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Princeton Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Egyptian Miracles of Mary (PEMM) project

Miracles of Mary Stories about Animals, Plants, and Nature

By Wendy Laura Belcher

January 31, 2024

Many stories about Mary are about animals and nature, sometimes in surprising ways. Studying these stories brings much to light about how human beings have viewed the environment over time and space.

If you identify a story about an animal or nature and we do not list it below, please let us know by emailing us. Stories are listed only once below, even if it is about more than one animal or natural object. Instructors may also email us to receive a lesson plan for teaching about animals and nature in the medieval African folktale.

For class, read the ten stories below with the word "required."


As a girl, the Virgin Mary gave water in her shoe to a thirsty dog (required) (this story has many paintings of dogs as well)

The dog that ran off with a manuscript of the Ta'ammera Maryam (Miracles of the Virgin Mary)

A dog that licked the stonemill of a church in Wandege, near Lake Tana, is frozen like a rock by the Virgin Mary

Saint Samuel of Waldebba (Samuel), the 15th c. Ethiopian saint, sent his son to the land of dogs to baptize a woman named Arsema

Book of Nagara Maryam: Month A: Part 05: Sixty-eight dogs complain to the Virgin Mary about their treatment and she allows them to eat their owners and turns the rest of the town into foxes (required)

Book of Nagara Maryam: Month A: Part 06: Those eaten by their dogs or turned into foxes are restored to life by the Virgin Mary, at Joseph and baby Jesus's request, and provided with clothing (required)

Book of Nagara Maryam: Month A: Part 07: Herod searching for the Virgin Mary and kills those who block finding her as well as 63 dogs and almost a million roosters.

Book of Dersana Urael: Part 01: The Holy Family meets six lions, Joseph rides on the back of one, and Jesus promises Ethiopia to his mother.

Book of Dersana Urael: Part 12: The Holy Family goes to Ophir in Ethiopia and Jesus turns five camels into stone

Book of Nagara Maryam: OldF: Part 02: Journey: The people of an Egyptian town set fierce dogs on the Holy Family. (321, 322, 325, 431 similar)

Book of Nagara Maryam: OldF: Part 03: Journey: The hunter who discovered the Holy Family in flight is turned into a dog when he violates his oath not to reveal them.

The hunter who caught a gassa kalb (dog-headed man) in his net.

Book of Nagara Maryam??: OldN: Journey: The dogs of the hunter praise the Virgin Mary while in land of Egypt


A woman whose baby daughter was carried off by a hyena

A monk heals two blind hyena cubs with an icon of the Virgin Mary (required)


Dabra Zamaddo's monastery and how the people there detailed he monastery's cow as recompense.

Fathers vow to give the Virgin Mary a cow for healing their daughters' blindnes, but both flee with the cow and the second is not forgiven.

A herder saves his sheep and cattle during a storm by praying to the Virgin Mary

Lions, Leopards, Cats

Dabra Zamaddo's Qwerbana Dengel encounters a leopard as a child

Dabra Zamaddo's leopard that dug out tombs and ate the corpses (required)

A pious monk who had drunk too much wine was saved from a lion and a dog by the Virgin Mary (required)

A Jew is led to baptism by a dream about a lion and a monk; afterwards he curses a Jew at the latter's request.

The king's washerman who was attacked by a lion.

A greedy priest ignored a pious dying woman to visit a dying man, a lover of bribes, and gain his wealth

Zena Krestos, a European monk, who was a herder and whose beasts were attacked by a lion.

Saint Abba Daniel of Scete is visited by the Virgin Mary in the desert and she gives him a lion to ride on

Lambs, Sheep, Goats, Rams

Book of Dersana Urael: Part 17: The Virgin Mary instructs Jesus to shepherd the sheep and reports on her exile in Ethiopia

A thief named Jacob stole and ate the one sheep a widow had

A goat comes miraculously to be slaughtered.

