Saturday, December 31, 2016

New Year's Day Prosperity Ritual


All over the South people eat a meal of collard greens, cornbread, and black-eyed peas to ensure their prosperity and protection in the coming year. Symbolically, the greens are said to represent green paper money; the corn, being yellow, represents gold or coins; and the black-eyed peas, each possessing an eye, is said to protect you from negativity and bad luck (especially in the form of the evil eye).

Interestingly, a silver dime is often placed in the black-eyed peas, and the person who by chance is served the dime is said to be especially lucky that year, and he or she will keep the dime as a lucky token throughout the year. On a personal note, growing up in the South our grandmother's often told us that "what you do on New Year's Day, you'll be doing all year," therefore, we were never to wash clothes, do housework, or anything else we wouldn’t want to be doing on a daily basis.

Hoppin' John for Good Luck

Dose black-eyed peas is lucky,
When e’t on New Year’s Day,
You allus has sweet ‘taters,
An’ ‘possum come yore way.
~African American folk rhyme
On New Year’s Day many people make the dish called Hoppin' John along with collard greens to insure prosperity and abundance for the New Year. Because black-eyed peas swell when soaked in water, they represent abundance, magically speaking. Reportedly a favorite of Marie Laveau’s, Hoppin' John is a traditional Southern food prepared on New Year’s Day for it’s luck drawing qualities. The name Hoppin' John is thought to refer to the Southern folk hero, High John the Conqueror.

RECIPE
  • 1 lb. Black-Eyed Peas
  • 8 slices Bacon, cut into fourths
  • 1 1/2 cups Onions, finely chopped
  • 1 cup celery, finely chopped
  • ½ cup bell pepper finely chopped
  • 2 1/2 quarts water
  • 2 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon Maison Louisianne Creole Spice Blend
  • 1/8 teaspoon Thyme
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1/8 teaspoon Rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 2 cups raw Rice

DIRECTIONS

Soak black-eyed peas overnight in water. Fry bacon in a heavy skillet until crisp. Add 1 1/2 cups onions, and cook until the onions are transparent. Add 2 1/2 quarts water, bring to boil. Add garlic cloves, Maison Louisianne Creole Spice Blend, thyme, bay leaf, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Drain peas and add the boiling mixture. Barely simmer mixture, partially covered, for 1 1/2 hour. Add 2 cups raw rice. Serve with crisp French bread. Enjoy!

Celebrating St. Dymphna



St. Dymphna is the patron saint of incest survivors, runaways and people with mental disorders. She was the daughter of a pagan Irish king and his Christian wife in the 7th century AD. She was murdered by her father for refusing to marry him after her mother died. She was only 15 years old when she was killed.

St. Dymphna is sometimes called Lily of Fire in reference to her purity and glorious martyrdom. It is said that at a very young age she consecrated her virginity to Jesus Christ and to his Blessed Mother with a vow of chastity.

All of the stories I have read about the unfortunate and tragic plight of this young girl explain her father’s advances on the fact that he was grieving the loss of his wife. As far as I know, grief has never been a precursor or cause of incest and rape. These conditions have much more to do with power and serious psychological problems of the perpetrator. It does no one any good to attempt to turn her story into some sort of tragic fairytale or a glorious story of Christian martyrdom. It was no fairytale—she obviously lived in extreme fear and likely suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. Before she was brutally murdered, a priest, Father Gerebran, did everything he could to keep her safe by helping her flee her country. One would think that would be the end of it and her father would move on to someone else but he was so obsessed with marrying his daughter that he tracked her down in a little village called Gheel in Belgium. Her father, along with his companion brutes, confronted her and Father Gerebran who defended Dymphna and refused her father access to his daughter. This only enraged the king who then ordered the priest murdered, a task eagerly carried out by his thuggish minions who promptly beheaded the priest.

Dymphna’s father continued to intimidate her and attempt to force her to return to Ireland with him as his wife. When she continued to refuse his perverted advances, he once again became enraged and took his own sword out of his belt and beheaded her on the spot. At the age of 15, on the 15th of May sometime between 620 and 640, she became a martyr.

As the story goes, the bodies of the two martyrs, Father Gerebran and Dymphna, lay at the spot where they were murdered for quite awhile until some of the locals found them and moved them to a cave as was their custom. After a few years, folks decided that given the circumstances of their deaths and statuses as martyrs, Father Gerebran and Dymphna deserved a better burial. So, they set out to disinter them and move them elsewhere. When the earth covering the entrance to the cave where they were buried was removed, the workers were surprised to find two clean, white tombs seemingly carved by angels. When the tomb of Dymphna was opened, There was a red tile laying on her breast that read:
Here lies the holy virgin and
martyr, Dymphna.
Dymphna’s remains were placed in a small church. Later, the magnificent Church of St. Dymphna was built on the site where the bodies were first buried. There, St. Dymphna's relics are kept in a golden reliquary. Miracles and cures began to occur in continually increasing numbers at her shrine. St. Dymphna became known as patroness of victims of nervous diseases and mental disorders. The stories of miracles spread from country to country. An increasing number of people with psychological and emotional problems made the pilgrimage to her shrine with hopes of healing. Novenas were made, and St. Dymphna's relic was applied to the patients. Reports of remarkable cures continued to spread throughout the land and more and more people came to believe in her healing powers. In the beginning, the people who came for healing were put up in a little building that was built onto the church. Later, there were so many people coming that the people in the village of Gheel opened their homes to them. As a result, Gheel was renowned for its care of the insane and mentally afflicted.

To work with St. Dymphna, dedicate a sacred space to her. Place her image and anything that helps you feel emotionally and psychologically balanced in that space. This can be special rocks, a crucifix, rosary, flowers, etc. These things need not be Catholic—the important thing is that they bring you comfort within your own belief system. St. Dymphna is often depicted with a sword which represents her martyrdom so you could place a sword on her altar. She is also depicted with lilies which represent her as female, a blue book and a little green devil representing insanity.

