Showing posts with label decapitation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label decapitation. Show all posts

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.




Saturday, April 16, 2016

St. Expedite around the World: Road Side Altars in Réunion


Today, St. Expedite is a popular folk saint in various parts of the world, including the tiny French Island of Réunion, located off the east coast of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. The origin of his devotion there follows the familiar storyline of the arrival of a mysterious crate marked expedit that contained some bones. Apparently, a request was made by colonials to the Vatican for saintly relics. When the box of old bones arrived with expedit marked on the wooden box, those who received them assumed they were the bones of a saint and named him St. Expedite.

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.

However he arrived there and whatever the nature of his association, people professing a wide range of religious faiths including Christianity, animism, Buddhism, and Hinduism are equally attracted to St. Expedite’s ability to get things done in a hurry, whether it be a curse or a blessing. He is apparently revered in secret in Reunion; some have gone so far as to say it is a taboo to invoke him. People typically do not come out during the day to make their petitions so as to avoid being seen. That said, there exists numerous roadside altars, huts, little shrines and niches painted in bright red that do nothing to keep St. Expedite on the downlow. Images of these roadside altars show they are obviously well taken care of and offerings or ex-votos commonly left at the various shrines in gratitude for petitions granted show his devotees are numerous and strong in faith. Among the offerings left are red wine and small cakes with coins pressed into them.

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. 

I find the practice of decapitating his statue to be quite intriguing. Reunion Island is a diverse community consisting of white Europeans, Indians, Africans, Chinese, and Vietnamese. Given the different cultural influences found there, it piques my curiosity as to who may have brought the practice with them and what the true meaning is for cutting off St. Expedite’s head.

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. 

Of course, the possibility that St. Expedite is being destroyed by iconoclasts shouldn't be discounted. Iconoclasm is the deliberate destruction of religious icons or monuments, usually for religious or political motives. In common parlance, an iconoclast is a person who challenges cherished beliefs or traditional institutions as being based on error or superstition (Besançon & Todd, 2000). Could it be there are locals who disapprove of St. Expedite and show their disapproval by the destruction of the statues? Whatever the case may be, it is clear there is an underground devotion of St. Expedite that serves both positive and nefarious purposes on the island of Réunion.

References

Besançon, 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.


Image credit

A roadside hut altar dedicated to Expeditus on Réunion Island CC BY-SA 3.0 Uploaded by David.Monniaux (2005) Wikimedia Commons.

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*The above article is excerpted from A Conjurer's Guide to St. Expedite, available here and at bookstores everywhere.