St. Expedite around the World: Road Side Altars in Réunion
An unfamilar dimension of this story indicates St. Expedite is routinely invoked for his help with black magic in placing and breaking curses. As the story goes, he is so prompt to dispense a curse that to call him anything other than St. Expedite would make no sense, whatsoever.
According to some reports, St. Expedite is the Patron Saint of Roads in Réunion. The roadside altars and shrines are situated in memoriam by families of those who die in roadside traffic accidents. Apparently, the roads there are quite treacherous and the question is not if you will get into an accident; rather, it is more like when. Some of the locals say St. Expedite is the product of Voodoo and that he is the saint to petition when you want to get rid of someone in a hurry.
According to the website Travel, the local Hindus “treat St Expedite as an unofficial incarnation of Vishnu; those wanting children come to his shrine and tie saffron cloths to the grilles“ (Dalrymple 1998).
Unlike other places, there is an unusual practice there that is not observed in other areas of St. Expedite devotion. Apparently, as easy as it is to observe how well cared for the roadside altars are, it is also plain to see decapitated statues of St. Expedite strewn about—reportedly the result of petitioners’ anger for when he doesn’t come through for them. It has also been suggested that he is decapitated as part of a petition to break existing curses.
Interestingly, there is the theme of decapitation found in private and royal funerary literature of ancient Egypt (Picardo, 2007). The actual act of decapitation was considered the most reprehensible of acts with only the vilest of human beings deserving of such a fate. To the ancient Egyptians, enemies and foreigners were among those who received such treatment at the request of the King. However, decapitation also occurred in a ritual context in magic spells. Symbolic decapitations directed against enemies and criminals were invoked through execration magic and in threat-formulae or curses against robbers. Evidence for this activity is found in some tomb inscriptions.
ReferencesBesançon, A. and Jane Marie Todd. (2000). The Forbidden Image: An Intellectual History of
Iconoclasm. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Picardo, N. (2007). Semantic Homicide’ and the So-called Reserve Heads: The Theme of Decapitation in Egyptian Funerary Religion and Some Implications for the Old Kingdom. Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt, 23.