Get a white or green 7-day glass encased candle and anoint with Lilly of the Valley and Clarity oils. Write a petition stating your needs on parchment paper and place under the candle. Light the candle and say a devotional to her each day. You can use the following prayer:

Hear us, O God, Our Savior, as we honor St. Dymphna, patroness
of those afflicted with mental and emotional illness.
Help us to be inspired by her example and comforted by her
merciful help. Amen.

After the prayer, you should speak to her from the heart letting her know that you need her help. A variation of this work would be to get a picture of a devil, color it green and name it for the affliction you wish to remove or heal. Place that image face down under the candle and proceed as above. Once the candle burns to the bottom but has not yet extinguished, take the image of the devil and burn it in the flame of the candle. Then allow the candle to burn out. Take the candle to a cemetery and bury it there to symbolize the death, burial and/or transformation of your affliction.

Reference

Benedictine Convent Sisters (1946). Tabernacle and Purgatory, Clyde, Mo.

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*This article first appeared in the Hoodoo Almanac 2012 which can be purchased here.

Top Ten Conjure Hacks for 2017




Here are my Top Ten Conjure Hacks for 2017.
Enjoy!


Thursday, November 24, 2016

Formula for Horn of Plenty Oil

The Horn of Plenty or Cornucopia is a symbol of abundance, nourishment, and agricultural, mineral and spiritual wealth. Most commonly associated with Thanksgiving, it is one of the images found on Indian Spirit products manufactured by the E. Davis Company. Anoint your forehead and your hands with Horn of Plenty Spiritual oil and raise them above your head and ask your Indian Spirit Guide for what you need, or try the ritual in the graphic below. You can place the red cloth into your medicine bag or mojo bag if you prefer.





Here's the formula for Horn of Plenty Oil:
  •         Mandarin orange 
  •         Lemon 
  •         Strawberry 
  •          Blackberry 
  •         Ginger 
  •         Tobacco (pinch)
  •     Kernel of corn 
Add the above to a base of grapeseed oil that has been fixed with vitamin E to prevent rancidity.

____________________________________________________________

Regarding the above graphic...The Daily Conjure Tips are copyright 2012 Creole Moon.com but may be used and posted to your personal blogs and websites. The only limitation is that you may not change the graphic or charge money for it or claim it as your own design and intellectual property. Copyright notice must remain with the unchanged graphic. Other than that, feel free to copy and share it.

*Content copyright 2012-2017  Denise Alvarado, All rights reserved worldwide.


Go to http://sacredstonecamp.org/ to see how you can be part of the change.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

DAPL: Another Notch in the American Belt of Environmental Racism

The first Americans – the Indians – are the most deprived and most isolated minority group in our nation. On virtually every scale of measurement – employment, income, education, health – the condition of the Indian people ranks at the bottom. This condition is the heritage of centuries of injustice. From the time of their first contact with European settlers, the American Indians have been oppressed and brutalized, deprived of their ancestral lands, and denied the opportunity to control their own destiny. ~ President Nixon, in a statement to Congress, 1970
My administration is determined to partner with tribes, and its not something that just happens once in a while. It takes place every day, on just about every issue that touches your lives. And that's what real nation-to-nation partnerships look like. ~ President Barack Obama, June 13, 2014 
 



The above quotes sounded promising; but, true to historically traumatic form, the reality has continued to play out in a very different manner.

The colonization of Indigenous peoples in this country has left a legacy of historical traumas that are cumulative and unresolved. Despite a litany of documented overtly hostile policies enacted by the United States government with regards to the "Indian problem," the issues that have continued to plague Native peoples rarely gain the attention of popular media. Instead, media and social networking sites focus on romanticizing the Native with their long flowing hair and "peace pipes" and sexualizing Native women with imagery depicting them scantily dressed with Caucasian features. At the other extreme of the narrative, we find "savages" stripped of their identities, converted to Christianity, and ultimately defeated by the United States. Little is presented about the effects of colonization and genocidal experiences or postcolonialism on Native American lifeworlds. While empirical studies of the effects of historical trauma on Native Americans’ well-being are growing in number, the available evidence indicates that genocidal experiences on Native peoples negatively affects their social, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual well-being (Alvarado, 2010; Duran & Duran 1995; Walters & Simoni 2002). That said, Native peoples are resilient, having endured ongoing injustice and unfair treatment throughout history. And despite the social problems experienced as a result of this injustice, they are strong and proud people.

There is a long history of federal extermination and assimilation policies with regards to Native Americans that include deliberate attempts by mainstream institutions such as government agencies, schools, and churches, to obliterate the foundations of Native American family systems, clans, tribal organizations, languages, religious beliefs and practices (Deloria, 1994; Heinrich, Corbine & Thomas, 1990; Locust, 1988; Reyhner & Eder, 1992). These policies have had a devastating effect on Native American identity development and so-called "nation-to-nation partnerships" (Herring, 1990; Locust; Mitchum, 1989; Sue & Sue, 1990). 

The Significance of Sacred Sites

In the Native American lifeworld, there is an intimate connection to origins, the land, and the natural world, as opposed to the heavenly world (Deloria, 1994). An excellent example of this is the common perception across indigenous cultures of the earth as Mother, the source of all life forms (Arbogast, 1995). Mother Earth is the source of cultural resources such as water and plants that provide the gift of life, sustenance, and healing. 

