Meming Our Way Through the Medieval Age

Ponesse, Matt. (@medievalistmatt). ”I don’t know about you, but now I feel lazy…,” Instagram, 2 March 2022,

I found myself struggling to come up with an idea for this week’s post. We have reached the mid-point of the semester, and after a few very hectic weeks (both personally and with school), I have been feeling rundown and somewhat overwhelmed with existence, period.

I think many people turn to social media as a means for reducing stress. Or, maybe to avoid stress completely. Scrolling (doom scrolling?) allows the mind to wander aimlessly, and aimlessness can be pretty nice sometimes. However, it was through such mindless scrolling that inspiration finally struck.

Well, it struck in a somewhat backdoor way. Allow me to explain.

One of the aspects I love about being back in grad school is the camaraderie. My peers have become real friends, which might be surprising to some given the vast age difference. I don’t think of myself as ancient, but I am older than most of my colleagues. In addition to sharing our angst over classwork, jobs, or relationships, we seem to share a similar sense of humor.

One example of that sense of humor is an affinity for memes. And, since several of us are in the same Medieval Studies class, we have started sharing memes with a decidedly Medieval bent.

Things like this:

Ponesse, Matt. (@medievalistmatt). “To think that we now drink out of plastic bottles. How far we have fallen!” 9 March, 2022.

Or, this one:

Medieval Lit Memes. (@medieval_lit_memes). “Important PSA for this time of year!!” 23 December, 2021.

It’s not often you find people who enjoy a good Questing Beast joke. But, when you do, that’s your tribe.

My tribe of would-be scholars can generally be found at Eastern Kentucky University’s Noel Studio where we work as consultants. In between appointments, we will play ”Wordle of the Day,” share memes, and generally gripe about life or looming deadlines, and share memes, of course. Because many of us are also in classes together, we will often discuss the readings. Which is what happened this week.

One of my peers asked if any of us had looked up our name saint—one with whom we share a name. I couldn’t resist. Setting aside the wife of Abraham (although she is the patron saint of laughter which in and of itself is simultaneously sad, hilarious, and ironic), behold Saint Sarah, patron saint of misfits:

By Acoma – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Alright, so technically she’s not a saint. According to her Wikipedia entry, Saint Sarah, aka Sara la Kali (Sarah the Black), is:

… the patron saint of the Romani people. The center of her veneration is Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, a place of pilgrimage for Roma in the Camargue, in Southern France. Legend identifies her as the servant of one of the Three Marys, with whom she is supposed to have arrived in the Camargue.[1] (

Saint Sarah, like the Romani people themselves, more commonly although offensively referred as Gypsy, is something of an outlier. That might be why I find her so fascinating. Aside from the whole lack of canonization aspect, her appearance (she is depicted and referred to as Black Sarah) sets her apart from the traditional Western European panoply of saints. Sarah herself is marginalized not unlike the very people who venerate her.

I was curious if Saint Sarah had entered the digital age through meme-ification (if it’s not a word, I’m coining it now). I found posts of handcrafted items, of home altars, and images such as this:

Char. (@charlie813). ”Sarah Kali. Queen of the Outsiders…” 18 August, 2019.

But nary a meme for Saint Sarah. Of course, she’s not in the big leagues like Aquinas. However, I started to think about what it means if a entity fails to attract the attention of meme-makers. As I indicated in my last post (“You Either Get It, Or You Don’t”), humor involves a sort of cultural shorthand. One must quite literally be part of the in-crowd to get the joke, but to also be a part of making the joke. The in-crowd for Western Christianity can see their views mirrored in memes such as the ones found here.

So, Saints like Black Sarah reside decidedly in the margins. Few know of her, few venerate her, and almost no one has brought her to the forefront of the digital conscious through a meme. Is that what is necessary for relevance? And, what about those who believe in such a saint? I think it could be interesting to explore marginalized saints and memes to see how they connect to different sociocultural groups.

Until then, one last meme for the road:

Ponesse, Matt. (#medievalistmatt). ”Tell me you’re a martyr without telling me you’re a martyr,” 2 February 2022.

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