Hagara Maryam's church and the poor man who bought a goat for the Virgin Mary's feast and a leopard carries the goat off (composed by Ras Semʿon)

The Roman official who was prevented from entering the Holy Sepulcher of Christ in Jerusalem by an invisible ram


Book of Nagara Maryam: Month C: Part 03: The Virgin Mary turns the people into baboons and finds people living in gemstone houses in the depths of the sea


Book of Nagara Maryam: Month B: Part 01: A demon-pig (a possessed man who turns into a pig) argues with the Virgin Mary saying that another man is worse than him and the Virgin Mary banishes him into the sea.

Book of Nagara Maryam: OldO: Journey: The people of Febor sacrifice pigs at the gate of their city so as to prevent the Holy Family from entering; they themselves are changed into pigs.

Reptiles (Snakes, Serpents, Dragons, Crocodiles)

A snake enters the belly of a drunk man and Mary's icon casts it out (required)

Dabra Qalemon's gifts from two Arabs who, journeying on the Nile in Egypt, fall into the water due to a storm and are saved from crocodiles (required) (lots of paintings)

Book of Nagara Maryam: Month D: Part 03: The Virgin Mary heals the governor of Besseta (sp?) by pulling a snake out of him and then travels to Mount Siki and Sem

Book of Nagara Maryam: Month A: Part 02: The Virgin Mary defeats a giant serpent/snake in Egypt and then goes to Ethiopia

Book of Nagara Maryam: Month A: Part 04: The Virgin Mary removes a snake from the belly of the chief official in the town of Ardiesieba

The nominal Christian from Sidon who encountered a serpent/dragon/snake in the desert of Scete (same as 1231?)

The fisherman who was eaten up by a dragon but was found alive when the dragon's belly was cut open.

Dabra Timona's monk, Efrem, who is swallowed by a dragon but the dragon is compelled to vomit him up alive ten days later

Fish and Whales

Deacon Michael, who was a grocer, and his stolen ring that the Virgin Mary helped to retrieve from a fish

Jonah, the biblical prophet who came from Egypt and presciently knew about the Virgin Mary and Christian books, is swallowed by a whale


George the Younger, the martyr, was visited in prison by the Virgin Mary (lots of paintings)

Book of Vision of Barok the Deacon: An apocalyptic book about Baruch, the scribe of the Prophet Jeremiah, being taken on a tour of heaven and hell by the Virgin Mary in the form of a bird

A bird informs a farmer that a murdered man lies in his field and, upon being disinterred, the corpse has a tree growing out of its mouth.

A wealthy man to whom the Virgin Mary appeared in the form of a bird to save the countryside from pestilence.

Saint Barsuma the Great's disciples are visited by the Virgin Mary in the form of a dove.

Homily on the Silver Bird with Gilded Wings: How the glory of the Virgin Mary was preordained before the creation of heaven and earth and on the silver bird with gilded wings (Ps. 67,14)

Satan took the form of a bird to deceive two monks who had lived together in harmony for fifteen years.

A man whose only good work was celebrating the Virgin Mary's commemoration is healed from smallpox when the Virgin Mary comes to a church in the form of a white dove


Dabra Zamaddo's righteous monk who was afflicted by bugs.

The sinful woman who despaired when she kept on sinning and swallowed a tarantula as an attempt to die


Dabra Zamaddo's church and the tree that wrecked havoc on it (required)

Dabra Zamaddo's church and the punishment for cutting trees from the church's precinct (required)

Dabra Zamaddo's Maba Tseyon church and the density of trees there that prevented two boys from dying in a fire (required)

Dabra Zamaddo's Abbot Abuna Sinodos whom people opposed to cut the hab tree.

Patriarch Gabra Krestos of Alexandria who heard of the withered olive tree that bloomed at the Andalusian church gate every year on the feast of the Virgin Mary (from the History of the Patriarchs)

The Ethiopian kingdom of Damot's inhabitants who would not observe the feast days of the Virgin Mary are punished by a storm that brings down a mighty tree.

