Why Santa Muerte and Jesus Malverde Are Not Just “Narco Saints”

Seraphin Station

I can’t count the number of references I’ve seen over the past 15 or so years to Santa Muerte being a “narco saint,” with the implication (or even the straight-up assertion) that she’s a saint for drug dealers, boom, like that’s the whole picture. This kind of statement is incredibly reductionist and oversimplified. It ignores nuance, never mind facts, and it betrays a lack of respect for the (sub)culture(s) from which she springs and a total lack of concern for understanding folk religion – in Mexico or in general.

Seriously, it’s insulting and dismissive even if you *are* a drug dealer. It would be reductionist even if it were true that only those associated with the drug trade in Mexico venerate this folk saint. That it’s not even true just makes all that rhetoric exhausting (and those who uncritically repeat it lazy).

Even though this interview in Vice is called…

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Hoodoo Rootworker’s Seven-Way Rosary Chaplet – SOLD

Available through Seraphin Station, this rosary is handmade with a mix of pressed glass and Czech glass beads, each decade being separately attached to the center ring — a finger rosary — and embellished with a focal Pater bead of pressed glass, Czech glass, or in one case recycled sandcast glass. Whether you want to see this as a charm collection on a charm hanger displaying seven individual chaplets or single-decade rosaries, or as a sort of deconstructed All Saints’ rosary for contemporary rootworkers, this is a striking and unusual piece created by a rootworker with over 35 years of experience working with the roots, rosaries, and these saints in the folk Catholic tradition.

Large, sturdy, colored aluminum jump rings connect each decade to the center ring, so it’s possible, should you ever want to, to remove the individual decades and treat them as separate single-decade chaplets. This could be useful if you are working intensively with one or some but not all of these saints or if you’re traveling and need to cut down on how much spiritual stuff you’re lugging around.

Saints are chosen for their importance in the spiritual landscape of deep South hoodoo rootwork, with an eye towards popularity and contemporary usage (in the sense that while 100 years ago, St. Dymphna was probably not petitioned so often in conjure, today she is an enormously popular saint invoked by folks from all kinds of backgrounds and in all kinds of folk belief contexts. So she’s here!)

It’s made with strands or decades for the following:

  • St. Gerard, patron of pregnancy and childbirth in the Catholic tradition, also represents Baron Samedi of Haitian vodou in some houses and temples. He is the patron of communication with the ancestors and the dead. On the other side of this medal is Our Lady of Perpetual Help pictured with Christ and the angels Michael and Gabriel. OL of Perpetual Help is called on for all kinds of things – in hoodoo in my region, it’s often against sickness, income uncertainty, hunger, and unstable households. She’s known to help with all of those things. She’s also associated in some houses and temples with the lwa Erzulie Danto.
  • St. Lazarus is the patron saint of lepers and against leprosy, and by extension against plague and pandemic in contemporary practice. He’s also sometimes invoked by beggars, the homeless, people with HIV/AIDS, people with Hansen’s disease, and those who have unusually close relationships with dogs. He represents the lwa Legba, the patron of Yoruban divination and master of the crossroads, in many temples and houses, so he’s a powerful ally in road opening work.
  • St. Expedite is the patron saint invoked for fast luck, for help breaking through obstacles, for help with procrastination, and, increasingly, in desperate cases, much like St. Jude. He’s also the patron of computer programmers. In some regions and in some houses, he’s associated with the Ghuede lwa who rule the crossroads between life and death, esp. Baron Samedi.
  • St. Jude, the patron invoked for hopeless causes, is also called on more generally in conjure for financial prosperity and stability and is a good ally for those whose livelihoods involve working with emotional clients/customers and whose incomes can fluctuate for a host of reasons.
  • St. Christopher is the patron saint of travelers, children, and boat captains, invoked for safe travel. In some houses in New Orleans Voodoo, in which Santeria has had a noticeable influence, he is associated with the orisha Agayu. He presents his devotees with difficult obstacles but also grants them the inner power to overcome those trials and grow strong enough to carry all burdens.
  • St. Philomena is widely considered a miracle worker invoked by devotees for all kinds of things when other measures have failed. She’s the patron of babies and children and is considered the patroness of the living rosary. In some houses and temples, she is a lwa in her own right, seen as a helpful and pleasant spirit who helps those who make their livings as market sellers, removes negativity and evil from the surroundings, and grants the ability to have prophetic dreams.
  • St. Joseph is the patron saint of happy death, carpenters, stepfathers, and workers more generally, invoked in all kinds of situations to do with the financial wellbeing of a family and/or household, but especially petitioned by those seeking employment. He’s also called on by folks who need to sell their house. He’s associated with the lwa Papa Loko, the originary houngan and healer. St. Dymphna is on the reverse side of this medal. She is widely invoked against mental illness, anxiety, and depression, and she’s the patron of incest survivors and teenage runaways.

