Friday, June 17, 2016

All Free Public Domain Photos for your Conjure Blog



Have you ever run into a brick wall when trying to find the perfect image for your blog or website? With the ever tightening up of copyright restrictions being enforced, it can often be a challenge when scouring the internet to find true public domain images. I have my sources for public domain images and have learned the hard way to never assume anything is public domain at first glance. Always check out the original source of the image before using it, and at the bare minimum, always credit the place where you got the image.

Even crediting a copyrighted image is not a guarantee of protection from infringement, however. There is a growing trend of lawyers representing photographers and artists who use software to scan images on the internet to identify cases of infringement. These are the new internet copyright infringement ambulance chasers. And, contrary to popular belief, the owners of copyrighted material do not have to submit a DMCA warning to have the image removed before filing suit. On the contrary, many are skipping over that step entirely and going straight for the jugular. On the one hand, as someone who has suffered great financial loss as a result of people pirating my books and using my artwork without permission (one company has an image of mine they are using to brand their whole product line) and one book has been downloaded illegally over 1 million times, I can understand skipping over the niceties in an effort to be paid for my work. On the other hand, most people do not have any malintent for using photos and artwork and simply want to make their websites look good. To those people I say please credit the author/artist/photographer, and if the website where you see the image has a copyright notice on it such as mine i.e."Please do not repost this article without permission" pay attention to the terms and abide by them. Most of the time, all you have to do is ask. We just want credit given where credit is due, after all.

Check out these nightmares for what is going on with everyday bloggers being sued for copyright infringement:

Blogger Beware: You CAN Get Sued For Using Photos You Don't Own on Your Blog

Over the years its been a learning curve as to what constitutes "fair use" and what is infringement, though now the laws are much clearer with regards to internet usage. And though most of the images on my website and blog are my own, with the exception of those believed to be in the public domain, I still put up a DMCA page, just in case I missed something. Some people, and for legal reasons I cannot say who, will sue for use of an image that is so low resolution - as small as 120 pixels -  if it is copyrighted and used without permission. And if they own the copyright, you have no recourse but to pay a license fee whether you meant well or not.

I've thought long and hard about this. I have continued to educate myself on internet copyright laws and have gone through a long and painful process of pouring over all the sites and blogs I own and changed any images that I did not create myself. But not everyone is an artist or photographer. And in our little niche of folk magic, the public domain imagery is slim pickins.

So, I decided to start placing some of my photographs into the public domain to help out those in the conjure community who want to be on the up and up and maintain some integrity.

I created an account on Publicdomainpictures.net where you can visit my profile and download any images you see there without any worries whatsoever. You can use them for any purpose you want because they are in the public domain. Although I would appreciate a shout out as the photographer, you don't even have to do that legally, you can just download any photo and use it without any mention of who took the photo or where you got it. You should know that it is a matter of professional courtesy to credit even public domain sources, but if you don't, I'm not going to hunt you down and make a stink out of it. These images are my gift to the community, in an effort to help strengthen it and provide a much-needed service that can help to build a community of integrity.

I have just started uploading photos so there aren't many there yet. If there is a photo you need, post a request in the comments below and I'll see what I have. I have thousands of photos just sitting on my hard drive doing nothing. Please note that I am not putting these images up anywhere but on the publicdomainpictures.net website so there is no confusion as to what I have placed in the public domain. If it is not on that website, it is NOT in the public domain and you will have to ask for permission to use it. Which is easy enough - really - just ask.

I hope you find the images potentially useful.


*Photo of brick wall copyright Denise Alvarado, All rights reserved worldwide.
Find free public domain photos here.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Better to Die Fighting for Freedom Than be a Prisoner all the Days of your Life: 16 Favorite Memorial Day Quotes



Memorial Day began after the Civil War and was know at that time as "Decoration Day." It was created to honor those who died in the Civil War originally but has since become the day we honor all soldiers who died in service to our country defending our freedom. Memorial Day is sometimes confused with Veterans Day, which is the day we honor all soldiers who have served or are currently serving in the U.S. military.


Here are some quotes I found that are fitting for Memorial Day. The first is my personal favorite. After the quotes you will find a free download for those of you who would like to create and light a special candle to be of service to those who died for our freedom.


