginity and prevent being raped, the sisters should mutilate their faces. Whereupon, Sister Ebba took a sharp razor and sliced off her nose and upper lip.  The other nuns followed.

The Norsemen were so disgusted by the grotesque bloody faces that they did not rape the nuns. Instead, they locked them inside the convent, and burned them to death.

The raiders pillaged the monastery and killed all the monks and priests in the area, except for a few they kidnapped as slaves.  The Vikings stole everything of value like candlesticks, crucifixes, plates, dishes, and cups.  The Norsemen destroyed everything they did not consider valuable, like the priceless statues, paintings, and books.

After their “victory” in Britain, the Vikings returned to their longboats and sailed home to celebrate.

To this day, the brave stalwart nuns are venerated as “noble Virgin-Martyrs,” and Sister Ebba is now Saint Ebba.  

(See: “Aebbe the Younger,” Wikipedia; “Saint Ebbe the Younger,” CatholicSaints.Info; Alban Butler, “Saint Ebba, Abbess, and Her Companions, Martyrs, Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Saints, 1866.)

(Other stories and articles at: londonedition.home.blog or http://www.londonedition.net)

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