Some of these associations vary by region and the religious background of the practitioner, so I don’t mean to imply here that most modern rootworkers work with St. Gerard because of his association with a particular lwa in Haitian sevis. Most rootworkers do no such thing. Hoodoo and vodou are of course two distinct traditions, the former being folk magic and the latter being a religion. In Louisiana, though, especially New Orleans and surrounding areas, there is a strain of practice where the two are often blended to a greater extent than elsewhere as a result of the city’s unique history.

Continue reading “Hoodoo Rootworker’s Seven-Way Rosary Chaplet – SOLD”

St. Anthony of Padua material updated

anthony post cover (1)The St. Anthony material from the FAQ Directory has been consolidated, updated, and  moved to its own page, with lots of linked sources and resources.

Coming soon, I hope: St. Anthony chaplets and maybe a few pakets, too.

saints and sacramentals: relics, badges, scapulars, detentes, amulets, etc.

Again, no time for a real post, but a quick collection of notes about saints, sacramentals, scapulars, relics, badges, and the essentially-untranslatable usually-South-American but sometimes-European item called a detente, which is often what gets called “scapular” on sites like ebay and pinterest. These are links to some Pinterest pins in which I comment on a few examples. If all goes well, I’ll elaborate with more examples when I’m caught up later this month (fingers, toes, etc. crossed, God willing and the creek don’t rise, etc.)

Sacred Heart and Mother of Sorrows – this one has the word “detente” on it even.

eBay seller called this Sacred Heart badge a “scapular” and a “second-class relic,” which is total rubbish since it’s neither, but it’s a beautiful piece.

Now this is actually a scapular.

Peruvian Sacred Heart detente.

Good example of handmade embroidered detente described inaccurately on eBay – I wish I’d captured the original seller notes since those are long gone and you can’t read what I’m responding to anymore.

Beautiful hand-embroidery on this scapular, and it IS a scapular.

Handmade Peruvian scapular.

Even reputable sellers can give you bad info on relics, which can get quite technical and complex.

Silly rabbit! Relics aren’t for kids! Bad Latin, no cookie for you!

I’d call this a badge, but you could make a case for detente (I’d want to see the whole piece, 3D, before I made my own call). It might be a relic – can’t tell from the photo. But it’s by no means a scapular.

Beautiful St. Rose of Lima detente.

I’ll eventually get around to posting some info and definitions, history, and descriptions, but not this week for sure. I’ll also eventually get around to finishing all my own examples I’ve started over the years, like the one below (which admittedly isn’t my fanciest — I made it very quickly as a gift so as not to hold up a package from shipping any longer than necessary). (And yes, many of mine merge elements of South American packet/package and bottle amulets — like the ones I make custom for clients — with elements of other sacred and religious folk art and sacramentals.)


front and back, (c) Karma Zain 2015

And here’s one in progress, below – as you can see, many of the ones I’ve previously made or am making combine traditional saints’ iconography and images with elements of that saint’s manifestation or portrayal in religions of the African diaspora, like the below piece that features elements of the vodou loa Ghuede / Gede and will have St. Gerard on the other side.


(c) 2015 Karma Zain

Look for the next post on how to win a custom handmade badge/detente for the saint or spirit of your choice.

saints: St. Benedict and his sacramentals

The clock is ticking quickly away on my self-imposed deadline to get caught up, so I don’t have time to make the post I want to make — I happened across this excellent information on St. Benedict and his sacramentals, plus September features the feast days of a few of my favorite saints like St. Cyprian, Our Lady of Sorrows, and Sts. Cosmas and Damian, and *God* how I have missed writing about interesting things and posting cool prayers and images on this blog! — but I still want to share a couple of links about St. Benedict anyway. I’ll post again later about status update stuff and the latest coupon codes.

So here is a link about the medal of St. Benedict, its uses, and its authorized blessing formula.
And here’s another, which explains the symbols on the medal in detail (with pictures).

Feast of St. George, Belated Saints Sale, Prize Drawing

Today was the Feast of St. George, and I’m posting late, but I’ve had “post something that isn’t whining or apologizing” on my list of things to do for so long that I’m going to post it anyway.

Dragon Hill is a large mound with the top lopped off, and like the surrounding area that’s home to the Uffington White Horse, there’s natural chalk under the surface of the grass and soil. Steps have been carved into the side of the hill and you can climb up – when I was there, it seemed to be prime kite-flying real estate. It was one of several spiritually significant sites I was determined to visit when I was in England a few years ago, and I think I hiked a total of about 15 miles that one afternoon to get to all of the ones that were accessible from the Ridgeway. But it was worth it.