“Better to die fighting for freedom than be a prisoner all the days of your life.”  Bob Marley


"On Memorial Day, I don't want to only remember the combatants. There were also those who came out of the trenches as writers and poets, who started preaching peace, men and women who have made this world a kinder place to live." Eric Burdon


"My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." John F. Kennedy


“The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender or submission.”  John F. Kennedy


“The dead soldier’s silence sings our national anthem.”  Aaron Kilbourn


"Who sows virtue reaps honor." Leonardo da Vinci


“Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are stiffened.”  Billy Graham


"These fallen heroes represent the character of a nation who has a long history of patriotism and honor - and a nation who has fought many battles to keep our country free from threats of terror." Michael N. Castle


"Patriotism consists not in waving the flag, but in striving that our country shall be righteous as well as strong." James Bryce


"As America celebrates Memorial Day, we pay tribute to those who have given their lives in our nation's wars" John M. McHugh


"I would rather be remembered by a song than by a victory." Alexander Smith


"137 years later, Memorial Day remains one of America's most cherished patriotic observances. The spirit of this day has not changed - it remains a day to honor those who died defending our freedom and democracy." Doc Hastings


“The greatest glory of a free-born people is to transmit that freedom to their children.”  William Harvard


“A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.”  Joseph Campbell


“They are dead, but they live in each Patriot’s breast, and their names are engraven on honor’s bright crest.”  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


“Better to die fighting for freedom than be a prisoner all the days of your life.”  Bob Marley


Simple Service for Fallen Soldiers on Memorial Day and Any Day



While we have Memorial Day to remind us of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for the rest of us,  we can and should perform a Memorial Service any time we feel the desire to do so. It is very simple to do and requires little on our part.

To perform this service, you will need the following:

  • white candle
  • frankincense tears
  • frankincense essential oil
  • angelica root
  • rose petals
  • marigolds
  • white rocks and/or shells
  • alum stone
  • clear glass of water
  • white plate

First, prepare your candle. I use a seven-day glass container that I pour my wax, fix with herbs and oils, and add a nice label to it. I am giving you the label as a free download today - just scroll down to get it.

I melt my candle wax and then add the frankincense, angelica root, rose petals, and marigold petals to the melted wax. You can use a regular white candle by anointing it with the frankincense essential oil then crushing the angelica root, rose petals, marigold petals and frankincense tears and rolling the candle in the floral blend. If using a pre-bought white glass-encased candle, poke nine holes in the top, add a drop of frankincense essential oil to each hole and sprinkle some of the crushed floral blend on top.






Set the fixed candle on a white plate and add some flower petals around the candle.

Place the white rocks and shells around the white plate. These represent the fallen soldiers. Place photos of relatives who died in war on your altar if you have any. Add a glass of water to which you have added a piece of alum stone to keep evil away from your service. I was taught to add alum stone to water to aid in communication, and to protect the living and the Dead, among other things. If you don't have alum, just leave it out.




Add some flowers and your patron saint if you wish to further personalize your service. Now all you have to do is light your candle and pray for our soldiers who died for us. Just pray a heart felt prayer and do it every day until the candle burns down.

If you do not have everything for this service, don't let it stop you. You can even just light a tea light and say a prayer of gratitude and blessings for our fallen soldiers.


FREE DOWNLOAD
RIGHT CLICK ON THE IMAGE BELOW AND SAVE TO YOUR COMPUTER


Then, open a blank word document. Set the orientation to landscape. Insert the image into the document and print it out. It will fit perfectly on a glass encased seven-day candle. Cut out the image and glue to a white seven-day candle and perform a personal service to the ones fallen in battle for our freedom.






THIS IMAGE IS FREE FOR YOUR PERSONAL USE ONLY. I HAVE NOT PLACED IT INTO THE PUBLIC DOMAIN. NO COMMERCIAL USE IS ALLOWED.



Friday, May 13, 2016

Friday the 13th: Myth, Superstition, or Reality?



The fear of number 13 is the most
common superstition in Western culture.



One of my earliest memories about Friday the 13th as a day other than what is commonly portrayed in the media was when we were in Germany at an army base where my father was stationed. I remember it well; it was a sunny day and I was sitting on the grass outside. A soldier whom I did not know walked by me, looked at me and said “Happy Red Day.” I remember thinking to myself...what is he talking about? And then I remembered it was Friday the Thirteenth, and it must be something about this day that he is referring to. 

But why did he say that to me? I still don’t know the answer to that question; but, what we did find out was that he was the resident Satanist who was on a mission to infiltrate my life at the ripe young age of, oh yeah, did I mention...13? 

Sounds like the beginnings of a scary movie, right? Well, nothing crazy happened, we did get to know him a little and get inside the thinking of a Satanist in the army in Germany at that time. My mother never let me be alone with him and instead engaged in a useful dialogue that prompted me to learn more about the meaning of this “Red Day.”