Geographic locations hold special significance to Native peoples because of what was experienced there in the past, as well as the continuity of the relationship between the land and the people over time. These places are remembered and considered sacred sites where ceremonies and rituals can be performed throughout the generations. Federal land management agencies, however, have historically disregarded Native people’s requests for the conservation of sacred land sites, and it wasn’t until 1978 that Congress passed the American Indian Freedom and Restoration Act (AIFRA; 42 U.S.C Section, 1996; 1998). The purpose of AIFRA was to force government recognition and respect of traditional Native American religious practices. Despite being granted the right to practice their religions, Native Americans continue to fight for the right to worship and pray in a manner that is unobstructed and meaningful. One of the main reasons for this continued struggle is the lack of understanding by the government of the central role sacred land sites play in Native American religious practices. To illustrate, one of the original sacred land site claims to transpire following the AIFRA was Sequoia versus Tennessee Valley Authority. Cherokee plaintiffs contested plans for the Tennessee Valley’s Tellico Dam, which would flood the Little Tennessee River Valley. Within the valley were several sacred sites central to the practice of the Cherokee religion, and the plaintiff’s claimed that flooding the valley would essentially prevent them from practicing their religion. While Judge Robert L. Taylor recognized this formally in his opinion for the court, he ultimately concluded that “the impoundment of the Tellico Dam has no coercive effect on plaintiff’s religious beliefs or practices” and that “the flooding of the Little Tennessee will prevent everyone, not just plaintiffs, from having access to the land in question” (Linge, 2000, par. 32, lines 6-7). Similar outcomes were experienced in 1977 by the Navajo (Badoni versus Higginson) regarding impounding the Colorado River water behind the Glen Canyon Dam, as well as the Lakota and Tsistsistas (Crow versus Gullett) 1983 claims that construction projects at Bear Butte and regulation of Native American access to Bear Butte violated their religious freedom. Other examples of government and corporate refusal to respect Native American religious practices as they relate to sacred land sites are evidenced in Inupiat Community v United States, Wilson v Block, Havasupai Tribe v United States, Attakai v United States, Manybeads v United States (see Linge, 2000 for details on all of these cases), and most recently, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, (Case No. 1:16-cv-01534-JEB) filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on July 27, 2016.




The Dakota Access Pipeline Follows a Long History of Environmental Racism

According to the parent company of DAPL, Energy Transfer Partners, the Dakota Access Pipeline will pump millions of dollars into the economy and create up to 12,000 jobs. The 3.7 billion dollar project will "carry 470,000 barrels of oil a day from the oil fields of Western North Dakota to Illinois, where it will be linked to other pipelines." In addition, Energy Transfer states "Protecting landowner interests and the local environment is a top priority of the Dakota Access Pipeline project. As an operating principle, Dakota Access Pipeline is committed to working with individual landowners to make accommodations, minimize disruptions, and achieve full restoration of impacted land. We will listen to and address questions from the community, landowners, and other interested stakeholders about the project, proposed routes, landowner communications and more. It is our intent to live up to our promises of openness, honesty, and responsiveness before, during and after construction and throughout operations."

According to the residents of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, comprised of the Hunkpapa Lakota and Yanktonai Dakota in North Dakota and South Dakota, the pipeline is viewed as a cultural and environmental threat and is referred to as the "Black Snake." Of major concern is the desecration of sacred ancestral lands, including sacred burial sites, and the high likelihood of breaks in the pipeline which would poison the land and water. This concern is not unfounded, as there are regular occurrences of pipeline breaks across the country. The New York Times reports, "In 2013, a Tesoro Logistics pipeline in North Dakota broke open and spilled 467,000 gallons of oil onto a farm. In 2010, an Enbridge Energy pipeline dumped more than 843,000 gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan resulting in a cleanup that lasted years and cost more than a billion dollars, according to Inside Climate News."

Another issue at hand according to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation is the infringement on tribal sovereignty and a blatant disregard by the Army Corps of Engineers of federal regulations governing environmental standards and historic preservation. The Army Corps of Engineers is required to consult with the tribe prior to construction and reportedly failed to do so, and thus, the incident prompted the tribes' legal representatives to file a temporary restraining order in an effort to halt further construction of the pipeline in that location. Despite the injunction, DAPL has continued to encroach on the land, following a shameful history on the part of big corporations and the American government regarding their attitudes towards Native peoples. Eleven days following the filing of the injunction, Energy Transfer Partners files a suit against Standing Rock Tribal Chairman, Dave Archambault, II and others for obstructing construction of the pipeline. 

Unfortunately, there is a historical precedence for stealing land and ignoring the rights of Native Americans in this country, specifically with regards to the Sioux Nations. According to standingrock.org:
The Great Sioux Reservation comprised all of present-day South Dakota west of the Missouri River, including the sacred Black Hills and the life-giving Missouri River. Under article 11 of the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty, the Great Sioux Nation retained off-reservation hunting rights to a much larger area, south to the Republican and Platte Rivers, and east to the Big Horn Mountains. Under article 12, no cession of land would be valid unless approved by three-fourths of the adult males. Nevertheless, the Congress unilaterally passed the Act of February 28, 1877 (19 stat. 254), removing the Sacred Black Hills from the Great Sioux Reservation. The United States never obtained the consent of three-fourths of the Sioux, as required in article 12 of the 1868 Treaty. The U.S. Supreme Court concluded that "A more ripe and rank case of dishonorable dealings will never, in all probability, be found in our history." United States v. Sioux Nation of Indians, 448 U.S. 371, 388 (1980).

Indeed, there is perhaps no better illustration of the marginalized status of Native peoples than environmental racism, and if DAPL were a boy, it would be the reigning poster. Native American reservations have long been targeted for toxic waste dumps and nuclear testing (Bullard, 1994), and there are many instances of this practice. Environmental concerns among the tribes in Maine, for example, include exposure to mercury, dioxin, lead, and cadmium (Kuehnert, 2000). Besides concerns regarding the impact of these toxins on individual health, these toxins act as barriers to tribal members following traditional lifestyles and have a negative impact on spiritual and community health and wellbeing (Kuehnert). Unequivocally, environmental toxins are a major source of unwellness, causing disease by creating mental confusion, a weakened spirit, and “polluting the breath (the energy of life)” (Cohen, 1998, p. 49).

