I borrowed a book out of the library about saints. I looked up the name Daniel first to see if any interesting saints share his name. There was one; St Daniel the Stylite. Sadly, stylite does NOT mean fashion obsessed. It means he lived on a pole. As in, he was up there all the time. For years.
Now, Daniel wasn’t the first guy to do this or even the first saint to do it. So here’s what I learned about the phenom.:
Saints (and other wackys I suppose) sometimes decided to leave the world and escape by climbing a pillar and living atop it. Usually only a small platform topped the pillar and they would literally stay up there for a matter of years. The less resilient ones would build a small hut up there as protection from the elements, but most just had the platform on which they stood for hours at a time. And everything I’ve read suggests they really never came down. I’m not entirely sure how they slept up there, maybe they trained to meditate without moving, or were insomniacs slowly going crazy, I don’t know. I even looked up modern pole sitting to see if that would give any insight. Apparently one modern pole-sitter lodged his thumbs into holes in the pole and took naps that way, using the pressure on his thumbs to right himself as he swayed. I think this sounds like a great way to break you thumbs, but what do I know?
Also disconcerting to think about is the call of nature. Ok you’re on a pole, what do you do? I read that boys would send up baskets of food for the stylites, so you know they ate. My best guess here for afterwards is they raised and lowered a chamber pot. One modern pole sitter used a long tube to the ground. I can’t imagine any way for them to bathe up there and I’m sorry to say they had no Purell, so stylites must have been
absolutely filthy somewhat grungy.
You’d think people would keep away from these weirdos, but it was just the opposite. Folks would come far and wide to ask the Saint’s advice, blessing, and prayer. Sometimes the Saint would perform a miracle. Often he would preach from atop his pillar and sometimes he would dictate letters. Why did people flock to see these guys anyway? Curiosity? Piety? Honestly I can’t think of a single example of something even remotely similar in today’s world. Make your own conclusions; I find this one strange beyond description.
Besides Daniel, here are some other stylites:
Saint Simeon the Elder
Saint Simeon the Younger
Saint Luke the Younger