The Origin of Friday the 13th





Apparently, there is no definitive date for the origin of the dreaded day of special misfortune. While there is evidence to suggest that the number thirteen was considered unlucky prior to the 20th century, there is no definitive link between Friday and the number 13, or so “they” say. I used to take that at face value, but not so much anymore. Actually, when you consider all of the origin stories, there are all kinds of connections between Fridays and thirteens. 

There are some who insist that Friday the 13th is a modern conceptual invention. According to this theory, the first recorded mention of a Friday the 13th occurred in 1907 with the publication of Thomas W. Lawson's popular novel, Friday, the Thirteenth. The storyline of the book tells of a stockbroker who exploits the superstition to create a panic on Wall Street on Friday the 13th. Obviously, it doesn’t make sense that this book is the first mention of Friday the 13th, because the author had to draw from earlier superstitious beliefs about Friday the 13th to propel the plot of the novel. In my mind then, this origin story is crossed off the list. 

In fact, a simple search in the historical newspaper archives reveals many references to Friday the 13th (see examples on the opposite page). 

So, what’s the deal then? Well, another theory is proposed by Donald Dossey, founder of the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina. According to Dossey, who is also a folklore historian, the phobia associated with Friday the 13th is the result of an ancient combination of two separate negative associations with the number 13 and the day Friday. Okay, so if something bad happens on a Friday, and it happens to be the 13th, then...that make Friday the 13th a day for bad luck? Well, considering bad things have happened to people on every other day of the week and on every other date as well, there’s got to be more to it than that. But, I do understand the psychology behind this explanation. 

Some suggest Friday has always been considered to be an unlucky day. For example, there is the reference made by Chaucer in his 14th-century book The Canterbury Tales, where he states Friday is considered a day of misfortune and ill luck: “...and on a Friday fell all this mischance.” Another explanation is based on the Christian belief that Jesus was crucified on a Friday. I can certainly agree this was a bad day for Jesus. 

But wait, there’s more! We can’t overlook Wall Street’s perpetuation of the superstition for decades. On Oct. 13, 1989, Wall Street experienced what was at the time the second largest drop of the Dow Jones Industrial Average in history. As a result, the day was nicknamed the Friday-the-13th mini-crash. 

And finally, we can’t let Hollywood off the hook. “Fridays will never be the same again” was the tagline to Paramount Pictures 1980 release of Friday the 13th, starring Jason, every horror movie buff’s favorite slasher. Born on Friday the 13th, Jason chooses to make that day ever more meaningful by seeking revenge on folks who are similar in behavior and appearance to those who allowed him to drown in Crystal Lake. 

But long before the Friday the 13th mini crash of 1989, Lawson’s 1905 novel Friday the Thirteenth, and Jason, for that matter, we find peculiar associations with the number 13. For example, it is curiously omitted in the list of laws in ancient Babylon's (circa 1772 BC) Code of Hammurabi. No one seems to know what the reason was for the omission. And, there is an age-old myth that if 13 people dine together, one will die within a year. The myth is said to derive from both the Last Supper, when Jesus dined with the 12 Apostles prior to his death, and a prevalent Norse myth. 

Blame it on Loki

Loki, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=679795


Okay, so let’s blame it on the trickster. Apparently, twelve gods were having a dinner party at Valhalla, the majestic Norse hall presided over by Odin and where half of those who die in battle go to upon death. An uninvited 13th guest arrived, the mischievous Loki. Ever the trickster, Loki manipulated Hoder, the blind god of darkness, to shoot the god of joy and gladness, Balder the Beautiful, with a mistletoe-tipped arrow. 

After Hoder shot Balder, the whole earth grew dark. Balder died and all of Earth mourned. It was an awfully unlucky day. Since then, the number 13 has been considered ominous and foreboding. 

The DaVinci Code?

Loki could be the end of it, but just for shits and giggles let’s take a look at a theory made famous through the DaVinci Code. In the book, a connection is drawn between the slaughtering of the Knights Templar by the Church and Friday the 13th. The Knights Templar were the wealthy, powerful and legendary order of warrior monks formed during the Christian Crusades. Historically, the arrest of Jacques de Molay, the Grand Master of the Knights Templar, did occur on Friday, Oct. 13, 1307. The event marked their demise by the Church and state for fictitious crimes such as heresy, blasphemy, various obscenities, and homosexual practices. Hundreds of members of the Order died excruciating deaths by torture and burning at the stake. Friday the 13th was indeed an unlucky day for the Knight’s Templar. 