Legend has it that this is the site where St. George slew the dragon. The dragon’s blood spilled and poisoned the soil so nothing can grow on that scarred patch of white chalk showing in the photo. Like many popular saints, George lived and was martryed during the reign of Diocletian, who had a real thing for killing Christians; lots of martyrs were made during his reign. George was a soldier in Diocletian’s army and was tortured before his death in an effort to get him to renounce Christianity, so medieval iconography sometimes included a wheel of swords. The most popular image of George, though, shows him slaying a dragon. A legend grew around him in the centuries after his death, apparently, in which he killed a dragon threatening a woman (in some versions, a maiden who was being sacrified to it so it would spare a city, and in some versions the wife of Diocletian himself, though of course the dragon is also allegorically held to be Satan and/or a suppressed pagan cult/religion).

Crusaders brought the dragon legend back to England with them from the Middle East and over time there were various versions of it. All good medieval romances have knights battling fierce and even monstrous enemies, so this tale circulated along with those of King Arthur and the giant of St. Michael’s Mount and the various escapades of Lancelot and the like, which is how a hill in medieval England came to be associated with a solider serving in the Roman army in the 4th century.

reproduction of a medieval Byzantine icon of St. George
CC BY-SA 3.0: orlovic

For a long time, St. George was the most popular of the military saints in the English-speaking world. Over time, St. Michael’s popularity eclipsed George’s among the so-called military saints, but he remains a popular saint petitioned by those who need assistance in spiritual or secular warfare or battle. He’s also the patron of Boy Scouts, horseback riders, horses, and farmers, and is petitioned by those with disfiguring diseases such as leprosy, syphilis, and herpes.

Sale covers anything in the Saints sale collection, and I’ve included stuff related to prayer and blessing in general in addition to stuff that is strictly saint-related. In addition, anyone using the sale code during checkout will be entered to win the drawing for a relic of sorts – some dirt taken from Dragon Hill in Uffington and a hand-painted St. George holy medal. I don’t have one photographed already, but you can get the idea of what they look like from the below collection of previously painted medals.

(C) Karma Zain

Current Coupon Codes:

From now through the Feast of St. Catherine of Siena on the 28th, take 20% off anything in the Saints Sale category by using code aprilsaints20 at checkout. 

For instructions on using coupon codes, see the applicable heading in the FAQ.

***

Terms of Service re. shipping/handling and prep times apply.
Read the FAQ here, including instructions on how to use coupon codes if you need them.
Read the latest status updates, including matters affecting shipping, communication, etc. here.

Pilgrimage, Shrine, Saint, Sacred Object (and contest)

For T.S. Eliot, April is the cruelest month (as it is for many teachers, professors, and tax professionals). But for the medieval English poet Chaucer, and for many of the faithful in medieval Europe, April was when pilgrimage season started. In spring,

Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes
To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
And specially from every shires ende
Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende,
The hooly blisful martir for to seke
That hem hath holpen, whan that they were seeke.

— (Canterbury Tales, Gen Prologue, I.12-18)
Chaucer_ellesmere

Page from the Ellesmere ms of The Canterbury Tales. Public Domain.

Some pilgrims sought foreign lands, but many went to the relatively local Canterbury, site of the twelfth-century martyrdom of St. Thomas Becket. Chaucer’s lines imply that some pilgrims journey to give thanks to this “hooly blissful martir” for acts of miraculous healing accomplished at a distance. Many such long-distance miracles were attributed to him, such as that of William of Kellett, to whom St. Thomas appeared in a dream. William, whose story is told in one of the surviving early thirteenth-century stained glass windows at Trinity Chapel, afterwards woke to find his wounded leg whole again. [1]  St. Thomas also appeared in a dream to a man whose family who had been spared from the plague, this time in order to warn him that he must make the overdue “pilgrimage of gratitude” to Canterbury. [2] In these cases, while the miraculous intervention of the saint was accomplished at a distance, physicality — stuff in the realm of the tangible and corporeal —  was crucially important to the spiritual economy of relics and saintly intercession. This applies to relics as well as physical sites like shrines; recipients of healing were expected to travel to the saint’s “home” if possible rather than convey their gratitude from a distance, at least for “big favors.”  Quite often, the saints’ benevolent intervention in the lives of the living faithful was accomplished by means of, or at least in the presence of, the relics of the saint. For instance, in another miracle portrayed in the windows of Trinity Chapel, “Mad Henry of Fordwich” is cured after spending the night at Becket’s tomb. [3]

