St. Martha (aka St. Martha the Dominator)

December 4, 2010 § Leave a comment

St. Martha was and is a popular saint for several different types of conditions, though in modern conjure and hoodoo, she is probably most often called on for assistance by women wishing to dominate their men.

I have finally gotten around to listing a St. Martha the Dominator mojo bag.  ETA: I’ve also listed a St. Martha the Dominator honey jar spell kit. The listing has a bit of info on St. Martha, and reads:

St. Martha the Dominator is called on for domination – usually when women want to dominate their man.  But in the rich and varied medieval traditions surrounding St. Martha, she is also called on for assistance by those who need to get the upper hand in any kind of relationship in which they find themselves “at the bottom of the totem pole.”  Back in the day, employees would call on St. Martha to get better treatment from their employers, for instance, especially if they were household employees like kitchen service or nannies.

In medieval lore and in her iconography, she is shown as a slayer of dragons, and in this capacity she is a great ally for all types of situations in which you are the underdog and you need to find a way to “top from the bottom.”  Be warned, though: many old-school workers who work extensively with saints in conjure have said that if you call on her to dominate somebody in your life, and she doesn’t take to the way they are treating you if they are treating you real bad, she will run them off and out of your life.  If your partner is beating on you or emotionally torturing you, or if your boss is engaged in discriminatory, unjust, or illegal practices against you, please don’t try to use St. Martha stuff, or conjure in general, as the only means of improving things.  If you are being hurt or misused, call a hotline or shelter, or your HR department, as befits your situation.  If you don’t know who to call and you are in danger, contact me and tell me where you are, and I’ll help you find somebody to call.  Do not rely solely on conjure or the saints to protect you from physical harm; the Lord and the saints help us in practical ways, and sometimes the best spiritual act involves picking up the phone.

You can read more about the medieval hagiography of St. Martha in The Golden Legend, or Lives of the Saints, which explains some of her iconography, such as her appearance with a dragon or serpent.

There is a tradition that she doesn’t like men and won’t work for them, but I don’t think that’s always necessarily true – I do think it depends on the case though.  Most stories I’ve heard about working with St. Martha, when they involve successful domination, have involved women dominating men, but the reverse is not completely unheard of; in fact, Madame Lindsey in Algiers, LA, one of Hyatt’s informants, gives a lovely variation of a sweetening/honey jar family spell with which a husband may invoke St. Martha to keep his wife doing her wifely duties (see Vol 2., p. 1503).

This is for use in situations where a wife is not taking care of the house and children.  You make a name paper by writing her name on it seven times, and then you put it in a white teacup or saucer, over which you pour three teaspoons of orange water (aka orange blossom water, orange hydrosol), for faithfulness to her marriage vows.  Next you add honey and milk.  Set it where she won’t find it, in front of an image or statue of St. Martha.  Burn pink candles on it.

The informant instructs Hyatt to set a pink taper on this, but it’s not entirely clear precisely how – there’s some confusing stuff about a cork and the candle floating, and the informant says “Yo’ set dat [taper] right on dere an’ po’ yo’ oil an’ light it- right befo’ St. Martha.”  Pouring the oil suggests she means something other than dressing the candle.  She may be referring to a homemade unenclosed oil lamp, where the cork/taper combo suggests some sort of homemade wick, or it may refer to a homemade floating candle.

In any case, obviously there is always more than one way to do these kinds of things.  I personally add a dollop or glunk of St. Martha the Dominator condition oil to the orange water/honey/milk mixture – and I don’t use very much milk, because I don’t want to risk the smell of sour milk in my altar room, which is often warmer than the rest of the house because of the number of candles burning in it. If you add more honey than milk, it can act as a natural preservative *for a while* – but you probably would not leave this setup in place indefinitely, at least not unless you made this a container spell instead. If you do it this way, the layer of liquid should be shallow enough that a candle with a wide enough base should stand upright in this saucer and burn with no problem (I think you’d have more trouble with a taper.  I recommend a candle with a flat base that is at least an inch wide, probably wider, so it will stand up on its own, though I supposed you could always use a taper in a candle holder and set the candle holder in the saucer or cup).

So – a spell for a man to dominate his wife.  Yet this coexists with a tradition that Martha doesn’t like men. What gives?

