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.








Hyssop of the Holy Writ



“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean.” 

Talk to any rootworker and ask them to name the best herb to use for cleansing and uncrossings and their response is likely to be, or at least include: Hyssop. This makes sense given the heavy influence of the Bible on modern conjure, and in particular, the influence of Catholicism and the use of the Psalms - specifically Psalm 51 - in conjure work in New Orleans.

Although well-known for its association with the Bible, the hyssop we know today as Hyssopus officinalis is disputed as the plant referred to in the Bible. Biblical hyssop is often called the “unidentified plant” of the Bible. Some maintain that hyssop is actually a type of marjoram (Origanum maru), while others posit it is the caper-bush (Capperis spinosa). Despite the question of its true identity, Hyssop officinalis is the one used in both perfumery and conjure today.

Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) is a decorative herbaceous plant in the mint family that is native to Southern Europe, the Middle East, and the region surrounding the Caspian Sea.(1) Hyssop is believed to have come to North America with the early European colonists as it is listed among the seeds John Winthrop, Jr. brought to the New World in 1631.(2)

Over the years, it has escaped from gardens and is now naturalized at roadsides and in waste places here and there in North America from Quebec to North Carolina. When it blooms, hyssop displays spikes of fragrant blue, pink, or white flowers. Hyssop has been used in a variety of ways since Classical Antiquity. The classical age was a time in which Greek and Roman society flourished and wielded great influence throughout Europe and the Middle East. During this time, hyssop was widely
used for its medicinal properties.

Historically, hyssop has been used medicinally as an antibacterial, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antiviral, astringent, carminative, digestive, diuretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, febrifuge, hypertensive, nervine, sedative, and tonic, among other things. It has been shown to be effective in the treatment of bruises, colds, cough, fatigue, fevers, flatulence, indigestion, inflammation, loss of appetite, nervous tension, sore throat, stress related conditions, and wounds. Hyssop should be avoided by those with epilepsy and those who are pregnant.

Hyssop also has culinary uses, although it is considered a bitter herb. It can be finely chopped and sprinkled on salads and game meats, and in soups and stews as an aromatic condiment. The leaves have a slightly bitter taste due to its tannins, and an intense minty aroma. Due to its intensity, it is used moderately in cooking. The herb is also used to flavor liqueur, and is part of the official formulation of Chartreuse.

Hyssop is most commonly associated with cleanliness and sacrifice from a religiomagical sense. It is known to have been used in the ritual cleansing of holy places. Bundles of the herb were dipped in sacrificial blood and water and touched upon doorways and other areas in need of cleansing. The dried herb was used in bouquets and burned to fumigate areas in an effort to ward off plagues. Beekeepers were known to rub the fragrant flowers on beehives to encourage bees to stay. In Hoodoo and Rootwork, hyssop maintains its biblical associations with cleansing, uncrossing, and getting rid of negative conditions.

Here are a couple of ways hyssop can be used to improve quality of life.


AROMATIC MEDICINAL BATH

For the treatment of rheumatism, boil several handfuls of hyssop leaves and flowers along with a handful each of thyme, marjoram, lavender, mint and rosemary in two gallons of spring water. Allow to cool until warm, then strain out the herbs and add the tea to a warm bath. Soak for fifteen minutes.


RECIPE FOR HYSSOP TEA

Infuse a quarter of an ounce of dried hyssop flowers in a pint of boiling water for ten minutes; sweeten with honey, and take a wineglassful three times a day. This tea is said to be good for rheumatism and upset stomach and can be drunk in conjunction with the above aromatic bath.


FORMULA FOR HOLY HYSSOP OIL

Holy Hyssop Oil is ideal for times when you are in need of comfort, hope, and spiritual relief. It is useful in times of grief and when you are facing despair, a sense of hopelessness and would benefit from the reassurance of Divine intervention.

Holy Hyssop Oil is made in a base of the purest Olive Oil you can get. Olive oil from Israel is ideal for this formula. Add the dried herbs of hyssop, lavender and rosemary in a pan with enough oil to cover the herbs. Simmer for thirty minutes. Allow to cool and strain into smaller bottles, adding a pinch of hyssop in each bottle. You can repeat the simmering process if you want a stronger fragrance by straining the oil and adding fresh herbs and boiling for another thirty minutes.