Obviously, it is impossible to determine the exact origin of the superstition surrounding Friday the 13th. That said, there are innumerable superstitions related to this day and date that warrant mentioning simply because people observe them—a LOT of them—and they aren't going away any time soon. Page 173 has a nice collection of superstitions indicating bad luck associated with the day and date. But what about good luck? 


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Is There Such a Thing as Lucky 13?

Consider this, despite its bad luck associations in superstition, the number 13 is considered in a positive light in esoteric traditions. It is the number of mystical manifestation. For example: 

  • The teachings of Jesus are centered on the formula of 12 + 1 (Jesus plus his 12 disciples). According to Pythagoras, one added to 12 creates the unlimited number of 13. It is this formula that allows miracles such as the multiplication of fish and loaves. 
  • Thirteen is the number of the Great Goddess, represented by 13 lunar cycles to a year. 
  • Contemporary witches consider thirteen to be a lucky number. 
  • In the Kabbalistic system, numbers are equated with letters, and the number 13 is equated with love and unity since the Hebrew letters for love and unity both equal 13. 
  • Thirteen is the cosmic law of destiny: death through failure and regeneration. 
  • And hey, let's don't forget the Baker's Dozen...Okay, so that's not esoteric, but it is a good thing, right? I mean, who doesn't like an extra donut? 

Superstition or Reality?

Clearly, there are many explanations for the association between Friday and the number 13; yet, none of them adequately answer the question regarding the absolute origin of the superstition. We’ve looked at origin stories and superstitions and beliefs, both bad and good. Its prevalence is undeniable. However, the whole topic warrants another question. Is there anything to it? 

Indeed, inquiring minds want to know. Friday the 13th has been the subject of formal research. One way to measure whether or not an actual phenomenon exists is to analyze statistical data related to the prevalence of traffic accidents and hospital admissions that occur on Friday the 13th as compared to other days of the week. 

According to research completed at the Dutch Centre for Insurance Statistics in 2008, there were fewer accidents and reports of theft or fire on Friday the 13th than on other Fridays. 

On the other hand, there is this bit of information published on News.com.au website: 

One of the few reputable research papers on the matter - published in the British Medical Journal in 1993 - found that there was a higher risk of road accidents on Friday the 13th than on other Fridays. It found the risk of hospital admission as a result of a transport accident may be increased by as much as 52 per cent on Friday the 13th, compared to Friday the 6th.

Another study on the topic, conducted by Professor Simo Nayha from Finland's University of Oulu in 2004, found women in particular were at higher risk of dying in a road accident on Friday the 13th, compared with other Fridays. And he offered this conclusion: "Friday the 13th may be a dangerous day for women, largely because of anxiety from superstition.


Whatever—don’t get me started on the female focus of the latter research which is annoyingly reminiscent of the 19th-century-no-longer-recognized medical diagnosis of female hysteria. The problem with conducting research on Friday the 13th, aside from possible gender bias, is that it is impossible to control specific variables. For example, some people take extra caution when doing anything that day, whether they are driving or taking a shower. Still others simply avoid going out altogether. Surely these conditions would affect the outcome of any research regarding the incidence of accidents on Friday the 13th. 


Friday the 13th Remedies


Friday the 13th always occurs at least once a year in the Gregorian calendar and can appear up to three times in any one year. In 2016, there will only be one occurrence of Friday the 13th: May 13, 2016. So, is there anything that can be done to prevent possible bad luck for believers? 

Fortunately for paraskevidekatriaphobics, a number of remedies exist. You can escape to high ground, stand on your head and eat a piece of gristle (yum!) or burn all of your socks with holes in them for protection from inevitable. Or, you can carry a Friday the 13th lucky talisman, which I normally create each year but alas, did not have to prepare one today. 

Talisman magick goes back infinitesimally in the civilization of humankind, or by some estimates over 4,120 years. A talisman is a small amulet or object, often bearing magical symbols, worn for protection against evil spirits or the supernatural. 

There are the interesting talismans that are said to protect us from the evils of Friday the 13th. An 1896 Illinois newspaper article (p. 175) reports on the sale of rabbits foot talisman is the magic square. A magic square is a 4 x 4 square with the sum of each of 4 rows, 4 columns, and 2 diagonals always the same, "magic" total. They are found in a number of cultures, including Egypt and India, engraved on stone or metal and worn as talismans, the belief being that magic squares have astrological and divinatory qualities, their usage ensuring longevity and prevention of diseases. 

Bonne chance and good luck on Friday the 13th, wherever you are! 


References

Guiley, R.E. (1999). The Encyclopedia of witches and witchcraft. New York: Checkmark Books.