1757762314_fdfb6af9fa_oA reliquary in the Museum of Folk Life and Folk Art at Schloss Hellbrunn in Austria.Some Rights Reserved: photo CC  BY-NC-SA 2.0, by Curious Expeditions at flickr

Even though these objects and sites are part of a spiritual economy, one keenly concerned with the immortal soul, the flesh matters too – matter matters, as it were. As the Canterbury examples illustrate, relics were important to this belief system, but so were sites sacred to departed saints that were not, strictly speaking, relics themselves. And these two elements – the relic and the shrine – are intimately associated, in many cases intertwined. But physical relics are not always easy to come by, and pilgrimage is not always possible. Even though possession of a saint’s relic was at one point a requirement for the dedication of a church, [4] the faithful sometimes had to be creative or even aggressive in their efforts to obtain the necessary relics, and theft of relics was not uncommon in medieval Europe.  One way that a relic shortage could be handled was through a principle of transference, by which we get what are today, in English-speaking countries, often called “third class relics.” Many relics needed for the consecration of churches in the sixth century were obtained by this osmosis or contagion principle. Church authorities would place a “box containing portions of silk or cloth, known as brandea,” into the tombs of the Apostles, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia. The brandea, “after lying for a time in contact with the remains of the holy Apostles, were henceforth treated as relics.” [5] This type of relic is very easy to come by today, and new ones can be “made” as needed.

So the Church, or at least members of it, categorize relics according to how far removed from the physical body and life of the saint, in a sense (in the U.S. you often hear of “first class relics” and “third class relics” and the like, while in Italy you will sometimes hear of “major” and “minor” relics — reliquia minima, reliquia notabile, etc); while these particular categories are not universal and are not, as far as I have been able to discover, published anywhere in any official Church source as an explicit teaching or guideline, the habit of categorizing them in some way according to their “distance” from the saint him- or herself is pretty common. These categories, like various modes of “official use,” have always been somewhat of a shifting and sometimes grey area. The Church allows for these grey areas, not just in terms of vocabulary but also in terms of spiritual practice about and faith in these relics and other sites or media through and by which the spiritual and temporal worlds interact; according to The Catholic Encyclopedia, despite the fact that many popular and long-venerated relics (like the Veil of Veronica or even the “True Cross”) are of dubious authenticity, the Church frequently “allows the cult of certain doubtful relics to continue” [5]. The Church recognized long ago that many long-venerated relics could never be proven authentic beyond a shadow of a doubt, and it furthermore realized that many “devotions of ancient date” were “deeply rooted in the heart of the peasantry” and could not be “swept away without some scandal and popular disturbance,” in one writer’s (rather dated) words [6]. In short, we can’t prove this bit of wood is part of the True Cross (for instance), but if its veneration harms no-one and does not conflict with Church teaching or principle, and if it fosters the faith of the people, then it is just fine.

memling veronicaVeronica’s Veil. Diptychon mit Johannes dem Täufer und der Hl. Veronika, by Hans Memling. Public Domain.

In fact, the Church stays out of the business of pronouncing any particular relic, miracle, or apparition as authentic or not;  Church officials to this day are called on to sanction the veneration of relics and apparitions, but their role is actually confined to stating that, after examination, they have determined that its veneration is or is not heretical. That’s why it’s not really accurate to say, like this article’s headline does, that the Church has “certified” or “approved” a given apparition, miracle, etc. (though this article redeems itself if you read the whole thing, explaining a lot more clearly how it actually works). The Church doesn’t say “Yes, this vision or miracle or relic is verified or authentic.” Church officials tend rather to express opinions in terms like “reliable” or “worthy of belief,” as in the case of Cardinal Ratzinger’s judgment on the 20th century apparition of the Virgin Mary in Akita, Japan. [7] In short, the Church only gets involved in cases where it needs to determine whether a popular tradition of veneration is or is not in danger of leading to heresy, apostasy, or idolatry. [8] It often makes no pronouncement at all on popular sites of devotion and pilgrimage.

