St. Gabriel Light Setting Service – Communication, Fertility, Clairvoyance, Creativity

Have a glass-encased vigil light fixed, dressed, blessed, set on my Archangel Gabriel altar, and burned for you in a community altar work service.

Lights will be set the night of Wednesday, March 24th. There is some wiggle room and you can join up after the work starts as long as you see that there are still spots left and it doesn’t say “sold out.”

Usually, a saint’s feast day is the date of their death. Since angels aren’t human and don’t die (though they absolutely are saints), things are a little different with them. And you’ll find that these days, the official feast day of St. Gabriel the Archangel is September 29th – he shares it with the archangels Michael and Raphael.

But it wasn’t always so – feast days get moved around sometimes. And Gabriel’s used to be on March 24th, the day before the feast of the Annunciation, which was pretty much Gabriel’s starring scriptural role: he appeared to the Virgin Mary to tell her that she was going to be the Mother of God. (And *that* had to be a trip.)

So while all angels are messengers, in a sense, Gabriel is kind of the archetypal angelic messenger. It’s his main gig, and so he’s the patron saint of messengers, including postal workers, diplomats, ambassadors, and those in telecommunications.

Because so many of his messages had to do with the realm of pregnancy, childbirth, conception, fertility, he’s also called upon to intercede on behalf of infants and children, pregnant women, and women wishing to become pregnant. Fertility and conception can be understood figuratively here, as well, to do with inspiration, ideas, and the creative process.

And looking more broadly beyond his mentions in the canonical books of the Bible, he takes on varied roles. In Jewish tradition, Gabriel’s the angel of judgment, and in Islam he’s the mouthpiece of God during the dictation of the Koran. In many traditions of Western esotericism, he’s associated with the West, the Moon, and the element of Water.

Thus Gabriel rules ocean navigation and trade; motherhood, birth, children, and home/domestic concerns; intuition, psychic ability, prophecy, and clairvoyance. He can, of course, also be called upon more generally for blessings as one of the canonical archangels known by name from scripture.

Learn more or book your spot at SeraphinStation.com.

Angry Angels and Saints Who Smite

I’m posting this as a blog entry 1. because I can’t seem to comment on Cat’s blog (maybe she turned off comments or my browser is jacked up), and 2. I don’t want to take over her blog with my rambling anyway. Anyway, this is in response to her blog post here. I just want to chime in on the “saints punishing you” thing (if you read this whole thing, you’ll see that I am not disagreeing with her – I’m just elaborating).

People tend to think of saints as benevolent entities, close to God, involved in helping the devoted. Actually, there is an extremely long tradition of punitive miracles even in quite orthodox Catholic practice. I go into this a bit in this blog post. If you read the Old Testament, it’s full of them; God smote the hell out of all kinds of people, and he’s God. Saints and angels smite too. That isn’t the part people usually think of, though. As Tony Burke points out in his academic blog here, the study of punitive miracles is pretty much neglected by scholars as well. But such power to harm is part and parcel of the workings of saints, deities, and spirits in many different cultures and religions – absolutely including Christianity. Burke notes,

“Though not as plentiful in the sources as beneficent miracles, punitive miracles are nevertheless found in literature throughout Mediterranean antiquity. Holy men wield power, and sometimes that power is not used with mercy. Thus, to the ancient mind, it is reasonable for Elisha to call upon bears to maul annoying children, for Apollonios to threaten repressive corn merchants, for r. Eliezer to kill r. Gamaliel, for Paul to blind a false prophet, for Jesus to whither a fig tree, and so on. Of course, the power behind these curses comes from the gods, and sometimes the gods even curse directly—the Hebrew Bible, for example, contains numerous punitive acts perpetrated by Yahweh himself.”