Roach, John. "Friday the 13th Phobia Rooted in Ancient History", National Geographic News, August 12, 2004, p. Page 1. Retrieved on July 13, 2007

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friday_the_13th


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*The above article is excerpted from the Hoodoo Almanac 2014-2015 by Denise Alvarado, Carolina Dean and Alyne Pustanio. It has been lightly edited to make it applicable to 2016.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

From Corpse Syrup to Reverence: Kneeling at the Crossroads with Sitarane and the Holy Guardian Angel



As one thing leads to another, my ongoing investigation into the veneration of St. Expedite across the globe led me to meeting THIS guy, identified as La Sitarane in my last article, That Sexy Saint's Head is One Powerful Conjure Curio.  If you haven't read it yet, check it, out then come back here as I delve into the discussion about the veneration of a sorcerer turned mass murderer a little deeper. I am still on the topic of sorcery on Réunion Island. 

I don't know about you, but the act of collecting decapitated St. Expedite statue heads by folks who turn to la Sitarane for wicked intercession and protection from the nerdy saint of fast solutions is, to say the least, a fascinating commentary on the human psyche.

While he is known on the Island of Réunion as La Sitarane, his real name is Simicoudza Simicourba (1858 – 1911). Born in Mozambique to a "family of witch doctors," according to Wikipedia, he moved to Reunion in 1889 to work for a Mr. Morange in Saint-Benoît. After working for a couple of years, he left his employment, went underground and in 1906 met a couple of other stand-up guys, Pierre-Elie Calendrin (1869–1937), and Emmanuel Fontaine (1886–1911). Apparently, both men were known to be criminals and Calendrin was also a well-known sorcerer who went by the nickname St. Ange (Saint Angel) due to his alleged powers.

There is scant information available in English about the events surrounding these three guys, but they made quite the reputation for themselves as certified occult thugs. They were well-known for their black magic activities, reading tarot cards, conducting clandestine crossroads rituals and animal sacrifice. These activities, coupled with robbery and murder, made them notoriously famous. 

But let's back up a bit...to when the Matter of Blood Drinkers occult reign of terror officially began.

THE CRIME SPREE

It all started in the dead of night in 1908 on the south side of the island with a series of burglaries. The thieves would break in and steal whatever they could find: money, jewelry, groceries, weapons, crockery, linen, and tools. They even went into kitchens and ate the families' leftover meals with leisure. How strange, it seemed, for the thieves to appear so relaxed in their criminalities. That the burglaries occurred while the owners were at home sleeping and that the bandits were able to enter without detection even by watch dogs caused great confusion to the community. The robberies set off a wave of panic and paranoia among the people. Surely, there must be a supernatural explanation for how the thieves were able to enter homes undetected by man or beast, strip victims of all their belongings, and escape undetected.   

One night in December of 1908, right before midnight and under the cover of darkness, a shop owner named Pierre Payet Delcantara, standing guard, saw three men come to the crossroads near his shop. Behind them was a cart with several other people. The three men went to the middle of the crossroads, lit some candles, burned camphor, and laid out some cards. One of the men appeared to read the cards and shortly thereafter the men retreated. Apparently, there was a baby crying in the house next door and it is thought the thieves left so they wouldn't be disturbed. Eight days later, however, that very store was robbed while the owner stood guard. Despite the fact the door was reinforced with iron sheeting and nails, the thieves blew the boards off the outer wall and looted the store to their hearts content. The store owner apparently didn't hear a thing.

Some time later, the thieves stole thirty-seven kilos of geranium oil from Raoul Leperlier while he and his three dogs slept in the next room. As usual, the gang slipped away undetected.

Then, on March 20, 1909, the body of a man named Hervé Deltel was discovered in the early morning hours by the owner of the property. He had apparently been killed in his bed while he was sound asleep. He had been robbed, and his faithful watchdog had been zombified - but not killed - for several days. The remains of an entirely consumed candle and a rusty knife with a freshly sharpened blade stained blood-red was found on the bedside table. The killer strategically chose to stab his victim in the corner of the eye, penetrating the brain with the first blow.

The senseless crime took the community paranoia to a whole nother level. And the crime spree didn't stop there. Four months later, on August 11, 1909, the most brutal of crimes took place.  

This time, the victim was a young school teacher named Lucien Robert. He lived in Saint Peter with his wife. The bodies of both Lucien and his wife were discovered lying in bed in a pool of blood. The woman had been pregnant and raped by more than one of her killers after she had been murdered. The community was now convinced that the trio operated under the protection of a dark and evil force.