This grey area is home to an incredible array of folk and personal spiritual practice in Judeo-Christian tradition (and traditions growing out from Judeo-Christian traditions), from personal pilgrimage to home-made shrines, in addition to being the fertile ground for more formal sites and acts of devotion like pilgrimages to Canterbury. By this sort of positive contagion principle, by which a cloth can be touched to a relic and thus become a relic itself, and by which a relic can be built into the founation of an altar by which to consecrate a church, it is not an exaggeration to say that no physical item associated with a saint is without spiritual value, [9] and that includes even the homespun altars and shrines that people assemble in their own homes or on roadsides. Sometimes, if you can’t go to the saint, you can bring part of the saint to you. People without the means or access to sites like Canterbury or objects like the Shroud of Turin can still work to create personal sacred sites, where the spiritual and temporal intersect even in everyday life. And this brings us to the wide variations in personal and popular practice and “folk Catholicism,” and thus to the real point of this post: the long, living, and vibrant tradition of “unofficial,” folk shrines, altars, sites of devotion, and physical objects of faith.

expedite shrine An altar to St. Expedite on Reunion Island. Some rights reserved: CC BY-SA 2005 David Monniaux

Today’s folk practitioners build shrines on roadsides; make them out of candy tins; create them on their mantelpieces or in their bedrooms; carry or wear them around their necks; build transient ones to serve as sites of sacred intersection for the short span of a single ceremony; build living ones that last years or decades but are fluid as they reflect the coming and going of offerings, candles, ex votos, milagros, prayer papers, flowers, and statues of the faithful as they interact with and add to the site; build permanent structures as chapels in the forests or the deserts of their regions; build tiny chapels in the middle of nowhere as a gesture of thanks or faith or as a home for their saints and their devotions.

As a celebration of these sacred art objects and structures in Judeo-Christian traditions [10], this April’s contest at Karma Zain is focused on these personal shrines, altars, sacred spots, assemblages, and objects where the spiritual and temporal meet according to the principles I’m describing in this article. As you can gather, I hope, from the preceding, I am interpreting “shrine” and “relic” quite broadly; but simply to put some parameters or limits in here somewhere, I am confining this contest to shrines, memorials, relics, reliquaries, nichos, altars etc that are in, or peripheral to, or aesthetically inspired by, or philosophically derived from, the Judeo-Christian tradition. [11] To enter, just send photos of a shrine, nicho, reliquary, ex voto, altar, etc that you have created, made, assembled, or are otherwise primarily responsible for. You can submit up to three photos of your subject, and each subject will equal one entry. If you want to submit more than one entry, you can. (So if you have three photos of the same altar, that’s one entry. If you have three photos, one each of three different altars, that’s three entries.) If this gets a number of entries that makes it impossible to put them all in single blog post for judging, then Karma Zain and associates will select a manageable number of finalists. If all entries, total, end up being a manageable number for a single blog post, then they will all go to the finalist stage. To help spread the word towards the ideal of creating a curated collection of images of your awesome spiritual art and folk practice, you guys — my readership — will be the judges of the finalists.

freda Our Lady of Sorrows shrine, (c) Karma Zain

First Place gets – big surprise – a custom shrine, designed in conjunction with the winner, for the saint, spirit, figure, or patron of the winner’s choice. You win, you tell me what saint, angel, spirit, figure, etc you’d like a shrine for (as well as any preferences like “small enough to fit in my car glove compartment” or “suitable for hanging on a wall,” and I make it for you, one of a kind and custom, incorporating your prayers, petitions, devotions, etc. My shrines are *all* one of a kind (and usually retail between $80 and $300), so this is a great chance to win some spiritual folk art made just for you!

gedecabinet Ghuede shrine, (c) Karma Zain

Second Place gets a custom spiritual jewelry item, designed in conjunction with the winner, for the saint, spirit, figure, or patron of the winner’s choice. You win, you tell me what saint, angel, spirit, etc you’d like an item of devotional jewelry made for, and I make it for you. This could be a hoodoo medium’s necklace, a traditional Marian rosary, a bracelet, a chaplet, an incognito necklace that doesn’t give away its true meaning, a “collar” for an altar bottle, even a decorated sash or scarf if you use those in your practice. My jewelry and prayer bead pieces are all one of a kind (and usually retail between $20 and $100), so this is a great chance to grab a custom-made wearable piece.

004 (4)Mary Magdalene Rosary, (c) Karma Zain

Contest Rules and Details Summary:

1. Email the photo to me, as an attachment, to karmazain at gmail dot com. Please make the subject line refer to the contest somehow. The image must be your intellectual property and you must have the right to publish it, share it, etc. You are welcome to send a short caption if you’d like to explain the object or the context, in which case I may incorporate your written info, verbatim or paraphrased, as part of my posting of your photo.

2. You are agreeing to have your photograph, or links to your photograph, published in my blog and any connected social networking sites (Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, etc). You retain ownership of your own intellectual or creative property, but your entering the contest constitutes your agreement to have your photo published, blogged, linked to, reblogged, etc. If you’d like me to publish your name (and/or website) along with it, I will, or you can submit anonymously and I will use initials and location (like JS from CA).

