Cut Off the Nose to Spite the Face © wood engraving (ed. 40) image: 5 x 4 in. $95.00 (go to "Hi There" for purchase information)
The phrase "Cutting off the nose to spite the face" is used to describe a vengeful, over-reactive act by an individual, which does damage to himself as well as the person it's directed towards. It has a very bizarre origin. In 867 AD St. Ebba was Mother Superior of a monastery at Coldingham Priory in Scotland. She received word that Vikings had landed and were heading in the direction of the priory. She was fearful that she and the nuns under her direction would lose their virginity when the Vikings arrived. She suggested that they should make themselves less appealing to the Vikings by disfiguring themselves. She cut off her nose and upper lip. When the Vikings arrived they were so revolted by what they saw they burned the building down. But St. Ebba's virginity remained intact.

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