Following a long tradition of targeting Native communities for toxic dumps, the tiny Skull Valley Band of Goshute Indians Reservation in Utah was marked for a very big nuclear waste dump in 2001 (Kamps, 2001). Private Fuel Storage (PFS), a limited liability corporation representing eight powerful nuclear utilities, sought short-term storage of 40,000 tons of commercial high-level radioactive waste (nearly the total amount that presently exists in the U.S.) next to the two-dozen tribal members who live on the small reservation. Unfortunately, this tiny, impoverished Native American community fell victim to environment racism before. In 1968, for example, Dugway Proving Ground tested VX nerve gas, leading to the "accidental" killing of 6,400 sheep grazing in Skull Valley. The toxic sheep carcasses were then buried on the reservation without the tribe’s knowledge, let alone approval (Kamps).

In addition to the obvious health concerns facing tribes who live near toxic waste dumps and nuclear testing is the impact these conditions have on intertribal relationships. Corporations typically offer thousands and even millions of dollars to impoverished communities in exchange for allowing them to park their waste in their backyards. Most tribes oppose such offers; however, in the case of the Goshute Indians, a lease with PFS was secretly signed without the knowledge or approval of the Skull Valley Goshute General Council (the 60 adult members who govern the tribe) by Tribal Chairman Leon Bear for an undisclosed amount of money. It is still unknown to anyone outside the three-member tribal executive committee how much money the tribe would receive for hosting the nation’s atomic waste dump, although estimates of the secretive payoff to the tribal council range from 60 to 200 million dollars (Kamps, 2001).

Environmental racism is traumatic on many levels to those who are affected (Markstrom & Charley, 2003). In 1939, Niels Bohr of Denmark, noted for his work with the atom, came to the United States with the news that German scientists were experimenting with nuclear power derived from uranium. Concerned that the Third Reich would produce nuclear weapons first, the United States commenced on its own research for the development of nuclear power (Hawkhill Associates, Inc., 1999). Thus, mining for uranium began in 1948 in over 60 locations on the Navajo Nation. In order to process the ore, four mills were built. While the industry brought jobs to the otherwise impoverished Navajo people, the workers were subjected to radioactive dust, sulfuric acids, sodium chlorate, radon gas, and solvents from the extraction operations, and what's more, were not told of the potential hazards of exposure (U.S. Department of Energy, 1995). Personal protective gear was not provided or available, and what resulted were malignant and nonmalignant respiratory diseases such as lung cancer, silicosis, pulmonary fibrosis, emphysema, obstructive lung disease, silico-tuberculosis, and pneumoconiosis among the workers (Mulloy, James, Mohs, & Kornfield, 2001). Among the psychological repercussions found were themes of human losses and bereavement, environmental losses and contamination, feelings of betrayal by government and mining and milling companies, prolonged duration of psychological effects, anxiety and depression, and the psychological impacts and exacerbating conditions of poverty and minority status. In addition, there are concerns about the long-term genetic damages that may result from long-term exposure to uranium environmental hazards (Markstrom & Charley). 

Another example of environmental racism involved Native Americans living in six northern California forest tribal communities. Pesticides and herbicides were used on a wide scale commercial basis in the forests and roadsides during the 1960s for the purpose of eradicating invasive and noninvasive plant species deemed by chemical companies to compete with commercially valuable plants, and for reducing safety and fire hazards on roadside right-of-ways (Indian Dispute Resolution Services, Inc., 1997). The local Indian people were reassured that the chemicals had been tested and approved as safe for use. Intuitively, Native peoples believed the pesticides were dangerous and would cause illness. A subsequent increase of illnesses confirmed this belief; yet, the increased incidence of illnesses was discounted by the chemical companies as “statistically insignificant”. At the same time, there were several out-of-court settlements made by chemical companies during this period in response to suits filed by tribal members for health problems alleged to be caused by pesticides (Indian Dispute Resolution Services, Inc.).

According to the Indian Dispute Resolution Services, Inc. (1997), the trauma of the California Indians was not limited to health problems. For example, sacred sites used for ceremonial activities were contaminated, and plants and herbs used as traditional medicines became toxic. There was a noticeable decline in many fish, animal, and insect species, and ongoing aerial spraying contaminated dwellings, schools and water sources. All of this illness and toxicity was compounded by the insistence of chemical companies for full disclosure of sacred ceremonial sites and plants used for traditional medicines. The Indians feared full disclosure would result in further restrictions and damage to the sites. Furthermore, the disclosure of specific information was in violation of spiritual principles and beliefs. In the report, the Native tribes stated they felt important cultural patterns of life were disrupted, they felt their concerns were not taken seriously, and felt they had no rights as a people (Indian Dispute Resolution Services, Inc., 1997).

Standing Rock's Protest of DAPL

Environmental racism is a form of external oppression and one cause of internalized oppression. It is the unjust imposition of authority and power by one group over another and has devestating consequences. The divide and conquer dynamic that is set into motion when such issues are presented to disadvantaged populations sets a stage for ongoing oppression and a potential for disaster, but also for change. The residents of Standing Rock are exercising their right to peaceful protest. The current atmosphere of the country is such that Native peoples are no longer bowing to big corporations and are holding the United States accountable for their actions and lack of support in enforcing treaty agreements, and lack of intervention when human and civil rights are violated. 

The peaceful protestors of the Standing Rock Indian reservation have been joined by activists, environmentalists, and other allies from over 200 tribes as well as celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Shailene Woodley, Rosario Dawson, Susan Sarandon, and Mark Ruffalo.

Sadly, the current presidential candidates have avoided the issue altogether. Only Green party candidate Jill Stein has visited the site and publicly declared support for the tribe. Stein states: 

The water protectors have invoked their rights under the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie, which grants the Sioux Nation sovereignty over the territory. A Stein/Baraka administration would honor the Sioux claims under this treaty, as well as the right to free, informed, and prior consent under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We call for an immediate halt to the construction of the pipeline and all attempts on the part of the police to remove the water protectors.
We express our outrage and shame at the silence of the Obama administration and the other presidential candidates in regards to this human rights crisis. We stand with the 14-year-old girl who traveled to the Clinton campaign headquarters from Standing Rock today to deliver a letter appealing to Hillary Clinton for support. She was turned away at the door and the letter was not even accepted for review.

