Showing posts with label murder. Show all posts
Showing posts with label murder. 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