My PhD work focused on this stuff in medieval England (and to a lesser extent, elsewhere), so this is obviously a favorite topic of mine. I don’t claim to be an authority on all world religions or even every Christian saint, but I think my training and research makes me pretty much qualified to call myself an expert on these “economies” and systems of circulation of relics, saints, angels, human beings, and how they all tend to interact and have interacted historically. I have published peer-reviewed academic articles on angels, saints, religious literature, and angelology. So I cannot in good conscience say that the popular image of angels as smiling feathered beautiful beings in gowns helping children over bridges is terribly accurate, nor can I say that punishment, smiting, punitive measures, retribution, etc are not a very important component of what sainthood is and has been understood to be for a very, very long time. If you think saints and angels are all benign and smiling and all about dropping everything to tend to whatever your little human issue is, you are a fool.

george
Creative Commons License, Some Rights Reserved: Jim Forest

However, I do agree with Cat: for today’s typical practitioner of folk spirituality, such things are not very common. And even when they happen, saying a saint has “attacked” you is not very accurate; that’s not really how it works. And anyway, the saints are more likely to smite you or screw you up if you have a deep, genuine relationship with one in particular — an obligation — and really drop the ball in terms of keeping up your end of things. They are NOT likely to starting raining hell down on somebody who is new to working with them and is making a legit attempt, and frankly I’ve found that they have better things to do than go around smiting people for making an honest mistake or being oh-so-humanly a bit of an ass. (The saints are human too – well, most of them.)

Many punitive miracles in medieval hagiographies and lore are due to somebody being a dumbass and not getting the original message, not doing something they were already told in less punitive or frightening terms to do, and/or failing to do something they were being warned they were obligated to do. For instance, in the lore of St. Michael, there’s this idiot named Garganus who made one of his men shoot a bull that St. Michael was trying to send as a sign of where he wanted a chapel built. [*] Thick-headed Garganus didn’t get the message; the bull wandered off near this cave and Garganus threw a little fit and ordered the bull shot. The arrow meant for the bull blew back and hit the servant (who was just following orders, after all). Garganus went to the bishop, being troubled by these strange events, and apparently softened his heart a little. Then later St. Michael appeared to him and said, basically, “This guy is dead because it is my will. Now pay attention; build my church at that cave the bull was sent to show you.” (Here’s a photo of the grotto chapel of St. Michael at Mt. Gargano.)

Gerald of Wales, telling of Ireland, wrote of a priest that encountered two wolves on his way Ulster. One spoke to him. The shocked priest reported that the wolf said, “There are two of us, a man and a woman, natives of Ossory, who, through the curse of one Natalis, saint and abbot, are compelled every seven years to put off the human form, and depart from the dwellings of men. Quitting entirely the human form, we assume that of wolves.”

The priest gave the sick wolf-wife the last rites. Before leaving them, he asked the wolf-man if the island’s inhabitants would continue to suffer under invaders. The wolf answered, “For the sins of our nation, and their enormous vice, the anger of the Lord, falling on an evil generation, hath given them into the hands of their enemies. Therefore, as long as this foreign race shall keep the commandments of the Lord, and walk in his ways, it will be secure and invincible; but if, as the downward path to illicit pleasures is easy, and nature is prone to follow vicious examples, this people shall chance, from living among us, to adopt our depraved habits, doubtless they will provoke the divine vengeance on themselves also.” [**]

Moral of the story for Gerald anyway: while saints and abbots may curse sinners, when we talk about great misfortune, we usually bring this stuff on ourselves somehow through wrong action or neglect of right action. He then goes on to tell of ravens falling dead for feasting on the carcass of St. Vincent, and of an archer who died miserably after innocently trying to shoot one of St. Colman’s ducks for his evening supper.

That is NOT to say that traditions of saints raining down hell on somebody do not exist in conjure lore, in contemporary folk Catholic practice, or even in people’s living rooms today. They do, just as they exist in the holy books of many religions. (Though as scholars like Stanko Andric have noted, these shouldn’t be understood as God or a saint throwing a fit, being unjust, or being cruel – these punitive miracles and intercessions have a larger role within the whole dynamic or system, are part of God’s will which is not always discernible to us in its entirety from our limited perspectives, serve a legitimate role in a community, and also serve as lessons to the faithful. See for instance Andric’s The Miracles of St. John Capistan, in which he notes, while discussing ultiones, that sometimes saints know that you are about to screw up, might try to warn you even, but you may be punished or mess things up *not due to the saint’s failure but due to your — the sinner’s — actions or lack thereof.* As I note in my earlier blog post that I linked to above, intercession of saints does not technically, traditionally involve any saint granting your wish or prayer – it involves the saint interceding with God for you; you thank a saint, technically, not for direct action but for going to bat for you in approaching God on your behalf, since God is the source of all this activity, power, etc.)