While it is true that a teenager was unable to meet with Clinton or her representatives, she was able to leave her letter, and later Clinton advisor Charlie Galbraith gave this official statement in response:

We received a letter today from representatives of the tribes protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. From the beginning of this campaign, Secretary Clinton has been clear that she thinks all voices should be heard and all views considered in federal infrastructure projects. Now, all of the parties involved—including the federal government, the pipeline company and contractors, the state of North Dakota, and the tribes—need to find a path forward that serves the broadest public interest. As that happens, it's important that on the ground in North Dakota, everyone respects demonstrators' rights to protest peacefully, and workers' rights to do their jobs safely.
Bernie Sanders also expressed support for Standing Rock and wrote an Open Letter to President Obama to Take a Bold Stand Against DAPL. In his letter, he urges the president to suspend all federal permits to the construction until the Army Corps of Engineers conducts a full environmental and cultural review of the area and to compel governor Dalrymple to remove the National Guard from the site in an effort to reduce tension. 






How You Can Help


Make a donation to the Official Standing Rock Sioux Tribe DAPL Donation Fund through PayPal! Donations will be used for legal, sanitary and emergency purposes!


Spread this article and others using the #NoDAPL hashtag and social media sites.


The following actions are suggested by the Standing Rock Dakota Access Pipeline Opposition page on FaceBook:

* Call North Dakota governor Jack Dalrymple at 701-328-2200. When leaving a message stating your support for the NoDAPL movement please be respectful and ask for peaceful resolution, and that respect be shown for the constitutional rights of those engaging in nonviolent direct actions involving civil disobedience. Remind him that the 1960s Civil Rights movement gained success through similar peaceful actions and was met with extreme local state repression and violence that is unacceptable in the 21st century. Ask him to recuse himself from the State Industrial Commission and avoid conflicts of interest in his service to the People of North Dakota and Big Oil. Ask him to visit the camps and share prayers and songs with our people, to listen to us as human beings who want only to protect our children and our future generations, and our water.


* Call the Morton County Sheriffs Department at 701-667-3330 to ask them to demilitarize their tactics and protect ALL ND citizens and visitors. Request that they refrain from mass arrests, macing, clubbing, hooding, strip searching, and armed confrontation with UNARMED peaceful water protectors engaged in constitutionally protected civil disobedience. Ask them to inform their officers about treaty law, federal Indian law, and to provide training to their officers on sacred sites protections and the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978.

*Call the White House at (202) 456-1111 or (202) 456-1414. Tell President Obama to deny the Army Corps of Engineers’ Permit for the Dakota Access Pipeline, and remind his administration of their commitment to combating Climate Change, and to implementing green/renewable nrg solutions -- and that fracking and fracked oil are NOT clean nrg. Tell them that Bakken oil extraction pollutes our air and water and yields millions of gallons of radioactive water and waste that is destroying our region's future in the name of nrg security -- which is meaningless without water security in the arid Northern Plains.

* Call the Army Corps of Engineers and demand that they deny the DAPL the permit: (202) 761-5903
Remind them that the federally mandated Tribal Consultation Process is broken when Tribal Nations are merely informed that projects are already in process on our doorsteps, and we have been given no opportunity to propose alternatives.

*Call the executives of the companies that are building the pipeline:
Lee Hanse Executive Vice President Energy Transfer Partners, L.P. 800 E Sonterra Blvd #400 San Antonio, Texas 78258 Telephone: (210) 403-6455 Lee.Hanse@energytransfer.com

Glenn Emery Vice President Energy Transfer Partners, L.P. 800 E Sonterra Blvd #400 San Antonio, Texas 78258 Telephone: (210) 403-6762 Glenn.Emery@energytransfer.com

Michael (Cliff) Waters Lead Analyst Energy Transfer Partners, L.P. 1300 Main St. Houston, Texas 77002 Telephone: (713) 989-2404 Michael.Waters@energytransfer.com


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References

Alvarado, D. (2010). The Native American Wellness Scale (NAWS): An Intertribal Quality of Life Measure for Indigenous Populations. Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Walden University.

Arbogast, D. (1995). Wounded warriors: A time for healing. Omaha, NE: Little Turtle Publications.

Bullard, R. D. (1994). Environmental Justice in the 21st Century
http://www.deanza.edu/faculty/sullivanmark/pdf/bullard.pdf

Deloria, V. Jr. (1994) God is red. A native view of religion. Golden, CO: Fulcrum.

Duran, E. & Duran, B. (1995). Native American postcolonial psychology. Albany: SUNY Press

Heinrich, R. K., Corbine, J. L., & Thomas, K. R. (1990). Counseling Native Americans. Journal of Counseling and Development, 69, 128-133.

Linge, G. (2000). Ensuring the full freedom of religion on public lands: Devil’s Tower and the protection of Indian sacred sites. Boston College Environmental Affairs Law Review, (27)2, 307-340. Retrieved from Academic Search Premiere database.

Locust, C. (1988). Wounding the spirit: Discrimination and traditional American Indian belief systems. Harvard Educational Review, 58, 315-330.

Sue, D. W. & Sue, D. (1990). Counseling the culturally different: Theory and practice (2nd ed.). New York: John Wiley and Sons.

Walters, K. L., & Simoni, J. (2002). Reconceptualizing Native women's health: An 'indigenist' stress-coping model. American Journal of Public Health, 92 ; 4, 520-525.



Keywords: #NoDAPL, Dakota Access Pipeline, Environmental racism, Lakota, Standing Rock, Sioux, sacred sites

Friday, June 17, 2016

All Free Public Domain Photos for your Conjure Blog



Have you ever run into a brick wall when trying to find the perfect image for your blog or website? With the ever tightening up of copyright restrictions being enforced, it can often be a challenge when scouring the internet to find true public domain images. I have my sources for public domain images and have learned the hard way to never assume anything is public domain at first glance. Always check out the original source of the image before using it, and at the bare minimum, always credit the place where you got the image.

