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St. Abigail, more commonly known as St. Gobnait or Deborah, was a medieval Irish saint born around the 6th century in County Clare, Ireland.
According to tradition, Abigail's family was always feuding. This caused her to run away from home to settle on Inis Oirr in the Aran Islands.
After some time, an angel appeared to Abigail and told her this was not her place of resurrection. She was to head inland to find the place she would spend the rest of her life. The angel told Abigail this place would be marked with the presence of nine white deer.
Abigail set off in search for the deer throughout the southern coastal counties. Her journey is now marked by churches and holy wells which are dedicated to her along the way.
She finally found the herd of deer in Ballyvourney, County Cork, now known as St. Gobnet's Wood.
Abigail would spend the rest of her earthly life dedicated to pastoral service and Christian charitable work. Her brother, St. Abban is believed to have joined her to help set the foundation for a convent, placing Abigail as its abbess, or mother superior of the community of women religious.
Abigail also went on to spend much of her time caring for the sick.
According to early Celtic folklore and religious symbolism, the soul departs from the body in the form of a bee or butterfly. So, it is not surprising that, given her deep Christian faith and belief in the Resurrection, Abigail also became a beekeeper.
It is said that she developed a powerful relationship with the bees and would use their honey to treat illnesses and heal wounds.
She became known for her miracles in rousting bees from their hives and using them to chase off evil. Some pious legend even claim that the bees transformed into soldiers, with their hives becoming helmets.
Abigail is also credited with saving Ballyvourney from the plague.
She remained settled in Ballyvourney until her death where she was then buried "to await her resurrection."
St. Abigail is the patron saint of honeybees and beekeepers. She is often featured surrounded by bees or carrying a honeycomb.
Her feast day is celebrated on February 11.
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