3. You are agreeing to have your photographs entered into a contest, the finalists for which will have their stuff judged *by my readership,* probably via a poll that I put up in a blog post after the deadline. Please don’t be a jerk and try to game the system by voting for your own photo a bunch of times (the poll won’t allow it anyway), though you are free to campaign for your own photo and ask your friends to vote; I’m just asking that folks please stick to “one vote per person”).

4. The contest will be open until April 29, the feast day of St. Catherine of Siena (for no other reason than because she was my Confirmation saint). I will put up the poll and open the voting shortly after that, and voting will be open until May 8 (an old feast day of St. Michael the Archangel, the anniversary of his apparition at Monte Gargano). [11]

5. No whining. (You would not believe the grief I get when I try to give shit away for free. People complain about the rules, complain about how the contest is set up, complain about the prizes, complain about how I notify winners, complain because they cut themselves opening the box containing their free shit – I am telling you, it is land-o-overdeveloped-sense-of-entitlement, aka greedy grabby shit, in some quarters. If you don’t like the rules, feel free to not enter the contest, for God’s sake; I’m just over here trying to give some cool stuff to people who are interested in the same type of spiritual expression and practice that I’m interested in.)

6. This list should be a quick ref, but reading this summary isn’t a substitute for reading the whole article, without which you might not understand what the whole ethic and aesthetic at work here are.

2013-03-27 01.03.28020 (8)
Two necklaces, (c) Karma Zain

Sources

[1] Harris, Anne. “Pilgrimage, Performance, and Stained Glass at Canterbury Cathedral.” Art and Architecture Of Late Medieval Pilgrimage In Northern Europe And The British Isles: Texts. Sarah Blick and Rita Tekippe, eds. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 2005: 263-264.
[2] Harris, 263.
[3] Canterbury Cathedral: Becket Miracle Window 4.
[4] The second Nicean council decreed in 787 that churches had to be in possession of relics in order to be dedicated. I haven’t extended my research on this into contemporary times so I’m not sure if this is still a requirement today. See Kamowski, William. “’Coillons,’ Relics, Skepticism and Faith on Chaucer’s Road to Canterbury: An Observation on the Pardoner’s and the Host’s Confrontation.” ELN 28 (1991): 4.
[5] Thurston, Herbert. “Relics.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia‘s entry on relics, “Neither has the Church ever pronounced that any particular relic, not even that commonly venerated as the wood of the Cross, as authentic.”
[6] Thurston, “Relics.”
[7] “Messages of our Lady in Akita, Japan.” Michael 337 (2005): 17. Michael Journal.
[8] Pope Innocent was asked to make a ruling on the authenticity of the Holy Foreskin at the abbey of Charroux in the twelfth century; the Pope declined. See Farley, David, “Fore Shame,Slate 19 Dec. 2006. Calcata and Charroux both claimed to have the Holy Foreskin in the early twentieth century; the Vatican, rather than ruling definitively on the status of either claim, simply threatened to excommunicate anybody who perpetuated the controversy. See Silverman, Eric, From Abraham to America: A History of Jewish Circumcision, Devon, UK: Rowman & Littlefield, 2002: 158.
[9] Sumption, Jonathan, The Age of Pilgrimage: The Medieval Journey to God, Mahwah, NJ: Hidden Spring, 2003: 112.
[10] Broadly interpreted, so ATRs using Catholic iconography are included in this category, as are nichos made in traditionally-inspired style for people or personalities who are not, strictly speaking, recognized as saints or angels, as would a homemade reliquary made to house a physical object tied to a non-canonically-approved figure like Black Hawk. In other words, it’s possible to work within the folk traditions ultimately springing from or inspired by these Judeo-Christian traditions and principles of shrine and relic without considering yourself a monotheist, a Catholic, or a “person of the Book.”
[11] So, as much as I love sand mandalas, Kali, homemade shrines to Hecate, hand-carved drinking horns for blot, etc, those would not fit the parameters here in their “pure” form; those are different traditions with different aesthetics and philosophies underlying the construction of sacred art and sites. This is nothing against paganism or Eastern philosophy or practice at all, but there are lots of forums for those types of traditions and practices already, and they are not what this blog is devoted to.
[12] Some saints or angels have more than one feast day, and for visitations and apparitions, the feasts often have to do with the anniversary of a given visitation or apparition. That’s why you see so many different “faces” of the Virgin Mary, for instance. There’s Our Lady of Guadalupe, OL of Sorrows, OL of Mount Carmel, etc. So you will see people say the feast day of St. Michael is Sep. 29, and they’re not wrong, but that’s not really the whole story, either. In southern Italy and much of Europe in the Middle Ages, one of St. Michael’s feast days was commonly observed on May 8. See, for instance, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vat. lat. 6082, a twelfth-century Benedictine manuscript from southern Italy. For more on St. Michael’s feast days and their histories in various parts of the world, here’s an excerpt/summary of a chapter written by Father Francis Xavier Weiser in The Holy Day Book, Harcourt, Brace and Company, Inc., New York, 1956.