Even crediting a copyrighted image is not a guarantee of protection from infringement, however. There is a growing trend of lawyers representing photographers and artists who use software to scan images on the internet to identify cases of infringement. These are the new internet copyright infringement ambulance chasers. And, contrary to popular belief, the owners of copyrighted material do not have to submit a DMCA warning to have the image removed before filing suit. On the contrary, many are skipping over that step entirely and going straight for the jugular. On the one hand, as someone who has suffered great financial loss as a result of people pirating my books and using my artwork without permission (one company has an image of mine they are using to brand their whole product line) and one book has been downloaded illegally over 1 million times, I can understand skipping over the niceties in an effort to be paid for my work. On the other hand, most people do not have any malintent for using photos and artwork and simply want to make their websites look good. To those people I say please credit the author/artist/photographer, and if the website where you see the image has a copyright notice on it such as mine i.e."Please do not repost this article without permission" pay attention to the terms and abide by them. Most of the time, all you have to do is ask. We just want credit given where credit is due, after all.

Check out these nightmares for what is going on with everyday bloggers being sued for copyright infringement:

Blogger Beware: You CAN Get Sued For Using Photos You Don't Own on Your Blog

Over the years its been a learning curve as to what constitutes "fair use" and what is infringement, though now the laws are much clearer with regards to internet usage. And though most of the images on my website and blog are my own, with the exception of those believed to be in the public domain, I still put up a DMCA page, just in case I missed something. Some people, and for legal reasons I cannot say who, will sue for use of an image that is so low resolution - as small as 120 pixels -  if it is copyrighted and used without permission. And if they own the copyright, you have no recourse but to pay a license fee whether you meant well or not.

I've thought long and hard about this. I have continued to educate myself on internet copyright laws and have gone through a long and painful process of pouring over all the sites and blogs I own and changed any images that I did not create myself. But not everyone is an artist or photographer. And in our little niche of folk magic, the public domain imagery is slim pickins.

So, I decided to start placing some of my photographs into the public domain to help out those in the conjure community who want to be on the up and up and maintain some integrity.

I created an account on Publicdomainpictures.net where you can visit my profile and download any images you see there without any worries whatsoever. You can use them for any purpose you want because they are in the public domain. Although I would appreciate a shout out as the photographer, you don't even have to do that legally, you can just download any photo and use it without any mention of who took the photo or where you got it. You should know that it is a matter of professional courtesy to credit even public domain sources, but if you don't, I'm not going to hunt you down and make a stink out of it. These images are my gift to the community, in an effort to help strengthen it and provide a much-needed service that can help to build a community of integrity.

I have just started uploading photos so there aren't many there yet. If there is a photo you need, post a request in the comments below and I'll see what I have. I have thousands of photos just sitting on my hard drive doing nothing. Please note that I am not putting these images up anywhere but on the publicdomainpictures.net website so there is no confusion as to what I have placed in the public domain. If it is not on that website, it is NOT in the public domain and you will have to ask for permission to use it. Which is easy enough - really - just ask.

I hope you find the images potentially useful.


*Photo of brick wall copyright Denise Alvarado, All rights reserved worldwide.
Find free public domain photos here.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Better to Die Fighting for Freedom Than be a Prisoner all the Days of your Life: 16 Favorite Memorial Day Quotes



Memorial Day began after the Civil War and was know at that time as "Decoration Day." It was created to honor those who died in the Civil War originally but has since become the day we honor all soldiers who died in service to our country defending our freedom. Memorial Day is sometimes confused with Veterans Day, which is the day we honor all soldiers who have served or are currently serving in the U.S. military.


Here are some quotes I found that are fitting for Memorial Day. The first is my personal favorite. After the quotes you will find a free download for those of you who would like to create and light a special candle to be of service to those who died for our freedom.


“Better to die fighting for freedom than be a prisoner all the days of your life.”  Bob Marley


"On Memorial Day, I don't want to only remember the combatants. There were also those who came out of the trenches as writers and poets, who started preaching peace, men and women who have made this world a kinder place to live." Eric Burdon


"My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." John F. Kennedy


“The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender or submission.”  John F. Kennedy


“The dead soldier’s silence sings our national anthem.”  Aaron Kilbourn


"Who sows virtue reaps honor." Leonardo da Vinci


“Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are stiffened.”  Billy Graham


"These fallen heroes represent the character of a nation who has a long history of patriotism and honor - and a nation who has fought many battles to keep our country free from threats of terror." Michael N. Castle


"Patriotism consists not in waving the flag, but in striving that our country shall be righteous as well as strong." James Bryce


"As America celebrates Memorial Day, we pay tribute to those who have given their lives in our nation's wars" John M. McHugh


"I would rather be remembered by a song than by a victory." Alexander Smith


"137 years later, Memorial Day remains one of America's most cherished patriotic observances. The spirit of this day has not changed - it remains a day to honor those who died defending our freedom and democracy." Doc Hastings


“The greatest glory of a free-born people is to transmit that freedom to their children.”  William Harvard


“A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.”  Joseph Campbell


“They are dead, but they live in each Patriot’s breast, and their names are engraven on honor’s bright crest.”  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


“Better to die fighting for freedom than be a prisoner all the days of your life.”  Bob Marley


Simple Service for Fallen Soldiers on Memorial Day and Any Day



While we have Memorial Day to remind us of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for the rest of us,  we can and should perform a Memorial Service any time we feel the desire to do so. It is very simple to do and requires little on our part.

To perform this service, you will need the following:

  • white candle
  • frankincense tears
  • frankincense essential oil
  • angelica root
  • rose petals
  • marigolds
  • white rocks and/or shells
  • alum stone
  • clear glass of water
  • white plate

First, prepare your candle. I use a seven-day glass container that I pour my wax, fix with herbs and oils, and add a nice label to it. I am giving you the label as a free download today - just scroll down to get it.

I melt my candle wax and then add the frankincense, angelica root, rose petals, and marigold petals to the melted wax. You can use a regular white candle by anointing it with the frankincense essential oil then crushing the angelica root, rose petals, marigold petals and frankincense tears and rolling the candle in the floral blend. If using a pre-bought white glass-encased candle, poke nine holes in the top, add a drop of frankincense essential oil to each hole and sprinkle some of the crushed floral blend on top.