And while it is actually not super-common, there are some people who will warn you that St. Expedite (pronounced “espedee” or “expedeet” in the Southeastern US, by the way – think of how a French person would say the word, not an American person), among other saints, has a “call” behind them; that means that if you ask their intercession and mess up, or sometimes if you ask their intercession at all depending on what you’re trying to do, they will take somebody with them (meaning somebody around your home or family will die). Again, these are not typical views, but neither are they unique to just one person. I personally do not caution people that if you don’t hold up your end of the bargain, you should expect death to strike your family — the reality of working with saints in folk traditions these days is usually a lot less dramatic than that of late antiquity and the Middle Ages — but I absolutely do caution folks to learn about what they are doing, to form relationships, and not to treat their doings with saints lightly. If you piss off St. Michael by asking him to smite one of his devotees, and your desire is unjustified according to St. Michael, will he strike you down instead? Probably not. But this is no long-tressed, smiling, harp-playing cherub you’re talking about, so don’t be a fool. At best he might ignore you. At worst he might teach you a lesson. God, after all, taught Job some very colorful lessons, and he liked Job. St. Expedite was a Roman soldier. St. Michael struck down Satan. St. George and St. Martha took out dragons. So I urge you to think carefully before you ask petty things of saints or angels, or presume that your bull is more important than their chapel, so to speak!

If you don’t like what I’m saying here, feel free to not work with saints. And you don’t have to be a Christian or Catholic to work with (most) saints, in my experience – but what you had better do if you have any sense is know what you’re getting into and doing. You cannot just strip away all the history, traditions, and roles of saints, pick out just the nice parts that you want and that make it “easy,” and pretend that things like sin, punitive miracles, obligation, traditional roles and temperaments, etc. do not exist. You cannot treat saints like they aren’t part of this economy and aren’t part of Christian lore and tradition. Doing that – rejecting the fabric and culture and religion of the very saint you are trying to work with — is what will get you a punitive miracle. (That goes for spirits, saints, and deities of any religion; if you strip away the culture and religion from which they came and give them makeovers in your own image, according to your own preferences, or act like you can pick and choose which aspects and components you want to incorporate and ignore the rest  — well, don’t go complaining that so-and-so saint didn’t work for you when your buffet-style approach gets you some divine smackdown. That was not on the saint – that was all on you.)


[*] You can read a version of this in The Golden Legend (Aurea Legenda) Compiled by Jacobus de Voragine, 1275,
Englished by William Caxton, 1483, available at the Internet Medieval Sourcebook.

[**] Translation is by Thomas Forester, of Giraldus Cambrensis’ The Topography of Ireland, In parentheses Publications, Cambridge 2000.

old-school juju – St Michael packets

Y'all.  I am always talking about "people who grew up with this stuff" and "people who take conjure seriously and live it and not treat it as just as another tool in their eclectic toolbox" etc etc.  (there is nothing wrong with eclectic and nothing wrong with you following your traditions of your origins rather than somebody else's, and nothing wrong with picking up conjure later or anything like that, in and of itself, in case you are just stumbling across this).

Well, one way you can know you have got an old-school, "been around a while" worker on your hands is when they make stuff like this: A serious old-school St. Michael mojo packet, made my Miss Bri at Milagro Roots.  I hardly EVER see these from folks who didn't grow up around the Mississippi river or train with somebody who did.  I first saw it New Orleans, and I actually rarely see it outside of southern Louisiana.  It tickles me pink to see this kind of work.