Note that this is my personal recipe and name for the oil; you may find others calling it simply Hyssop Oil, which for me would be simply the hyssop herb steeped in olive oil.

References

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyssopus_officinalis
2. Mother Earth Living, http://www.motherearthliving.com/mother-earth-living/an-herb-to-know-hyssop.aspx

Image credit: Upload by: terryb
Author website: pixabay.com
License: CC0 Public Domain
Free for any use / No attribution required

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* The above article is an excerpt from Hyssop: The Holy Herb and its Uses, one of many such documents and ebooks that is received by members of my Conjure Club.





Lessons from our Elders: Listen or Your Tongue will Make you Deaf





I admit it. I used to be an arrogant little know-it-all, always had something to say about every damned thing...years ago. If someone had a problem, I had a fix. I didn't just have a fix though, my fix was better than anyone else's.  Even when in the presence of people older and wiser than me...it didn't matter. I still had the better idea, the better advice, the better fix.

Then, one day that all changed.

I was with a group of friends and there were several elders among us. It was a typical day, someone was having an issue and I knew what to do. I knew what to do before the issue was even fully explained! Isn't that amazing? Surely everyone must have been impressed! I knew I was!

Uhh, no, they weren't. They were annoyed. And for the first time, I actually SAW that they were annoyed with my know it all arrogance. Because let's face it, that's what it was.

Then, one elder turned and looked at me and said, "you really need to shut the hell up and just listen for a change." Only being an Elder, and being Cherokee, he didn't say it in those words, instead he looked me dead in the eye and said, "Listen, or your tongue will make you deaf."

But we all know what he meant, and what he meant was, "you really need to shut the hell up and just listen for a change you little twerp of a know it all."

I shrank to about 2 inches tall that day and that moment in time is forever burned in my otherwise lousy memory. Fortunately.

Image: Coloured aquatint, ca. 1862, depicting a man covering his mouth with a handkerchief, walking through a smoggy London street – Source: Wellcome Library


Friday, April 15, 2016

Spring Cleaning




Spring is the perfect time to perform a spiritual cleansing of your home, even if you don’t think you need it. One way to do this is to perform an egg cleansing on your home. While this type of cleansing can be performed any time you feel the need, if you do it proactively and preemptively, you will find you can avoid problems that arise as a result of the accumulation of spiritual and energetic debris in the home. In addition to breaking up and eliminating spiritual and energetic debris, this type of cleansing can trap and eliminate negative spirits that may be lingering in the home and causing havoc. To do this cleansing you will need the following items:

  • 4 white eggs 
  • 4 glasses of water
  • Holy Water from a Church
  • 1 large bundle of fresh rue (substitute fresh sage, cedar, basil or lavender if you can’t get rue)
  • Holy incense of your choice
  • salt 




Light the incense and go throughout the house asperging each room with the smoke and praying a heartfelt prayer. Place an egg in the four corners of the house, along with a glass of water, adding four drops of Holy Water to each glass. Next, take the bundle of rue and sprinkle it with the Holy Water and walk throughout your home hitting each wall with the bundle of rue while praying a heartfelt prayer once again. Walk through the home again, this time adding 4 pinches of salt to each cup of water. Take the bunch of rue and hang it on the front door. Allow the eggs and glasses of water to sit out overnight. The next day, take the four eggs and place in a brown paper bag carefully without cracking them. Throw them away in a trash away from your home. Take the water and pour it at a crossroads. This ritual can be repeated every season to maintain a spiritually well household.

Happy Spring Cleaning, y'all!


Thursday, February 5, 2015

To Sweeten a Situation




Here is a useful Conjure Tip: To sweeten a situation, write your petition, place on a plate and dust with powdered sugar. Set a piece of Sara Lee pound cake on top of the petition. Place a pink candle into the cake. Drizzle sugar cane syrup over the pound cake and light the candle. Allow to burn all the way down. Things should start going your way.