Showing posts with label gris gris. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gris gris. Show all posts

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

Thursday, January 3, 2013

How to Make and Use a Business Success Gris Gris

It's the beginning of the year and a time for reevaluation of things. Many folks continue to struggle and look to all sorts of ways to increase their chances of business success. One of the ways this can be done in the realm of New Orleans Hoodoo is by making a gris gris bag for your business or job. Before you do this you should perform a house, shop and office cleansing for the New Year. You can find an example in my blog post How to Perform a House Cleansing. In addition, you can try Marie Laveau's Floor Wash for Business Success shown in the image below from the Voodoo Hoodoo Spellbook that appeared in Hoodoo and Conjure Quarterly #2.




Making Your Business Success Gris Gris

Gris gris is a system of magic brought over form Africa by the traditional Bambaran Africans as well as the Muslim marabouts.  Jean Montenet, aka Dr. John, himself a Bambaran, utilized gris gris in his healing practice and was considered a master at his craft. Some speculate Marie Laveau was an apprentice of sorts to Dr. John for awhile and learned the art of gris gris from him. It has also been suggested that her mother was from the Congo, and so she likely learned the art from her mother, as well. Wherever she learned it, and however it ended up in New Orleans is secondary to the  influence it continues to have on New Orleans Voodoo today, thanks to Marie Laveau's business savvy. And all of us professional rootworkers owe a debt to the Mother and Father of New Orleans Voodoo - Dr. John Montenet and Mamz'elle Laveau -  for making a business out of Hoodoo in New Orleans and all along the Southern Bayous.

If you haven't seen my other blog Voodoo Hoodoo Spellbook, you should take a look at the excerpt on gris gris there for a more in depth background of the practice. You should also refer to the article How to Make a Gris Gris Bag for details on the process that I won't repeat here because I have already written about it in the other article.

So let's make a business gris gris in the Marie Laveau tradition for the New Year. You will need yellow or green flannel or a piece of leather and the following items:

  • Solomon's Seal
  • High John the Conqueror Root
  • Devil's Shoestring
  • Silver mercury dime
  • Black eyed pea
  • Palm ashes
  • Dragon's Blood
  • Personal effect of your own such as fingernail clippings or hair
  • Material effect from your business like a business card or receipt
  • Lodestone
  • Dried toadstool
  • Small piece of pound cake offered to St. Expedite

Copyright 2013 Denise Alvarado
Light a green, yellow or gold candle and hold your bag while focusing on the need or desire you have. Say Psalm 8 twenty-seven times while imagining yourself accomplishing your goal. Once you can say the prayer and have a clear vision of your goal in mind (this does take practice), your gris gris will begin to attract the changes you seek. Do this exercise daily, first thing in the morning or right before bedtime. Feed your gris gris every Friday evening by placing it on a dish of sugar and pouring a few drops of Crown of Success conjure oil onto the ingredients inside the bag. Leave it to sit overnight. It’s okay for the oil to leech into the sugar. In the morning, put the sugar in a bucket of soapy water and wash down the entrance of your business. Keep your gris gris with you if at all possible; women keep it on the left side while men keep them on the right. Anytime you need extra blessings, hold the gris gris in your hands and breathe into it while reciting the prayer.



Psalm 8(KJV)

God's Glory and Man's Honor

To the chief Musician upon Git'tith, A Psalm of David.


O LORD our Lord,
how excellent is thy name in all the earth!
who hast set thy glory above the heavens.

Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength
because of thine enemies,
that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.

When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers,
the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;

what is man, that thou art mindful of him?
and the son of man, that thou visitest him?

For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels,
and hast crowned him with glory and honor.

Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands;
thou hast put all things under his feet:

all sheep and oxen,
yea, and the beasts of the field;

the fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea,
and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.

O LORD our Lord,
how excellent is thy name in all the earth!

Find a complete selection of authentic New Orleans Gris Gris at Planet Voodoo.
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All text, images and graphics Copyright 2013 Denise Alvarado, All rights reserved worldwide. Do not copy without my express permission.

Friday, June 24, 2011

There is No Such Thing as War Water

Did I get your attention? Good, because I want to talk about what is tradition and what is not tradition.

 



Here’s the great debate: War Water is rusty water that may contain cut nails, rusty nails, or coffin nails. The nails may come from different places in order to take advantage of their magical correspondences and amplify the formula. In Louisiana, war water was often oil of tar in swamp water with a little Spanish moss thrown in. The latter is the formula I am most familiar with as a New Orleans native, though I make a nice rusty water too. Nails may or may not be an addition to this basic recipe. Though, as with anything hoodoo, formulas vary between families and practitioners.

