Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Jesús Malverde, Mexican Robin Hood & Narco-Saint


DEPENDING ON WHO you talk to, Jesús Malverde is either the “Mexican Robin Hood” and “Angel to the Poor,” or the “Narco-Saint” and Protector of drug traffickers. His intercession is sought by those with problems of all kinds and it is said miraculous healings and blessings have been attributed to him. Offerings are made to him along with photos of individuals in need of help, and when requests are granted, he is thanked and a public recognition is made commemorating the miracle.
     
The stories about Malverde and the culture in which he originated is actually quite fascinating. The legend of Malverde begins during an era of much poverty and suffering in Mexico, referred to as the Porfiriato.  Under the reign of a dictator named Porfirio Diaz (1877-1911), Mexico was being modernized by big business at the expense of the majority of the population who - not included in any beneficial way in Porfirio’s modernization efforts - remained in extreme poverty. Watching progress pass them by left impoverished Mexicans brewing in social unrest, and as a result, the countryside became littered with bandits. Here, in this context, the bandits aren’t the bad guys; they are the ones standing up to a neglectful government and fighting social injustice for the poor. Eventually, this social climate led to the Mexican Revolution, and many of these bandits rose to the status of folk hero.
   
Jesús Malverde was one such bandit who rose to the status of folk hero, and later to the status of folk saint. Born Jesus Juarez Mazo sometime in 1870 near the town of Mocorito, Malverde is believed to have been either a tailor, a construction worker or a railway worker.  He reportedly rode the hills near Culiacan  Mexico during the Porfiriato stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. These deeds are why he earned the name Mexican Robin Hood. Unfortunately, his unorthodox humanitarian efforts were not appreciated by the Mexican government, and he was eventually caught and hung from a tree on May 3rd, 1909, his body left to rot. This is the origin of his feast day, and every year  at this time there is a great celebration at his shrine, which is located near the railroad tracks on the west side of Culiacan, and is well-known to just about everybody in town (Quinones, 2001).
     
This is but one version of his legend—there are many others. According to Quinones (2001), “Some say Malverde began a life of crime after his parents died of hunger. Some versions say he was finally betrayed by a friend, who cut off his feet and dragged him through the hills to the police to collect a 10,000 peso reward. Others have him betrayed and shot to death. His betrayer dies three days later, and the governor who wanted him, Francisco Canedo, dies 33 days later, from a cold contracted after going out at night without slippers.”
     
Malverde’s first miracle is said to have occurred shortly after his death, while his bones were left hanging in the Mesquite tree  as a deterrent to other potential outlaws.  It was a friend of his, legend says, that went to Malverde’s hanging bones to ask his dead friend to help him locate two mules laden with silver and gold that he had lost. He ended up finding them, and so in gratitude, he gathered Malverde’s bones and took them to the cemetery where he bribed the guard for permission bury Malverde there. The friend buried him in a secret location in the cemetery, just as if he were burying smuggled goods. No one knows exactly where he was laid to rest, nor is it likely anyone will ever find out.
    
Whatever the story, there is, without a doubt, quite a bit of mystery surrounding this folk saint. He is angel to some, evil to others. Especially in recent years, when the only time one hears his name is in the papers and it is always associated with drug trafficking of some kind. Statues of Jesús Malverde are believed to keep drug dealers' stash invisible to cops, so cops look for the statue and if there are drugs close by, that is where they will likely be.  But, it appears that his image as Narco-Saint is a relatively recent phenomenon as compared to his original, more philanthropic reputation.   
     
I had to ask, when did Malverde change in image from Robin Hood to Narco-Saint? And, how did this happen?
     
Culiacan, the capitol of the state of Sinaloa, is the cradle of the Mexican drug trade, and this is the region where Malverde carried out his illegal activities. He had been served as a folk saint there since his death in 1909 and so it was not a leap for drug dealers to turn to him for protection and success in their activities. Drug dealing is a thriving economy engaged in by the disadvantaged in response to a lack of any other possibilities for relief from poverty. When a smuggling across the borders is successful, Malverde is thanked for “Lighting the way.”
     