In the meantime, the people were moving beyond fear into anger. Anger that nothing was being done to stop the madness. So, they turned to a local healer referred to as Holy Guardian Angel or Saint Angel who was dispensing a remedy against the overarching evil plaguing the community. The remedy was apparently a tea made from the heads of a local fish:

"This exciting remedy, writes M Petit of Rhodière, manufactured with Congress heads caught in the lagoon of Grand-Bois, where it is well known to fishermen, proves to be so effective that the good news spread like a flash of lightning and soon (Sant'Angelo) is solicited from everywhere at once."

Did you catch that? Saint Angel was the one dispensing the remedies! And the creep factor continues to grow. Apparently, he would not sell his remedy to any of his future victims.

Of course, there was nothing supernatural about how Sitarane and his compadres broke into the homes - sort of. They devised a clever and effective process of drilling a series of small holes just below the latch of the lock which allowed the wood to be removed with a crowbar. Reaching inside, they could easily lift the latch and viola! they were inside. Their methodology soon became apparent, however, and the people of Réunion took extra measures to safeguard their homes. Still, the additional safeguards were not enough to deter or stop the bandits and the break-ins continued, much to the dismay of the communities that were hit. The fact that the bandits could not be stopped and continued to enter homes undetected just strengthened the belief that something supernatural was going on.


THE GRIS GRIS

What strikes me as most interesting is the manner in which the bandits subdued their victims. It appears they used a blowing powder, aka gris gris, prior to slitting their victims' throats. While the most common form of gris gris seen on the internet today is the gris gris bag, gris gris can be made as a powder and even a liquid. Powders and dusts were traditionally deployed by slaves in a variety of ways, including sprinkling in shoes and on floors and blowing into the face or direction of a target. Powders later came to be called sachet powders, blowing powders, and blowing sachet powders in the commercial Hoodoo market.





The people were right in assuming supernatural influences. The trio were not operating on a purely mundane level; they were utilizing some very specific knowledge of both gris gris and botany; the kind of knowledge only adept sorcerers possess. Very few practitioners have learned such sophisticated knowledge of the use of plants and animal parts as poisons.  Given the backgrounds of Calendrin and Simicourba, it was no surprise they utilized the knowledge they possessed to achieve their goals.

According to newspaper reports, the trio would knock on the door of their victims and blow a yellow powder containing datura and zamal through the keyhole that when inhaled caused the victim to fall into a state of paralysis. They even fed any dogs that were present a rooster that had been soaked in a mixture of datura and zamal, which put the animal down for several days. After both humans and animals were paralyzed, the gang could enter the home and proceed with the robbery. 

The yellow blowing powder sounds a lot like zombi powder, come to think of it. I am sure it contained ingredients other than datura and zamal, though I have not found any reference to its complete formula anywhere. As it is, I had to consult the French literature to discover that zamal - a particularly potent strain of Sativa - was part of the formula. According to Seeds-of-Africa.com, zamal "induces a superb, electric high that is slightly unnerving the first time you try it."


Datura innoxia flower and plant, the reported plant used in the Sitarane murders, is also called Herbe a Sitarane in Réunion. Photo copyright 2016 Denise Alvarado, all rights reserved worldwide.



Datura innoxia bud, the reported plant used in the Sitarane murders, is also called Herbe a Sitarane in RéunionPhoto copyright 2016 Denise Alvarado, all rights reserved worldwide.


THE CASE OF SITARANE

The robberies and murders continued until fall of 1909. But, the trio's occult reign of terror came to a screeching halt that September when they were busted in the act. This time, their victim was Charles Roussel in Stamp. The groundskeeper heard suspicious noises at the door and he grabbed his gun. There was a struggle between the groundskeeper and Sitarane and shots were fired, though no one was hit. Everyone fled; but, in the struggle, Sitarane left behind compelling evidence that eventually lead to the trio's arrest. The evidence included two bags, a hat, a gun, two butcher knives, a crowbar, a new crankshaft and a piece of folded paper containing the infamous yellow powder. The police invited the community to view the evidence to see if anyone recognized to whom the items belonged. Indeed, someone was able to identify the two bags as belonging to a man named Simicourbi Simicoudza, a former worker from Mozambique who goes by the name of Sitarane. The new crankshaft was also identified as belonging to a man named Emmanuel Fontaine. The two men were immediately arrested. Further analysis indicated the gun belonged to Hervé Deltel. Both men denied where they got the gun or involvement with any murders. Eventually, they admitted to being present but not to killing anyone themselves. They insisted the real killer was the leader of their gang, Pierre Elie Calendrino, or Saint Angel. 