I can hear it now...some folks reading this are throwing a fit...you can’t have war water without rust! You have to have nails in the water! The nails have to be cut so they can oxidize in the water! War Water has to have rust because rust is a by product of iron and iron is associated with Mars, the god of war and ...wait, what does Mars have to do with hoodoo? (Okay, don't answer that one because I know about European influences).




So this is where I am going with this article...the arguments about “my war water is more authentic than your war water” is a moot point if we really want to talk authentic, traditional formulas. War Water shouldn’t even be in the same sentence because it is not a traditional formula or hoodoo weapon.  Africans used other methods of warfare, as did the Indians. And when they were forced together through the slave trade, if they compared notes, I'm pretty sure war water wasn’t in those notes.

The preferred weapon of war was gris gris, which was reconstructed through the diaspora. Gris gris was brought to these shores via the marabouts and their occult skills and military traditions. It was used in numerous slave revolts as well as in the Haitian revolution. On the other hand, War Water was the creation of the hoodoo marketeers, white folks who looked to make a buck off of the black folk. Then there are the well-meaning white folks who started serving the black communities because there was a need as many stopped preparing their own remedies and so the hoodoo drugstore was one place to go for these remedies. There are many such creations that we tend to call traditional or authentic, when in reality, they do not  originate in African or indigenous spirituality, religion, or folk magic. Things like War Water and the fictional antidote Peace Water  is not an African product; it is the result of commercialized hoodoo.

Marie Laveau was well versed in the art of gris gris, as was Dr. John. Some venture to say Dr. John was an even better gris gris doctor than she and that he taught her about gris gris. My guess is that if Marie Laveau’s  Peace Water is actually her formula, she would have used it to cool down conditions or used it to bless people, places, and things. It would not have been used as an antidote to War Water because there was no War Water during her time.

And if that isn’t enough to get you going, here is something that might. Where I come from, hoodoo is Voodoo (I can hear it again, folks going off on me ...how dare I say they are one and the same? hoodoo is the magic, Voodoo is the religion...blah, blah, blah). The magic is PART of the religion, not separate from it. Those who separate it and those who practice hoodoo as “African American folk magic” are only “using” part of the actual tradition, which has become an American tradition. And while I am at it (oh, this is good!), Christianity was NOT one of the original religions- Voudon, Orisha, Ifa, Mami Wata, Islam and others were among the traditional religions brought to the Americas via the slave trade. Africans were not even allowed to worship as Christians during slavery. Then later, Christianity was imposed on Africans as part of the Code Noir and if they did not conform they were tortured or even killed. But the Africans knew who they were praying to, and it wasn’t Saint Peter.

So, to show you I am not a fool with my head in the sand, I am quite aware that many folks believe Christianity is what makes hoodoo authentic. Moving forward in time, we see many of the colonized folks adopting aspects of Christianity and eventually completely converting. And likewise, we see many descendents of the colonizers defining Hoodoo as a Christian tradition. But hoodoo did not start on these shores. It is not a “later” development. Its origin comes straight from Africa, and is a complete magicospiritual tradition that is intimately connected to the spirits of Voudon (that’s right, the religion).

In my opinion, it is tragic why Christianity is such a big part of American hoodoo. It is the direct result of colonization, a process that interrupted the transmission of the religious aspects of Voudon to subsequent generations and that caused folks to fear their own cultures of origin to the point of rejecting their ancestry.

As I always say when I make such controversial statements, not everyone in New Orleans sees it the way I do. Not everyone uses the power of the spirits to energize their magic and gris gris. But many do. However, it has remained underground for a long time and there are those who still will not come out publicly. I have been taken by my elders to secret locations for ceremonies heretofore undisclosed for fear of intrusion and harassment by outsiders. I am still sworn to secrecy. So I understand. One day, perhaps we won’t have to fear being open about our true religious preferences.

What I have presented is food for thought. Whether you agree with this article or not does not matter to me. I am telling it the way I see it, it’s my opinion, and I am not going to argue about it, though I am happy to have lively discussions.

Reference

Diouf, S. A.  (1998). Servants of Allah: African Muslims enslaved in the Americas.  New York: NYU Press

Copyright 2010-2012 Denise Alvarado, All rights reserved worldwide. Please ask if you would like to repost this article.