However, it was during the 1970s that Sinaloa was targeted and entrapped in the military operation known as Operation Condor. The military declared war against the region's drug smugglers and the army went through the hills attacking drug smugglers and innocent ranchers alike. The state lost an estimated 2,000 hamlets and villages during those years as people abandoned homes, land and livestock and streamed from the hills to the cities (Quinones, 2001). "The press, sharing the same view as the authorities, or perhaps so as not to be left behind when the graft was being handed out, added their two cents," says Luis Astorga, a researcher of the narcoculture who lived in Culiacan during this time. "They labeled Malverde as the ´Narcosaint.' The drug smugglers, due to their social origin, had inherited the belief in Malverde. But the media gave it a kind of yellow slant. They were really the ones who made Malverde into the drug smuggler's saint, forgetting how old the belief in him really was"  (Quinones, 2001).


     WORKING WITH JESÚS MALVERDE

Working with Jesús  Malverde is really very simple, as is the case with most folk saints. Devotees talk to him regularly, develop a relationship with him, and bless themselves whenever they walk past his image. They wear Jesús Malverde perfume oil when calling upon him for help, guidance and protection. Images of Malverde and his prayer are hung behind the front door as a talisman to protect a place or are carried upon a person for protection and to keep the law away.
     
Often, shrines of Malverde include statues of Santa Muerte, as well as Our Lady of Guadalupe. Malverde himself is typically represented as a large bust in public shrines and as a smaller statue on personal shrines. But, since he is patron to the poor, your altar need not be fancy. If all you can do is print out his image, then tack it to the wall above a small table or dresser top and you will be fine. If you can’t afford fresh flowers, use plastic.  If you can’t afford colored candles, plain white ones will do.
  
Two candles are needed to petition Jesús Malverde: one, a glass encased Jesús Malverde seven color candle and the other, a glass encased three color Jesús Malverde candle. Some folks will use a white Santa Muerte candle and a green Jesús Malverde candle. Set an altar with the two candles on either side of his image, and place a photo of the person needing assistance on the altar. Set a written petition that has been placed in an envelope next to his image. If you have a bust or statue of him, place your hand on his head while praying. You may pray the following prayer:

PRAYER TO JESÚS MALVERDE

Dear Holy and Miraculous Malverde, I kneel before you today and ask for your mercy to heal my pain. You, who dwells in the glory of God Almighty, I come to you as a humble sinner asking you to hear my pleas for freedom from suffering. Oh miraculous Malverde,  grant me this favor and fill my soul with joy. Give me health, give me rest, Make me well and I will be happy. This is what I ask of you Malverde, to grant this favor. If you do this for me, I promise I will make an offering to you and make a charitable donation to the poor. (Concentrate on your desires) Amen.

The prayer can be altered to fit your need; as it stands, it is a prayer for healing. Offerings to Malverde run the gamut from candles, trinkets, corn cobs, photo collages, music and flowers to artificial limbs reminiscent of St. Roche in New Orleans.


REFERENCES
Quinones, S. (2001). True Tales from Another Mexico, University of New Mexico Press.

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Article and image Copyright 2013 Denise Alvarado, All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Celebrating the Holy Day Of New Orleans Voodoo



St. John’s Eve is the Holy Day of New Orleans Voodoo and is one of the only feast Days in Catholicism that celebrates the birth of St. John the Baptist, the other two being Jesus and Our Lady. Usually, feast days celebrate the deaths of saints. In New Orleans, it is the day for celebrating the Mother and Father of New Orleans Voodoo, Marie Laveaux and Dr. John Montanet. 

The celebrations of St. John's Eve typically honor Marie Laveaux. I am certainly among those to pay homage to our Queen this time of year. However, I think it is time to start deliberately celebrating Dr. John, as well. After all, he did as much for New Orleans Voodoo as did Marie Laveaux. He brought gris gris into the commercial practice, taught Marie Laveaux the art of gris gris, and played a prominent role as a drummer in the celebrations at Congo Square - rhythms that can still be heard today.