At that point, the police embarked on a manhunt. Operating from a tip provided by Sitarane and Fontaine, the police checked out a cave called the Chattoire where the gang reportedly hid their loot. There, the police discovered stolen property. This discovery effectively stopped the whole gang, including about a dozen other people involved in handling the stolen goods. They had everyone now, with the exception of Saint Angel.


Cave on the property of Mr. Benoît Lauret, the "400" (Stamp), a place called "The Chattoire" where the band met Sitarane. (Photo D. Ubertini).


With his identity now public, it wasn't long before some farmers apprehended Saint Angel. On December 31, 1909, he had been found and was about to be lynched. The police caught wind of the situation and showed up in the nick of time to intervene and prevent him from being hung that day. Lucky for him...


Policemen escorting the prisoners in the early twentieth century (Collection Andre Blay).


ON THE MATTER OF BLOOD DRINKERS

Once Sitarane and Fontaine were arrested and interviewed, they admitted to conducting rituals prior to the burglaries and even revealed the sordid details of their crimes. Saint Angel prepared a special potion for each of the men to drink before each outing that consisted of holy water, honey, some pieces of shaved wood and seven teaspoons of black goat blood. Each of them fasted for 18 hours prior to the ritual and drank three swallows of the concoction at sunset. Once they had murdered Hervé Deltel and Lucien Robert and his wife, however, the blood of the goat was replaced by the human blood they had harvested from their victims. According Saint Angel, drinking the sirop de cadavre (corpse syrup) at a favorable moment was enough to multiply by seven the spirit of evil and make whoever partakes of the potion invincible, as well as apparently, invisible.

After drinking the corpse syrup, they began to circle around a fire, and Saint Angel made passes over the flames with a king of spades card. By order of Saint Angel, Sitarane stuck the card with a knife seven times. They burned camphor, communed with the spirits and read the cards to see if the roads would be open and free of obstructions so that they could proceed with their plans. Sitarane would place his ear to the ground in the crossroads and listen for vibrations. If the road was quiet, it meant the coast was clear. There are no more details about the rituals that I could find; but, if Sitarane and Fontaine were telling the truth, then it does appear Saint Angel was the ringleader of the gang and their occult activities. 

Once the details of the occult activities were made public, the trio was referred to as the bloodsucking gang.

The next year, on December 13, 1910, a verdict was reached in the trial. Sitarane, Fountain and Saint Ange were sentenced to death. Five accomplices were sentenced to forced labor for life, while two women and a young man were acquitted. 

You would think that was the end of it, but you would be wrong. Evidence of ongoing occult influences continued when an appeal was filed regarding the sentences. The appeal went before the Supreme Court on June 18, 1911, and the decision was to keep the death sentence for Sitarane and Fontaine, but not for Saint Ange. His sentence was reversed by the President of the Republic and instead, Saint Angel was sentenced to life on Devil's Island in Guyana. 

You just can't make this shit up.

Sitarane and Fontaine were guillotined on June 20, 1911. According to ExecutedToday.com, "Sitarane died wailing a Comorian death-chant. Fontaine, more panicky, resisted the executioners and got his neck in a twist, resulting in a bad strike from the blade that lodged in his jaw." Yikes. They are buried in the same grave in the cemetery of St. Peter. If you look at the sign on the grave, you will see all three of their names. Apparently, Sitarane and Fontaine were buried in the same plot, but Saint Angel died just three years before the Guyana Penitentiary closed in 1932. 





MODERN DAY SITARANE SORCERY

One might wonder, as I did before learning the details of the case, why La Sitarane is venerated as he is and why he is held in such high regard given the atrocious nature of his crimes and his association with witchcraft and sorcery. The answer is that Sitarane asked to be baptized immediately before being executed. He was baptized June 20, 1911, at the age of 42, the same day of his execution. They say the devil becomes an angel by baptism, so he is considered a special spirit capable of bestowing blessings and providing assistance to the living. 

Today, La Sitarane's grave is persistenly decorated with flowers, candles and alcohol. Some folks lay in his grave in hopes they will be especially blessed or granted good luck. People routinely visit him and also invoke his help in their practice of the Black Arts. In particular, those who are involved in criminal behaviors - like those the Bloodsucking gang were involved in - will pray to his evil spirit for help with the successful commission of their anticipated crimes.

One story tells of a man who left a butcher knife on Sitarane's grave overnight. After retrieving it, he used it to murder his mistress in front of ten thousand people while she watched a variety show in front of the town hall.

But, it seems not everyone who pays homage to Sitarane is of an evil nature. Take this video for example, and the singer who seems to be just happy as a peach to lie in the grave of the infamous murderous sorcerer, Sitarane.