If you have been reading for a while, you might remember that I used to offer something similar – but i started with embellished and embroidered scapular-type holy cards because I could NOT make my sewn packets look good enough to offer to the public.  My flannel always puckered, or the card looked bent up, or the stitches were crooked, and I didn't want to glue them (even though the one I have that I got in New Orleans was glued) and I eventually gave up.  But these are *great* and they are totally hand-done and hand-sewn, and customized with the personal concerns of you and/or your family members.  It does not get any better than this for home protection work, y'all, for real.  And since I sort of specialize in protection work and consider St. Michael one of my very special personal saints, you can bet it's impressive if I'm impressed.  Go have a look at some serious old-school personalized protection mojo!

[below is a St. Michael mojo packet, but not Miss Bri's – I haven't asked her permission to post a pic of hers yet, so this is just for the sake of having a St. Mike pic for the moment]

An Old Irish Prayer to the Archangels by the days of the week

I regret that I have not been writing as many informative or instructional posts lately as I’d like.  If you’ve worked with me fairly closely over the years and/or been reading my blog for a while, you may know that I’m feverishly trying to finish my PhD dissertation and *get the heck out of graduate school* where I have been for far, far too long.  So instructional/informative posts are not likely to be copious over the next few months.

But as part of my research I am working with a lovely Old Irish poem that I thought I’d share for you readers who work with, think about, and enjoy angels – it should be especially interesting for readers into esoteric prayer, working with the Seven Rays of the Archangels or any of the Rosaries of the Seven Rays, or those with a Roman Catholic or folk Catholic background – or, I daresay, an Irish background!  (If you aren’t familiar with the Seven Rays material, see the tags on this post – they’ll take you to other posts for more info.)

This is a prayer to the archangels giving one for each day of the week. 

A Prayer to Seven Archangels

Gabriel lim i nDomhnaighibh | is cumhachta ríg neime.
Gabriél lim hi comnaidi, | nachamthí bét na bini.

Michél dia Luain labraimsea; | focheird mo menma airi.
ni re nech nosamlaimsea | acht ré hIosu mac Maire.

Mad Mairtt, Raphiél radimsea, co tí in crich, dom chobuir;
in sechtmadh fer alimsea, | céin uér ar tuár in domhuin.

Uriél lim i cCétáinib, | int abb co n-uaisli ardi,
ar guin ocus ar gábudh, ar threthan gaithi gairgi.

Sáriel Dardain labraimsea | ar thonnuibh mera in mara,
ar cech nolc thic re duine, | ar cech ngalar nodgobha.

Dia na haíne didíni | Rumiél–rath reill–rocharus.
ní abbair acht fírinne, | maith in cara rogabus.

Panchel i sSatharnaib lim, | céin beó arin mbith mbuide
. . . . . . . . .  [*]

In Trinoid dom anacul. | in Trinoid dom shnádud.
in Trinoitt dom shæradh. | ar chach nguin, ar gach ngabud.

————————————————————————————————-

* [second half of verse missing in manuscript]

Modern English:

May Gabriel be with me on Sundays, and the power of the King of Heaven.
May Gabriel be with me always that evil may not come to me nor injury.

Michael on Monday I speak of, my mind is set on him,
Not with anyone do I compare him but with Jesus, the son of Mary.

If it be Tuesday, Raphael I mention, until the end comes, for my help.
One of the seven whom I beseech, as long as I am on the field of the world.

May Uriel be with me on Wednesdays, the abbot with high nobility,
Against wound and against danger, against the sea of rough wind.

Sariel on Thursday I speak of, against the swift waves of the sea,
Against every evil that comes to a man, against every disease that seizes him.

On the day of the second fast, Rumiel–a clear blessing–I have loved,
I say only the truth, good the friend I have taken.

May Panchel be with me on Saturdays, as long as I am on the yellow world
. . . . . . . .

May the Trinity protect me! may the Trinity defend me!
May the Trinity save me from every hurt, from every danger!

