Oil dedicated to martyr St Vitus on prayer cloth
Legend says that Martyr St Vitus was the son of a pagan Sicilian senator named Hylas. The boy was converted to Christianity at age twelve by his tutor, Saint Modestus and his nurse Saint Crescentia. His father showed his objection to the conversion by having all three arrested and scourged.
Freed from prison by angels they fled to Lucania, then Rome. There Vitus freed the son of Emperor Diocletian from an evil spirit. When Vitus would not sacrifice to the pagan gods in celebration. His cure was attributed to sorcery and he and his household were arrested again. Tortured and condemned to death they were thrown to the lions. The lions would not touch them so they were thrown into boiling oil. At the moment of their deaths a immense storm destroyed several pagan temples in the region. Which led to the tradition of protection against stormy weather. One of the Fourteen Holy Helpers.
For obscure reasons, some 16th century Germans believed they could obtain a year’s good health by dancing before a statue of Saint Vitus on his feast day. This dancing developed almost into a mania, and was confused with chorea, the nervous condition later known as Saint Vitus’ Dance, the saint being invoked against it. His connection with such “dancing” led to his patronage of dancers, and later to entertainers in general and in particular.
When Vitus was thrown into the oil, a rooster was thrown into the oil with him, sacrificed as part of the ritual against sorcery. A rooster became a symbol for Vitus, and its connection with early rising led to Vitus’s patronage and protection against oversleeping.