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References

http://www.iledelareunion.net/sitarane.htm

SITARANE : HISTOIRE ET LEGENDE DES "BUVEURS DE SANG"
http://gistlabs.net/PagePerso/reunion/Documents/Sitarane.html

Image Credits: Sitarane and Fontaine being led from prison to the guillotine on June 20, 1911. Retrieved from: http://www.laboutiquederemi.com/2015/12/mythes-et-legendes-de-la-reunion.html

Sunday, April 17, 2016

That Sexy Saints' Head is One Powerful Conjure Curio



This article piggybacks the last article I wrote called St. Expedite around the World: Road Side Altars in Réunion. In that article, I discussed the possible connection between St. Expedite and sorcery due to the prevalence of decapitated statues found at the numerous roadside shrines in Réunion.

According to local reports, St. Expedite is decapitated in order to “neutralize his power or to use the head in their own incantations” (Dalyrymple 1998). Unfortunately, this new information is not in my book, The Conjurer's Guide to St. Expedite. But, that's okay, I have another book in the works about him that will contain this additional information. I have discovered through reading numerous more articles that the reason for his decapitation is indeed due to sorcery. Apparently, the decapitated head of a St. Expedite statue is one powerful conjure curio. Sorcerers will collect the heads of this sexy saint and use them in works against enemies and  for protection. St. Expedite is perceived to be so powerful, that in order to counteract any magick performed with his assistance one must seek the ultimate solution: assistance from the spirit of a deceased sorcerer extraordinaire and mass murderer.

Now, this is getting interesting.

To folks who are unfamiliar with Southern conjure and execration magick, it may sound shocking. But, it makes total sense to me now that I have more information.

In Southern conjure, graveyard work is often a very big part of the practitioner's work, especially for the two-headed conjure doctor aka sorcerer. And, as is often the case there are more similarities than differences when it comes to examining traditions across cultures. In New Orleans Voudou, St. Expedite in syncretized with Baron Samedi who is the Voudou Spirit of Death and head of ancestral loas (Guede). Hanging out with both St. Expedite and Baron Samedi at the cemetery is not unusual for practitioners. Graveyard work is, after all, considered a powerful form of magick. Apparently it is in Réunion, too.

Enter La Sitarene

A rather infamous sorcerer in Reunion was known for his collection of decapitated St. Expedite heads. He apparently used them in his powerful conjure work, which reportedly scared the crap out of locals. As one individual describes it: "We were all terrified of him: everyone believed he had very strong powers. But in the end the people kicked him out because he began to demand bribes not to cast spells on us all" (Dalyrymple 1998). In order to ensure the sorcerer would not exact revenge, they enlisted the help of the spirit of a sorceror known as La Sitarane. 

La Sitarene was notorious while still alive for more than just being a sorcerer. He killed three people that folks are aware of, and he did it by drugging his victims with datura and then drinking their blood. In the graveyard where he is buried, "the head of the cross on La Sitarane's gravestone had been broken off and the remaining shaft painted bright red. On the slab was piled a mountain of bizarre offerings: rice, potatoes, oranges, radishes, wine gums, milk, coconuts and incense sticks, as well as the inevitable bottles of rum and packets of Gitanes" (Dalyrymple 1998).

Now, in the conjure tradition, petitioning the help of a murderer is serious business. Sometimes this is done by gathering the grave dirt from where the murderer is buried. Other times, it involves the actual invocation of their spirit. In both cases, a pact is made between conjurer and spirit that defines the work to be done. The services of the spirit are bought and paid for, often for a mere 15 cents and a bottle of rum. 

Ironically, La Sitarene was decapitated as a result of his actions, just like St. Expedite. Only his beheading was a just sentence as opposed to being murdered for being a Christian. As the story goes, just before he was executed, La Sitarene made a public proclamation that he would return from the dead to avenge his death. He must have made quite the scene because his words have never been forgotten.  

They say the people of Reunion believe La Sitarene still wanders the land. The offerings left at his grave point to the belief that his services can be bought and paid for and apparently he is gaining in popularity. They continue to bring him gifts and solicit his help to make their work more powerful and to exact revenge against enemies.When they need help in a hurry, however - whether a curse or a blessing -  it is St. Expedite they turn to.

References

Dalrymple, William (1998). The Age of Kali: Indian Travels and Encounters. retrieved April 16, 2016 from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/721380/Reunion-Renaults-and-sacred-rites.html

Image credit: Photo of A Cabinet of Decapitated St Expedite Heads by Denise Alvarado, Copyright 2016 All rights reserved worldwide.