Well, I think one of the key things here becomes a bit more clear if you read about St. Martha in scripture — see Luke 10:38-42, John 11:1-53, and John 12:1-9.  She was a woman in a time when managing the household, and being a servant to all guests and visitors, was the proper role of women.  I think Martha is called to work on a wayward wife in the above rite because of her association with the proper running of a household. I do not think that a man could work this St. Martha rite on a woman who was not his wife or committed partner, and I do not think this rite could be worked to get a woman to do something like commit adultery (or do anything else that didn’t have to do with obligations related to the running of a household).  I think the key is that it is worked by a husband on a wife, and it’s worked in relation to the running of a household and raising of children.

But I would not call on St. Martha to try to force a wife into doing unjust things, and I would not recommend that a husband who is not holding up all his vows with love and respect try to ask Martha to dominate his wife.  I imagine he might get the smackdown for his presumption.  St. Martha in the medieval tradition is quite atypical of female saints, whose defining characteristic was often their virginity.  While St. Martha was probably a virgin, she took a much more active and independent role as a Christian than was typical. For a discussion of medieval saints’ lives and gender which illustrates St. Martha’s uniqueness, see Daas, Martha, “From Holy Hostess to Dragon Tamer: The Anomaly of Saint Martha,” Literature and Theology, Vol.  22, Issue1 (2008), pp. 1-15.  Daas writes,

The official version of the life of Saint Martha depicts her as Christ’s hostess and one of his first followers. Her popular appeal, however, stems less from her biblical role, than from her position in medieval legend. In the Middle Ages, Martha is reinvented as a Gallic saint whose most celebrated feat is taming a dragon. It is this legend that has often displaced Martha’s original role, both in text and in iconography. Unlike most depictions of female saints, Martha’s power derives from her soul, not from her body. The denial of corporeality as the source of holiness defies the traditional role of the mulier sancta. Martha, as depicted in the texts of the Middle Ages, is a holy person, not a holy vessel. In this article, I am positing a third ‘category’ of female saint: one not defined by her corporeality, that is, her virginity or her physical martyrdom, but by her character, which I claim is indicative of the influence of popular spirituality on the more formal teachings of the Christian church. (p. 1)

In short, there’s more to Martha than her cooking skills; keep in mind that while she was a householder, she was *not* a wife.  So don’t overdo it on the “housewife” thing.

There’s a famous painting by Diego Velazquez which puts into sharp contrast the experiences of Mary and Martha in the household.  Martha is in the kitchen – she’s sweaty from the work, her hands are chapped and rough from manual labor, her face is flushed from the heat, and to top it all off, her sister is not only not sharing the burden, she’s getting the privilege to sit at the feet of Christ and listen to his words, which Martha also desires.  Somebody has to feed the guests, and Christ’s words to Martha could very well sting anyone who gets stuck in the Cinderella role.  But I advise people to look long and hard at this painting and read the scriptures carefully and with open heart before asking St. Martha to dominate a wife.  Look at the look on her face.  I suggest you be of pure heart and clear conscience before you do the above rite.  This is, after all, a woman who’s said to have defeated a deadly dragon with prayer and immobilized it by binding it up in her apron or girdle strings.  Then she called on the villagers to descend on it and tear it apart limb from limb.

My 1956 Missal gives her feast day as July 29.  A novena leaflet that I have for her gives a prayer to her as follows:

St. Martha, I resort to thy protection and aid and as a proof of my affection and faith I offer this light which I shall burn every Tuesday. Comfort me in all my difficulties and through the great favor thou didst enjoy when the Savior was lodged in thy house,. Intercede for my family that we may always hold God in our hearts, and that we may be provided for in all our necessities, I ask, St. Martha, to overcome all difficulties as thou didst overcome the dragon at thy feet.

As a Novena, this prayer would be said for nine Tuesdays, along with the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be.

In orthodox Roman Catholicism, she is the patron of dietitians, hemophiliacs, housewives, landlords, waitresses, servants, cooks, and women workers.  Will she help a man in any of these roles?  I have certainly known her to.  Her iconography often features keys, a broom, a ladle, and a dragon.