024 (7)2013-03-30 01.17.43
St. Expedite shrine; Memento Mori chaplet, (c) Karma Zain

questions you’ve asked (in search terms): ratings, goofer dust, saints

Q: Who is rated the best on AIRR of hoodoo rootworkers? I have a complex problem that needs solved, who can do rootwork?

Every worker at AIRR can do rootwork. Every worker at AIRR has a minimum of two years’ experience working for the public, professionally; most have much, much more than that. We all handle complex cases all the time.

There is no rating system, and “ratings” and “awards” are two of the warning signs for scam artists and unethical practitioners. Anybody claiming to have received a spellcasting award or to have been voted #1 in something or other is lying or is misrepresenting the nature of the organization doing the awarding. There is no such organization that awards such things, tracks workers, assembles ratings, or anything like that.

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I’ll just touch on a few of the numerous underlying problems with looking for ratings.

First of all, what are the established criteria by which to “rate” a worker? If you named yours, I can guarantee you that the next person to name their own will have different criteria and/or will weight them differently, and I guarantee that you two wouldn’t agree on what counts as meeting or exceeding the criteria in every case, too.

Every case is unique, every worker works a different way, and so much depends on “fit,” on communication and on the worker and client “clicking.” If you go read one of those forums dedicated to folks reporting on their experiences with spellcasters, you will quickly realize how ridiculous and often contradictory the various members’ criteria for rating or judging a spellcaster are.

Put simply, there are no rankings and there is no organization that would track such things. There are no criteria by which to “rate” workers that are logical, fair, verifiable, and able to be applied across the board. Workers, like doctors and lawyers, have different specialties, different criteria for taking cases and accepting clients, different styles, and different ways of working. There is no such thing as “the best worker” any more than there is such a thing as “the best lawyer” or “the best doctor.”

There are LOTS of criteria for choosing a worker or lawyer or therapist or financial advisor or anything else, and if you look at customer comments/ratings on some of those sites, you’ll see pretty quickly that “customer satisfaction” is usually the biggest thing people base a rating on. But that’s a pretty nebulous thing to go by, and it’s actually not a characteristic of the worker him/herself. On being told that the thing they’re pushing for is not going to happen, so the worker can’t take their case and they should consider letting it go, one client will leave 5 stars and mention the worker’s honesty and ethics. But another will be angry, leave 1 star, and write, “a fraud! couldn’t do the work, not a real worker!”

To be blunt, a client is often not in a position to rate a worker on anything other than bedside manner and communication style, which are part of the picture but certainly not the whole picture. The more a client understands about spiritual work and the more experience they have with it, the better, but even so, different people will have different criteria and priorities. You just can’t apply statistics to this kind of thing.

And workers have different skills, specialties, setups, policies, and preferences. For instance, if you are looking for a phone reading so you can have reconciliation work done, well, I usually don’t do phone readings and I usually don’t take reconciliation cases. I’ll tell you out of the gate I’m not the worker for you. If you want some good old fashioned smiting on your deadbeat ex, some workers don’t do work like that and some will (after a reading or intake appointment or consultation or something). I will do that kind of work if it’s justified, if it will benefit the client ultimately, and if the client is not a total stranger to me or comes recommended by a colleague.

But I have no patience with frantic lovers who think their breakup is an emergency and who will label messages “urgent” and then say “he didn’t call me last Friday!!!” You will not want to come to me about that kind of thing. The kind of client who would label this urgent is also the kind of client who rarely pauses to consider that their worker could be dealing with an actual emergency with a client whose child is being abused by the custodial parent, or who is facing eviction, or whose spouse has just died and left him with tons of secret debt which is all past due. So no, I’m not going to consider your boyfriend’s texting frequency an emergency, sorry. But there are other workers who work with those clients well and have the patience to deal with them and educate them about how reconciliation and return-a-lover work works.

Most professional workers will be able to tell you something about themselves, their way of working, and their philosophy and communication and reading style; you should find one who appeals to you and drop them a line. I’m sorry to say that that’s the only way to do it – there is no ranking system and no way to rate rootworkers in any kind of across-the-board system, no way to get reliable statistics (be wary of anyone who says they have a percentage success rate – that’s a warning sign that I’ve written about in another “questions you’ve asked” post), and no way to tell whether they will take your case or what they will say or do until you talk to them. I know some very good, very experienced workers who have a reputation for being “testy” or “bitchy.” I have been included in that number, in fact, before. But I have plenty of clients, some of whom actually like me. It takes all kinds!