There are a number of small things you can do to begin incorporating Dr. John into your yearly celebrations. As he is considered the patron loa to drummers and male Voodoo practitioners (although, as a lover of women and other personal reasons I will not disclose at this time, I believe he can just as well be patron loa to women as well), any celebration that incorporates drums and drumming is appropriate. Since he was a rootdoctor, offerings of any medicinal plants and foods can be made to him. Louis Martinie suggests medicinal liquids like camphor are also appropriate.

Some customs to observe this day in honor of Dr. John and St. John center around the gathering of St. John’s Wort, Mother Earth’s own protection ward and antidepressant. To harvest, cut the top half of the plant, tie into a bundle and hang to dry. Hang a few sprigs above doors and windows as a protective ward. Tie a few sprigs together with red string and hang above the image of St. John to keep evil away. Better yet, plant a few in your garden in honor of the great rootdoctor.





St, John's Wort is a wonderful medicinal herb. It can be used medicinally as a general tonic for wellbeing or for specific conditions such as depression, sleep disorders, chronic tension headaches, and mild rheumatic pain. To reap the benefits of this marvelous little magical and medicinal herb, make a tea or tincture:

  • To make a tea, place two teaspoons of the dried herb in a cup of boiling water for 15 minutes, strain and drink 3 times a day. Add sweetener to taste.
  • To make a tincture, place 3 ounces of the dried flowers or fresh herb to fill a one pint jar. Cover with Everclear and shake the contents well. Let steep for two weeks, shaking the jar once a day. The resulting liquid should be a bright red, which represents the color of the blood of St. John, whose beheading is remembered on August 29th. Strain out the herbs and pour into 1 oz dropper bottles Drink two droppers full three times a day for adults and one dropper full for children.*

A custom in celebration of St. John is to make a wreath and hang it on the front door. Wreaths are made from the foliage of magnolia and oak trees, cushion bush, asparagus fern, bay laurel and marjoram. Flowers for the wreath can include lavender, larkspur, hydrangea, baby's breath, goldenrod, pussy willow, yarrow, purple coneflower, roses and globe thistle.
    I will post a magic lamp for Dr. John in an upcoming post so stay tuned! You might also be interested in an article I posted at the New Orleans Voodoo Examiner called What can we Learn about Dr. John Montenet from his Handwriting?

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    Article Copyright 2013 Denise Alvarado All rights reserved.

    * This information has not been evaluated by the FDA and is not a substitute for medical care given by physicians or trained medical professionals.

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    Tuesday, June 11, 2013

    Working with St. Anthony of Padua



    St. Anthony of Padua is one of the Catholic Church’s most popular saints, as well as one of New Orleans’ most popular saints. He was a powerful Franciscan preacher and teacher and is widely recognized as a miracle worker.  He is usually depicted holding a lily, a book and/or the baby Jesus in his arms.  Nearly everywhere, St. Anthony is asked to intercede with God for the return of things lost or stolen. Those who feel very familiar with him may pray, "Tony, Tony, turn around. Something's lost and must be found."

    Saint Anthony of Padua lived from 1195 until 1231 AD. His feast day is June 13, which is the anniversary of his death. His color is brown and because he was buried on a Tuesday and many miracles occurred at that time, Tuesday is his celebrated day. It is customary to pray a Novena to him on thirteen consecutive Tuesdays.

    In New Orleans, it is said that Marie Laveaux always kept a statue of St. Anthony in her front yard and when she was “doing a work” she would turn the statue upside down. The upside down position of the statue of St. Anthony let people know she should not be disturbed at that point in time. When she was done with her work, she would turn him right side up again and availed herself to visitors.

    St. Anthony is well known for his numerous miracles. His most famous miracle could well be his sermon to the fishes. When a crowd refused to listen to him, he apparently turned his back on them and standing on the shore, began preaching to the fish in the lake. It is said that the fish responded by lifting up their heads from the water so they could hear him better. This event no doubt caught people’s attention.


    Patronage


    Saint Anthony of Padua is the Patron Saint of lost things, as well as against shipwrecks, poor and oppressed people, barren women, starvation, American Indians, boatmen, elderly people, expectant mothers, fishermen, harvests, horses, mail, mariners, pregnant women, sailors, swineherds, travel hostesses, travelers and watermen.