Set the fixed candle on a white plate and add some flower petals around the candle.

Place the white rocks and shells around the white plate. These represent the fallen soldiers. Place photos of relatives who died in war on your altar if you have any. Add a glass of water to which you have added a piece of alum stone to keep evil away from your service. I was taught to add alum stone to water to aid in communication, and to protect the living and the Dead, among other things. If you don't have alum, just leave it out.




Add some flowers and your patron saint if you wish to further personalize your service. Now all you have to do is light your candle and pray for our soldiers who died for us. Just pray a heart felt prayer and do it every day until the candle burns down.

If you do not have everything for this service, don't let it stop you. You can even just light a tea light and say a prayer of gratitude and blessings for our fallen soldiers.


FREE DOWNLOAD
RIGHT CLICK ON THE IMAGE BELOW AND SAVE TO YOUR COMPUTER


Then, open a blank word document. Set the orientation to landscape. Insert the image into the document and print it out. It will fit perfectly on a glass encased seven-day candle. Cut out the image and glue to a white seven-day candle and perform a personal service to the ones fallen in battle for our freedom.






THIS IMAGE IS FREE FOR YOUR PERSONAL USE ONLY. I HAVE NOT PLACED IT INTO THE PUBLIC DOMAIN. NO COMMERCIAL USE IS ALLOWED.



Friday, May 13, 2016

Friday the 13th: Myth, Superstition, or Reality?



The fear of number 13 is the most
common superstition in Western culture.



One of my earliest memories about Friday the 13th as a day other than what is commonly portrayed in the media was when we were in Germany at an army base where my father was stationed. I remember it well; it was a sunny day and I was sitting on the grass outside. A soldier whom I did not know walked by me, looked at me and said “Happy Red Day.” I remember thinking to myself...what is he talking about? And then I remembered it was Friday the Thirteenth, and it must be something about this day that he is referring to. 

But why did he say that to me? I still don’t know the answer to that question; but, what we did find out was that he was the resident Satanist who was on a mission to infiltrate my life at the ripe young age of, oh yeah, did I mention...13? 

Sounds like the beginnings of a scary movie, right? Well, nothing crazy happened, we did get to know him a little and get inside the thinking of a Satanist in the army in Germany at that time. My mother never let me be alone with him and instead engaged in a useful dialogue that prompted me to learn more about the meaning of this “Red Day.”

The Origin of Friday the 13th





Apparently, there is no definitive date for the origin of the dreaded day of special misfortune. While there is evidence to suggest that the number thirteen was considered unlucky prior to the 20th century, there is no definitive link between Friday and the number 13, or so “they” say. I used to take that at face value, but not so much anymore. Actually, when you consider all of the origin stories, there are all kinds of connections between Fridays and thirteens. 

There are some who insist that Friday the 13th is a modern conceptual invention. According to this theory, the first recorded mention of a Friday the 13th occurred in 1907 with the publication of Thomas W. Lawson's popular novel, Friday, the Thirteenth. The storyline of the book tells of a stockbroker who exploits the superstition to create a panic on Wall Street on Friday the 13th. Obviously, it doesn’t make sense that this book is the first mention of Friday the 13th, because the author had to draw from earlier superstitious beliefs about Friday the 13th to propel the plot of the novel. In my mind then, this origin story is crossed off the list. 

In fact, a simple search in the historical newspaper archives reveals many references to Friday the 13th (see examples on the opposite page). 

So, what’s the deal then? Well, another theory is proposed by Donald Dossey, founder of the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina. According to Dossey, who is also a folklore historian, the phobia associated with Friday the 13th is the result of an ancient combination of two separate negative associations with the number 13 and the day Friday. Okay, so if something bad happens on a Friday, and it happens to be the 13th, then...that make Friday the 13th a day for bad luck? Well, considering bad things have happened to people on every other day of the week and on every other date as well, there’s got to be more to it than that. But, I do understand the psychology behind this explanation. 

Some suggest Friday has always been considered to be an unlucky day. For example, there is the reference made by Chaucer in his 14th-century book The Canterbury Tales, where he states Friday is considered a day of misfortune and ill luck: “...and on a Friday fell all this mischance.” Another explanation is based on the Christian belief that Jesus was crucified on a Friday. I can certainly agree this was a bad day for Jesus. 

But wait, there’s more! We can’t overlook Wall Street’s perpetuation of the superstition for decades. On Oct. 13, 1989, Wall Street experienced what was at the time the second largest drop of the Dow Jones Industrial Average in history. As a result, the day was nicknamed the Friday-the-13th mini-crash. 

And finally, we can’t let Hollywood off the hook. “Fridays will never be the same again” was the tagline to Paramount Pictures 1980 release of Friday the 13th, starring Jason, every horror movie buff’s favorite slasher. Born on Friday the 13th, Jason chooses to make that day ever more meaningful by seeking revenge on folks who are similar in behavior and appearance to those who allowed him to drown in Crystal Lake. 

But long before the Friday the 13th mini crash of 1989, Lawson’s 1905 novel Friday the Thirteenth, and Jason, for that matter, we find peculiar associations with the number 13. For example, it is curiously omitted in the list of laws in ancient Babylon's (circa 1772 BC) Code of Hammurabi. No one seems to know what the reason was for the omission. And, there is an age-old myth that if 13 people dine together, one will die within a year. The myth is said to derive from both the Last Supper, when Jesus dined with the 12 Apostles prior to his death, and a prevalent Norse myth. 

Blame it on Loki

Loki, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=679795


Okay, so let’s blame it on the trickster. Apparently, twelve gods were having a dinner party at Valhalla, the majestic Norse hall presided over by Odin and where half of those who die in battle go to upon death. An uninvited 13th guest arrived, the mischievous Loki. Ever the trickster, Loki manipulated Hoder, the blind god of darkness, to shoot the god of joy and gladness, Balder the Beautiful, with a mistletoe-tipped arrow. 