———————————————————————————————–

[translation is by Thomas O’Nowlan / Tomas Ua Nuallain, “A Prayer to the Archangels for Each Day of the Week,” in Ériu vol. 2, pp 92-94, which you can also consult for manuscript info if you have an academic interest in this piece]

As you may notice, this is one of many extant traditions about the names of the “seven archangels” – the number varies too, of course!  But this is one Celtic tradition for the seven archangels to which we have early attestation (this poem dates from the 800s).  A different batch of archangels is listed in the Saltair na Rann lines 793-804:

Gabriel, Michél, maith an-greim, Raphiel, Panachel oebind, Babichél, Raguel roclos, Mirachel, Rumel rigdos. / Fafigial, Sumsagial slán, Sarmichiel, Sarachel saergd, Uriel, Hermichel maith mass, Sarachel, Barachel bladbras. / Lihigiel, Darachél cenchol, Segiel, laSariel sairdron, Lonachel, Arachél tan, Stichiel, Gallichiel gleglan.

I don’t read Irish, never mind Old or Middle Irish, [**] and don’t have time to learn it any time soon, and if these lines have been translated into modern English, I haven’t run across the translation yet.  But if anybody knows where I can find one so I can learn what the context of this list is, I’d appreciate the tip!

** [The manuscript of the Saltair na Rann is in Bodleian MS Rawl. B 502; its handwriting dates to the 12th century, so this is Middle Irish, I suppose, or maybe “early Middle Irish” more properly?] 

ETA: A reader dropped a link to a different prayer to the archangels by days of the week, to the website of a London chruch. That page is now long defunct, but here’s the prayer, and all the citation they gave was “9th century Irish,” so who knows where they got it or who translated it:

A Prayer to the archangels
for every day of the week

May Gabriel be with me on Sundays, and the power  of the King of Heaven
May Gabriel be with me always that evil may not come to me, nor injury.
Michael on Monday I speak of, my mind is set on him,
Not with anyone do I compare him but with Jesus, Mary’s son.
If it be Tuesday, Raphael I mention, until the end comes, for my help.
One of the seven whom I beseech, as long as I am on the field of the world.
May Uriel be with me on Wednesdays, the abbot with high nobility,
Against wound and against danger, against the sea of rough wind.
Sariel on Thursday I speak of, against the swift waves of the sea,
Against every evil that comes to a man, against every disease that seizes him.
On the day of the second fast, Rumiel – a clear blessing – I have loved,
I say only the truth, good the friend I have taken.
May Panchel be with me on Saturdays, as long as I am in the yellow-coloured world,
May sweet Mary, together with her friend, deliver me from strangers.
May the Trinity protect me! May the Trinity defend me!
May the Trinity save me from every hurt, from every danger.

C9th Irish

medieval prayer to St. Michael; on petitioning saints; books of hours

[edit 021422: the links didn’t survive time and/or the transfer of this blog from livejournal to wordpress, so the bibliographic info got lost. Sorry. I haven’t re-tracked-down all the images in this blog post, but the St. Michael prayer I refer to is available in Stowe 16, Book of Hours, Use of Sarum, written mostly in Latin c. 1410, probably London, owned by the British Museum. From my verbal description, this isn’t the same manuscript I was looking at when I transcribed and translated it, but anyway, the prayer’s the same, and I’ll track down the one I was writing about when I have time.]


I’ve translated a prayer to St. Michael from a 15th century Book of Hours, and I thought I’d share it in between typing light setting reports.

Books of Hours

Books of Hours were very popular in medieval Europe.  While few laypeople would be able to own, never mind read, a Bible for much of the Middle Ages in much of Europe, a lot of people owned Books of Hours (comparatively speaking).  They are so named because they are built around the hours of the day – not the 24 hour setup we know, but the monastic and ecclesiastical hours that the day of a monk or nun or priest was divided into.  These “hours” (sometimes called “offices” today) are

  • Matins (basically the first chunk of prayers, at rising or dawn or however you have your day sorted)
  • Lauds or Prime (about 6 am)
  • Terce (about 9 am)
  • Sext (noon)
  • Nones (about 3 pm)
  • Vespers (evening, about 6 pm or at sunset, depending)
  • Compline (night, about 9 pm or before retiring)

Some monasteries had a midnight office (if it has a name, it is escaping me right now), and there were variations depending on where you were and where in the liturgical calendar you were in terms of season/time of year.  The prayers would vary, as well, depending on the larger church calendar, the day of the week, etc.

calendar pages from Hours of Catherine of CleveWhen laypeople began performing these monastic prayers themselves around the 13th century, Books of Hours were introduced as an abbreviated form of the prayer collection called a breviary that was used in monasteries.  So this is less a system by which one tells time, basically, or expects everyone else to be in sync with; rather, it’s a way of ordering your day around prayer-times according to the liturgical hours of the day.