    In some countries, Saint Anthony is prayed to by travelers and vacationers for a safe journey, particularly over the seas. Thus, he is the patron saint of sailors and fisherman in Spain, Italy, France and Portugal. According to some stories, sailors keep a statue of Saint Anthony on the mast of the ship, and appeal to him for safety while at sea.

    St. Anthony is traditionally invoked for help with finding lost things because of an incident that occurred in his own life. According to legend, Anthony had a book of psalms (Psalter) that was very important to him. The Psalter had the notes and comments he had made to use in teaching students in his Franciscan Order. A novice who had grown tired of living a religious life decided to leave the community. In addition to going AWOL, he took Anthony's Psalter! When Anthony realized his Psalter was missing, he prayed for its safe return. Soon after Anthony's prayer, the thief felt compelled to return the Psalter to Anthony, as well as return to the Order which accepted him back.

    Oral tradition has a much more colorful version of this story. In this version, the novice was stopped in his tracks by a ghastly devil wielding an ax and threatening to crush him if he did not return the book immediately. According to AmericanCatholic.org, “in Christian tradition a devil would hardly command anyone to do something good. But the core of the story would seem to be true. And the stolen book is said to be preserved in the Franciscan friary in Bologna.”

    St Anthony is best known among conjurers as the patron of lost things, as well. He is invoked when a person is lost. Many people call upon him to help them reconcile with a lost lover and to help find a mate. Because Saint Anthony finds lost people, his aid can also be requested when praying for someone who is severely struggling, and who seems to be a lost soul. Call his name, visualize your lost item and explain to him how important it is for you to find it, and sincerely ask for his aid. You will find your missing object, especially when reciting the following prayer.


    Prayer to Find What Is Lost


    St. Anthony, when you prayed, your stolen book of prayers was given back to you. Pray now for all of us who have lost things precious and dear. Pray for all who have lost faith, hope or the friendship of God. Pray for us who have lost friends or relatives by death. Pray for all who have lost peace of mind or spirit. Pray that we may be given new hope, new faith, new love. Pray that lost things, needful and helpful to us, may be returned to our keeping. Or, if we must continue in our loss, pray that we may be given Christ’s comfort and peace. Amen.



    Offerings

    • Cigar  
    • Whiskey and white rum
    • White candles
    • Brown candles
    • Red Candles
    • Lilies

    Yo git St. Anthony, yeah a brown candle…
    Yo git a cigar – see lak dat you got  [I was smoking a cigar]
    Yo git ‘bout a little whiskey glass of whiskey see ‘cause St. Anthony
    He’s a saint he laks cigahs and he was a good-time man…
    An yo wake up de nex mawnin’ an yo’ see de glass dry an’ de cigah half smoked.

     (Algiers, Louisiana) Hyatt, Hoodoo-Conjure-Witchcraft-Rootwork, Vol 2.

    Work 1

    If there is someone who is angry with you or who does not trust you and you wish to heal that relationship, you can appeal to St. Anthony to help.  Hang an image of St. Anthony on the wall and directly underneath it, set a brown candle in a white saucer. Write a petition on a piece of plain brown that has your name and the target’s name written three times underneath yours. As you write the names, say “I desire you (state the person’s name) to come to me in peace.” Place the petition under the saucer and light the candle. Knock three times before his image and tell St Anthony to find that person and bring them to you in peaceful, reconciliatory state of mind. When he answers your petition, be sure to thank him publicly for his help.

    Work 2


    St. Anthony can also be invoked for cases of justice. Use a red candle for this work and offer him some red flowers, a cigar and a glass of white rum. Write your petition to St. Anthony and set it before an image of him. Knock three times and call out his name, and tell him what you want. Then take the petition and wrap one of the red flowers and a piece of camphor in it and tie it closed with a red string. Take the paket along with some white rum and bury it in your front yard. Pour some rum on the ground over the burial spot. When he answers your petition, be sure to thank him publicly for his help.


    Article Copyright 2013 Denise Alvarado, All rights reserved worldwide.
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