Hagara Maryam's church needs to remove a tree for its construction but they can't cut it down and so it falls down for them during the night (composed by Ras Semʿon)

Hagara Maryam's church needs a tree for its pillar but when they cut it down it falls over a cliff,and yet the tree is recovered undamaged (composed by Ras Semʿon)

The monastery near Alexandria whose trees were cut down by Jews.


Hagara Maryam's church needs a stone for its construction and one is found through the help of a vision (composed by Ras Semʿon)

Ocean, Rivers, Streams

A stream runs uphill after its neighbor had diverted it (required)

Book of Nagara Maryam: Month C: Part 04: The Virgin Mary blesses the people and animals in the sea

Book of Nagara Maryam: Month C: Part 05: The Virgin Mary blesses the people and animals in the sea (part of 1245)

Book of Nagara Maryam: Month C: Part 08: Joseph reprimands the Virgin Mary for disciplining him and Jesus goes to the sea with his friends

Book of Nagara Maryam: Month G: Part 01:The Virgin Mary blesses the people and animals in the sea

Book of Vision of Timothy of Alexandria: Part 05: The Holy Family crosses the Nile at Asmunayn.

The Egyptian woman who lost a silver plate while bathing in a miraculous spring.

A woman who was crossing a river on a raft [mezlal].

Natural Disasters

Syrian church of the Virgin Mary in Homs collapses in an earthquake.

Abba Samuel, the priest Mark, and the icon of the Virgin Mary that causes an earthquake in Constantinople in the year 1273

Miscellaneous (minor mentions of the natural world)

Dabra Entsena's Abbot Raphael who refused to hear the sacrament of confession during the time of Patriarch Abba Matthew of Alexandria

Dabra Zamaddo's "Keep yourself from minor things, lest you fall from big things"

Dabra Zamaddo's Walatta Nagast whom the Blessed Virgin saved from a raid by the Arami.

Story of and Homily on Saint Mary of Egypt, the Desert Mother previously driven by lust, who promises the Icon of the Virgin Mary that she will become a nun (sometimes in two parts)

Book of Dersana ʿUraʾel: Part 14: The Holy Family crosses the river Takazze on stones that float like boats (similiar to ID 326)

The famine in Egypt caused by the shortage of water in the Nile during the reign of Patriarch Matthew I (1378-1408).

Homily on the Virgin Mary and the Biblical Patriarchs: Part 7: The Virgin Mary and the biblical patriarch Joshua crossing the Jordan River

Apflsoyas, a wealthy, incestuous man from Bethlehem Shire in Tigray, sleeps with his friends and relatives but is saved from hell by the Virgin Mary

A young man who used to crown the icon of the Virgin Mary with roses

Book of Vision of Anthony of Dabra Qwesqwam: Part 3: People come with their exhausted animals and the Virgin Mary anoints their feet

Book of Vision of Anthony of Dabra Qwesqwam: Part 5: Anthony asks the Virgin Mary why she blessed the feet of the animals before the people when anointing

A bankrupt husband who denied Christ and befriended Satan, who promised him great wealth, but was stopped by the Virgin Mary in his wife's guise

Dabra Metmaq's Annual Apparition: Part 3: The bishop asks the apparition of the Virgin Mary to give her blessing

Book of Nagara Maryam: OldI: Journey: The inhabitants of an Egyptian town who plot to hand Jesus over to King Herod are turned into animals. (321, 322, 325, 431 similar)

Dabra Qwesqwam's monks, from Saint Anthony's monastery in Egypt, are extorted for money by an Arab named Katib

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The Princeton Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Egyptian Miracles of Mary (PEMM) project is a comprehensive resource for the 1,000+ miracle stories written about and the 2,500+ images painted of the Virgin Mary in these African countries, and preserved in Geʿez between 1300 and the present.

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