For some people, being treated with kid gloves is more important than the truth or the bottom line (and what constitutes “kid gloves” or even “respect” varies wildly from person to person). For others, they can take a blunt response if they know the worker is being honest and has their own best interests at heart. No two clients will have the same criteria that are ranked in the same order of importance anyway. One client can get along famously with one worker and their best friend can be turned off by or dislike that worker. (Same with clients on the worker’s end.)

But I can tell you that every member of AIRR has been trained, vetted, investigated, and tested; interacts regularly with at least some of their AIRR colleagues; adheres to AIRR’s code of ethics; and will participate in mediation if the client has a legitimate problem with a contracted service. (“She hurt my feelings” or “my lover hasn’t come back yet” are not legitimate problems.)  Also, you can always contact a worker and, if they can’t or will not help you, ask them for a recommendation to a colleague. We are all colleagues and we know each other – if we think another worker will be a good fit for your case and your personality/communication style, we can probably suggest someone. But while some of us may like or dislike certain types of work or specialize in a handful of things and stick mostly to them, none of us is across-the-board “better” or “higher-rated” than another. There is no such thing as a legitimate rating system. And when someone contacts us expecting such a thing, we are cautious because we know they will need some educating on the basics if we take them on as a client.[*]

Why did my goofer dust fail?

There are way too many moving parts in any given working for anybody to be able to answer that without more information, or for any query you type into Google to be able to supply you with an answer. You might have made or deployed it wrong, you might have done everything right but your target has thorough protection from such tricks, or you might have done everything right and your goal is simply not the will of God.

How to make Martha the Dominator work in three days?

First of all, I would caution you that you can’t “make” a saint do anything. Second of all, don’t micromanage stuff like this. If you go to a lawyer for a problem, you tell him your problem, and he takes your case, and then you let him do his job. You don’t dictate the terms and you don’t tell him what day your court case is going to be and what the sentence is going to be, and if you tried, he’d at best laugh and he might just show you the door. You don’t go to a doctor or therapist with a problem and then tell them how and when to fix the problem; if you do, you’re a fool.

You don’t go to a family member or friend and ask for a favor and then demand that they carry out that favor according to certain details; you ask for the favor, and you politely let them know what you need (“I really need to have the car by 3 pm so I can pick X up at the airport and then I could return it on Sunday, if that’s ok with you”). They may tell you to get stuffed, or it would be fine but you need it back that night, or whatever. You need to prioritize your request and stick to the most important parts of it. Don’t get hung up on the how and why and details that don’t matter as much.

martha dragonYou petition a saint for their intercession, and you let them know what you need, and then you get the hell out of the way. If they grant your petition, you thank them. If they don’t, well, maybe it was the will of God, or maybe you were a jerk. Maybe there is a good reason that you can’t have what you asked for in the way that you asked for it. Maybe 3 days is unrealistic, and you screwed yourself by insisting on it – they could have done it in 7, but since you were a jerk about the 3 days, now they aren’t going to do a damn thing, because you need to learn a lesson.

The saints answer prayers, but sometimes the answer is “No.” You still treat them with respect because you have a relationship with them. If you didn’t have a relationship with them before you asked a favor, then that was your mistake right there. What would you think if a new person moved into the neighborhood, knocked on your door, and asked to borrow your car for the weekend? You’d think “who the hell is this guy and what is his problem? He can’t even introduce himself first?”

Sure, there is a long tradition of “compelling” saints and spirits through such measures as turning a picture upside down, whipping a statue, taking something off their altar to return when they come through, etc. But you had damn sure better know what you’re doing, have a pre-established relationship with the saint, and know that you aren’t risking extreme wrath if you go that route with this saint (not every saint is petitioned/treated this way). Traditionally, such coercive measures were used in emergencies – if the monastery crops were failing and people were starving and the continued existence of the Church and thus the saint’s home was threatened, it might be appropriate to set the statue on the floor and be a bit more emphatic about your needs. If it is not an emergency, though, and if you don’t already know what you’re doing, I would think twice about taking this route.

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[*] I don’t mean to imply that the only ethical, experienced workers are AIRR workers. There are good workers elsewhere too, and I count plenty of non-AIRR readers and workers as colleagues and friends. I just happen to know the ethics and vetting of AIRR workers, so I can speak in detail and in confidence about them.

St. Anthony for Reconciliation

Cat over at Cat’s Rants has an article on using St. Anthony for reconciliation work:

Easy to Do St. Anthony Reconciliation Spell

(This usage comes about through St. Anthony’s traditional association as the saint you call on when you’ve lost something – once upon a time this meant your keys, but the usage has extended to include people).