Catholic Online has a lovely summary of Martha’s role in scripture, which goes some way towards explaining why I’ve heard folks say she’s helped them with sibling issues in their family, like jealousy, or manipulative attention-grubbing, or rivalry.  I’ve also heard her called on by folks who are facing difficulties in managing their households, because of strife or poverty; along with St. Joseph, she is a wonderful ally if you have a lot of mouths to feed and you are running short of money and resources to take care of them all.

Cat at originalninjacat has a great post on St. Martha, which discusses the commonly-encountered belief that St. Martha doesn’t like men.  And Mama Star at oldstyleconjure discusses her work with St. Martha and gives instructions for a novena.

new stuff

January 16, 2009 § Leave a comment

I have just upgraded to a paid account, so expect more pictures, as they’ll be easier for me to post now.

School is about to slam me hard, so don’t feel shy if I promised you something and you’re wondering where it is.  If I don’t get to it soon, it may be months before I can finish it (and keep in mind I have prior commitments to reading clients, the few client cases I have taken on altar work for, and custom pieces I have in the queue).  Similarly, keep in mind that some stuff just takes longer to make than other stuff, and sometimes it takes longer to *start* just because I have to "get the picture" before I know what to do, if that makes any sense.  Sometimes I have to hunt down just the right piece or component, and that  has meant that some more complicated pieces have taken me *months.*  In one case I can think of, I started a custom cosmetic box probably about two years ago, now, have pulled it out and done one or two things to it every few months, but have not found the "thing" to tie the whole thing together yet.  I feel bad, but I can’t rush myself on this stuff or else nobody is happy with it, and this is why I don’t take deposits on custom work – I won’t work according to anybody else’s timeline if it means I have to ship something I am not happy with.

Tau Thomas, I finished a Lazarus medal, and you have first dibs if you like it.  If not, no worries, you won’t hurt my feelings.  Whee, why don’t I use my new paid account to post some pictures *right now*?! 

Here’s Lazarus (these medals are notoriously difficult to photograph, sorry for the quality):
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July feast days

July 25, 2008 § Leave a comment

I have been insanely busy this month, but I need to do some saints’ shout-outs.

I’m late for Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, for which I owed her a bouquet of expensive damned roses and a 5X6 scapular (you can find ANYTHING on ebay)  — her feast day was July 16.  She is one of the faces of the loa Erzulie Dantor.

July 22 was the feast of St. Mary Magdalene, about whom the Renaissance poet Richard Crashaw wrote some truly bizarre poetry.

Today, July 25, is the feast of St. James the Apostle.  He is sometimes called St. James the Greater as a mark of his apostleship preceding that of the other apostle he shared a name with.  St. James shares this feast day with St. Christopher, patron saint of travel.

Pre-Vatican II prayer to St. James: “Be Thou, O Lord, the Sanctifier and Guardian of Thy people, so that, defended by the protection of Thy Apostle James, they may praise Thee by their conduct and serve Thee with a quiet mind.”  Some houses and temples use images of St. James to honor the loa Ogoun; some, however, use St. James Minor, and others use Saint Peter or one of the warrior saints.

Prayer to St. Christopher: “Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God, that, celebrating the heavenly birthday of Blessed Christopher, Thy Martyr, we may, by his intercession, be strengthened in the love of Thy name.” 

Tomorrow, July 26, is the feast of St. Anne, the mother of the Virgin Mary.  Prayer: “O God, Who didst deign to bestow upon Blessed Anne such grace, that she was found worthy to become the mother of her who brought forth Thy Only-begotten Son, mercifully grant, that we, who celebrate her feast, may be helped by her intercession with Thee.”  “Thou has loved justice, and hated iniquity.  Therefore God, thy God, has anointed thee with the oil of gladness.” (Ps 44, 8)  “Grace is poured abroad in they lips: therefore has God blessed thee forever.” (Ps 44, 3)  “The daughters of the king are in thy honor, the queen stood on thy right hand in gilded clothing, surrounded with variety.” (Ps 44, 10).

July 29 is the feast of St. Martha, the sister of Mary Magdalene.  St. Martha is often called on by voudouisants who serve La Sirene.  Rootworkers call on her to dominate men and employers.

July 31st is the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola.  I don’t know that he’s used much in rootwork or vodoun, but his meditation practices inspired some really interesting Renaissance and Baroque poetry.

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