Suffrages, Petitions, and Intercession

This kind of prayer I have reproduced below is technically called a “suffrage,” and can be seen in its original context here. [ed 021422: link to prayer in different manuscript, but I haven’t yet relocated the original manuscript image]  A suffrage is a short intercessory prayer  – ie, a prayer said to seek the intercession of a saint.  In case you’re not familiar with the concept, orthodox Catholics do not actually worship saints or petition them directly for favors, exactly; you don’t actually pray to St. Expedite to do something like bring you enough rent money by Friday.  Technically, what you (are supposed to) do when you petition a saint is ask for that saint’s intercession, i.e. ask that the saint intercede with God for you, to communicate on your behalf to God.  It is God who answers prayers, not saints, and God in and through whom all things are possible.

So you might honor a saint, but when you are thanking a saint, you’re thanking them for their intercession, not for their direct action.  For example, if you get the rent money by Friday, God has granted your prayer through the intercession of St. Expedite, who also prayed for you, and who by his superior grace and holiness and proximity to God made your own prayers more effective.  Thus it does not mean that without the saint, God would not know about your prayers, nor does it mean technically that the saint carries your prayers to God. It’s more like the saint sort of adds some oomph to your own prayers by virtue of his or her own personal holy qualities and residence in heaven.

The Council of Trent in the mid 16th century articulated the parameters of this practice and the belief system it implies: saints in heaven pray for us, the living, just as we the living pray for the souls of those in purgatory.  We, too, can be intercessors, in other words, and there are active, continuing relationships between and among saints, angels, living, dead in purgatory, God, the Virgin Mary, and Christ.  (The practice and the belief system that supports this predated Trent by ages, though – Thomas Aquinas had discussed it in the 13th century, and Jerome had written about it in the 4th-5th centuries.)

So when we invoke or petition a saint, we are (supposed to be) asking that saint to pray to God on our behalf, to throw in their lot with us and help us make our prayers more effective by lending us some of the power of their sanctity. Basically, not to put too fine a point on it, God loves everybody, but he likes some people more than others.  And some people, living or dead, have more prayer mojo than others, in essence.

Now, in the regular day to day scheme of things, even clerics and monks and such would probably not always observe this sort of fine distinction in the Middle Ages, especially not when it came to the wording of ex tempore prayers, or to the acquisition of and desire for relics of saints. The common hoodoo practice of doing something to a statue or image of a saint in order to elicit a response from the saint is very, very old.  People today will sometimes take the baby Jesus out of  St. Anthony’s arms until he grants their petition, usually involving the return of a lost item — if they have a statue with a detachable baby figure, that is. (You can get those and that is what they are for. In fact, you might even be able to find one with a drawer in the base to hold the baby Jesus statue when it’s out of Anthony’s arms. And that’s exactly what it’s for.)

Some people who do not come from this kind of background are shocked about all this and express their certainty that such practices are debased, degraded superstition that dishonors the saint by trying to coerce him and stuff like that.  But this is a very old practice with very deep roots.  These medieval monks who ordered their days around the liturgical hours? They lived with the saints, like neighbors or even roommates, and today’s folk Catholics do the same. A saint with whom you have a relationship is like a member of the family; they have an altar in your home, you talk to them all the time, you give them flowers.  You ask St. Christopher’s blessings on your way out the door, and St. Anthony responds to your prayers when you can’t find your car keys.  These are not distant, dusty figures whom one approaches groveling; they were fallible, living human beings and even in sanctified death, they are still human (most of them, anyway) and have personalities.