After Hoder shot Balder, the whole earth grew dark. Balder died and all of Earth mourned. It was an awfully unlucky day. Since then, the number 13 has been considered ominous and foreboding. 

The DaVinci Code?

Loki could be the end of it, but just for shits and giggles let’s take a look at a theory made famous through the DaVinci Code. In the book, a connection is drawn between the slaughtering of the Knights Templar by the Church and Friday the 13th. The Knights Templar were the wealthy, powerful and legendary order of warrior monks formed during the Christian Crusades. Historically, the arrest of Jacques de Molay, the Grand Master of the Knights Templar, did occur on Friday, Oct. 13, 1307. The event marked their demise by the Church and state for fictitious crimes such as heresy, blasphemy, various obscenities, and homosexual practices. Hundreds of members of the Order died excruciating deaths by torture and burning at the stake. Friday the 13th was indeed an unlucky day for the Knight’s Templar. 

Obviously, it is impossible to determine the exact origin of the superstition surrounding Friday the 13th. That said, there are innumerable superstitions related to this day and date that warrant mentioning simply because people observe them—a LOT of them—and they aren't going away any time soon. Page 173 has a nice collection of superstitions indicating bad luck associated with the day and date. But what about good luck? 


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Is There Such a Thing as Lucky 13?

Consider this, despite its bad luck associations in superstition, the number 13 is considered in a positive light in esoteric traditions. It is the number of mystical manifestation. For example: 

  • The teachings of Jesus are centered on the formula of 12 + 1 (Jesus plus his 12 disciples). According to Pythagoras, one added to 12 creates the unlimited number of 13. It is this formula that allows miracles such as the multiplication of fish and loaves. 
  • Thirteen is the number of the Great Goddess, represented by 13 lunar cycles to a year. 
  • Contemporary witches consider thirteen to be a lucky number. 
  • In the Kabbalistic system, numbers are equated with letters, and the number 13 is equated with love and unity since the Hebrew letters for love and unity both equal 13. 
  • Thirteen is the cosmic law of destiny: death through failure and regeneration. 
  • And hey, let's don't forget the Baker's Dozen...Okay, so that's not esoteric, but it is a good thing, right? I mean, who doesn't like an extra donut? 

Superstition or Reality?

Clearly, there are many explanations for the association between Friday and the number 13; yet, none of them adequately answer the question regarding the absolute origin of the superstition. We’ve looked at origin stories and superstitions and beliefs, both bad and good. Its prevalence is undeniable. However, the whole topic warrants another question. Is there anything to it? 

Indeed, inquiring minds want to know. Friday the 13th has been the subject of formal research. One way to measure whether or not an actual phenomenon exists is to analyze statistical data related to the prevalence of traffic accidents and hospital admissions that occur on Friday the 13th as compared to other days of the week. 

According to research completed at the Dutch Centre for Insurance Statistics in 2008, there were fewer accidents and reports of theft or fire on Friday the 13th than on other Fridays. 

On the other hand, there is this bit of information published on News.com.au website: 

One of the few reputable research papers on the matter - published in the British Medical Journal in 1993 - found that there was a higher risk of road accidents on Friday the 13th than on other Fridays. It found the risk of hospital admission as a result of a transport accident may be increased by as much as 52 per cent on Friday the 13th, compared to Friday the 6th.

Another study on the topic, conducted by Professor Simo Nayha from Finland's University of Oulu in 2004, found women in particular were at higher risk of dying in a road accident on Friday the 13th, compared with other Fridays. And he offered this conclusion: "Friday the 13th may be a dangerous day for women, largely because of anxiety from superstition.


Whatever—don’t get me started on the female focus of the latter research which is annoyingly reminiscent of the 19th-century-no-longer-recognized medical diagnosis of female hysteria. The problem with conducting research on Friday the 13th, aside from possible gender bias, is that it is impossible to control specific variables. For example, some people take extra caution when doing anything that day, whether they are driving or taking a shower. Still others simply avoid going out altogether. Surely these conditions would affect the outcome of any research regarding the incidence of accidents on Friday the 13th. 


Friday the 13th Remedies


Friday the 13th always occurs at least once a year in the Gregorian calendar and can appear up to three times in any one year. In 2016, there will only be one occurrence of Friday the 13th: May 13, 2016. So, is there anything that can be done to prevent possible bad luck for believers? 

Fortunately for paraskevidekatriaphobics, a number of remedies exist. You can escape to high ground, stand on your head and eat a piece of gristle (yum!) or burn all of your socks with holes in them for protection from inevitable. Or, you can carry a Friday the 13th lucky talisman, which I normally create each year but alas, did not have to prepare one today. 

Talisman magick goes back infinitesimally in the civilization of humankind, or by some estimates over 4,120 years. A talisman is a small amulet or object, often bearing magical symbols, worn for protection against evil spirits or the supernatural. 

There are the interesting talismans that are said to protect us from the evils of Friday the 13th. An 1896 Illinois newspaper article (p. 175) reports on the sale of rabbits foot talisman is the magic square. A magic square is a 4 x 4 square with the sum of each of 4 rows, 4 columns, and 2 diagonals always the same, "magic" total. They are found in a number of cultures, including Egypt and India, engraved on stone or metal and worn as talismans, the belief being that magic squares have astrological and divinatory qualities, their usage ensuring longevity and prevention of diseases. 

Bonne chance and good luck on Friday the 13th, wherever you are! 


References

Guiley, R.E. (1999). The Encyclopedia of witches and witchcraft. New York: Checkmark Books.

Roach, John. "Friday the 13th Phobia Rooted in Ancient History", National Geographic News, August 12, 2004, p. Page 1. Retrieved on July 13, 2007

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friday_the_13th


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*The above article is excerpted from the Hoodoo Almanac 2014-2015 by Denise Alvarado, Carolina Dean and Alyne Pustanio. It has been lightly edited to make it applicable to 2016.

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