It was even more the case in medieval Europe – belief in the intercession of the saints was very real, and belief that the beloved departed were in purgatory and could be helped by prayers and masses was also.  You asked St. Foy’s help like you might ask for your neighbor’s, and the saints had responsibilities to the living, in the community – if the monastery’s patron saint fell down on the job and the monks had no harvest to get through winter, that was bad news and the saint was slacking.  Monks might take a statue off its niche or shelf and set it on the floor in displeasure, telling the saint that he was staying there until the rain came and the fennel grew again. Nuns might bury a medal of St. Joseph on land they needed help in obtaining.

And the saints responded in visible, sometimes tangible, ways.  A knight might petition St. James for healing of his arm, and promise to make a pilgrimage to the saint’s “home,” the property at which his relics resided, as thanks when the arm was mended.  When the knight failed to keep his word, St. James intervened to see to it that his other arm was broken. [*]  These so-called “punitive miracles” were frequent occurrences – saints got involved in all kinds of matters, from mundane farm troubles to rivalries between monasteries to inheritance of property and succession of kings.

So it’s important to understand the worldview in which saints are a part of everyday life, more like members of the family than distant, cold oracles or spirits.  This is a world in which flogging a saint’s statue, or turning a saint’s photo upside down, is not some horrible, sacrilegious thing that clergy would be appalled at – clergy often participated.  It is a worldview which someone from a Protestant Christian background is unlikely to really “get” at first, so that is why I go to the lengths I go to in order to explain some of this stuff.

Was there a council declaring that a saint could be flogged if the monastery suffered bad weather? Of course not.  Strictly speaking, if scholastics and theologians had weighed in on such a thing, it’s easy to imagine them disapproving.  But your average local parish priest was no Thomas Aquinas, and while Aquinas was concerned with the nature of the Trinity and the relationship of soul to matter and body, a local priest had more mundane and pressing matters to consider, and frankly just a different mission in life and vocation.  Same with an abbot or abbess in charge of the religious community and order.  They worried about God and their souls and purgatory, but they also worried about carrots and milking cows and firewood, and they shared their lay neighbors’ concerns about local politics and land disputes.

So these finer points of theology and doctrine regarding the precise nature of the intercession of the saints, among other things, have not always been of the utmost concern to the faithful, a thousand years ago or today.  And the potential for abuse or idolatry in the day to day practices of Catholics and in the system outlined by the Council of Trent is one of the major bugs that Protestant reformers got up their bums; they didn’t like the whole praying to saints thing much more than they liked the idea and system of indulgences (which is another hugely misunderstood system which I will also have to write about one day).

And a great many people who are Christian are of the Protestant stripe informed by such thinking (and this category includes the majority of rootworkers, by the way), so there is often misunderstanding and even mistrust of the whole “working with saints” thing.  A lot of my clients don’t really “get” the saints or are very unsure about how to proceed in working with them.

In itself, there is nothing wrong with not knowing and with starting somewhere – I have found that the saints don’t really care whether or not you are strictly in conformance to every decree from Vatican City, and in fact don’t always care if you’re Christian (it depends on the saint).  You are probably not going to piss them off unless you’re an ass with an overdeveloped sense of entitlement.

But what happens not infrequently, a lot of newcomers to saints’ work, their very first approach to a saint, their very first saint, is buying a bottle of oil and imperiously demanding something from the saint. This is akin to barging up to a total stranger and demanding a favor.  When they don’t get it, they quit working with that saint or with saints altogether (or the really idiotic ones write me emails saying “your saints oil had no energy in it”).

So that’s why I keep beating the “relationships are important” horse so that folks can understand how all of this works.  Work with the saints is *fabulous.*  But it’s work, in the sense that maintaining a relationship is work.  Saints are not vending machines.

Anyway.  Back to Books of Hours and the intercessory prayers they contain.  (One of these days, I am going to make my own Book of Hours.  I have to learn to write properly with a quill on vellum, first, though – so maybe I”ll cheat in the meantime and make an improper and informal Book of Hours that I’ve cherrypicked my favorite prayers for.  I wish I could earn a living making custom Books of Hours for people; I think I would really enjoy doing that work.  For a while, anyway – I might change my tune after I did a few!)

The St. Michael Prayer

Here is the St. Michael prayer transcribed. I’ve expanded abbreviations in the manuscript, or tried to, and I may have made some errors, so if you have medieval Latin feel free to correct me. I might have mangled the ut clause (sorry – I was the Anglo-Saxonist flavor of medievalist, and my Latin has sadly never been top tier).

Laudemus dominum quem laudant angeli quem cherubim et seraphim sanctus sanctus sanctus proclamant.

V.  In conspectu* angelorum psallam tibi deus meus.

R. Adorabo ad templum sanctum tuum et confitebor nomini tuo.

[I don’t know/can’t read the word in red, but it has to mean that everybody prays as a group now.]

Deus qui miro ordine angelorum ministeria hominumque dispensas, concede propicius ut a quibus tibi ministrantibus in caelo semper adsistitur ab his in terra uita nostra muniatur.  Per Christum [?].

Translation

Let us praise the Lord whom the angels praise, to whom the Cherubim and Seraphim cry holy, holy, holy.

V: In the sight of the angels I will sing to you, my God.
R: I will worship in your holy temple and confess your name.

God, who in miraculous order arranged the ministry of angels and men, grant, merciful, that by those ministering eternally to you in heaven, our life may be attended and defended by these on earth.  Through Christ [etc].

[*This doesn’t look like conspectu to me, but maybe the smudge is hiding a symbol for abbreviation that accounts for the p I can’t see to save the life of me. No other word makes sense here.]

Now all that was a big windup for a teeny little prayer!  I have a stack of reports to type still, and I don’t even want to think about my inbox (I’m not kidding about getting in 70 or more emails every single freakin’ day) so I need to get back to them, but I have a ton more prayers to Michael and some other angels I will post eventually.  In the meantime, here’s a picture I took last summer of a tapestry-stitch and needlepoint piece of St. Michael.  It was stitched in 1955 and is on display in the tower portion of St. Michael’s church in Oxford, England, which has lots of lovely images and statues.


NB: unless noted as mine, like the photograph above, all images are public domain.

[*] Sumption, Jonathan. Pilgrimage: An Image of Mediaeval Religion. London: Faber and Faber, Ltd., 1975. 240.


St. Michael and St. George from Hyatt

(St. Michael?)

Yeah, that’s correctly. Well, yeah, there’s a Saint Michael, see. That’s a saint that is coming from something like heaven with two swords in his hands. See, there’s St. George, he’s coming with two swords on his horse. All right. St. Michael – you use a red candle to St. Michael. Do you get the idea about that? All right. And St. George, you uses a blue candle to St. George. Get the idea about it? And you use that blue candle for nine days – as one candle burn out, you light another one – for nine days, continue on nine days. And those candles do most anything that you want them to do.

(You just light the candles and make the wish to them?)

Make a evil wish to do that. Tell him what to do and mean it – with a evil ‘vironment, and then after that, you cuss it. You get the idea about that?

[New Orleans, LA; Informant # 840 – Dr. Caffrey; Cylinders A447:8-454:1 =1263-1270.]

Oct 24, Feast of St. Raphael the Archangel

Again, a day late and a dollar short, or maybe a week late and totally bankrupt, we have the belated announcement of the Feast of St. Raphael the Archangel.  See the Book of Tobias for more about this angel, or Milton’s Paradise Lost if you’re feeling frisky (and ambitious).  One of the fun facts about Raphael as you learn in the footnotes of Paradise Lost is that in the apocryphal Book of Tobit (Tobias’ father), Raphael provides a recipe to drive away an incubus.  It seems that you can be incubus-free if you burn the heart and liver of a fish.  Worked on Asmodeus, anyway. 

Prayer to Raphael:

O God, Who didst give Blessed Raphael the Archangel to Thy servant Tobias, as a companion on his journey, grant to us, Thy servants, that we may always be protected by his care and strengthened by his help.

Vouchsafe, O Lord God, to send holy Raphael the Archangel to help us; and may he, whom we believe to be ever in attendance on Thy majesty, present our poor prayers to be blessed by Thee.