A 16th Century Catalan Prayer of St. Cyprian

S. Cyprien et Ste. Justine, martyrs (St. Cyprian and St. Justina, Martyrs), September 26th, from Les Images De Tous Les Saincts et Saintes de L’Année (Images of All of the Saints and Religious Events of the Year), by Jacques Callot, 1636. Public domain. Courtesy of The Met.

This is direct quotation of a small portion of a larger published work which the author has released under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license (see Smid 309). This prayer, recorded in the Catalan language and transcribed and translated by Smid in the cited article, comes from the Inquisition records housed in the Barcelona City Archives, from the 17th century trial of a hermit named Jacinto Garcia (Smid 291). Garcia had it from a small book published in Barcelona in 1557 (Smid 291). I applaud the generosity of Bernadett Smid in making this work freely available to non-academics via open-source publishing.

I hope nobody will abuse her generosity by reprinting the fruit of her intellectual labor without proper attribution. That would be pretty shitty.

From Smid, Bernadett. “Piety, Practices of Reading, and Inquisition: A Catalan Saint Cyprian Prayer from 1557 and Its Context.” Acta Ethnographica Hungarica 64(2), 279–310 (2019), pp. 295-297. DOI: 10.1556/022.2019.64.2.2.

The Prayer of St. Cyprian, and the Gospel of St. John, and the Seventy-two Names of Virgin Mary, and the Seven Verses of Saint Bernard, and the Psalm Quicunque Vult.

As Cyprian was converted to our Lord God and became well instructed and informed in holy Catholic faith and knowledgeable in the holy scriptures as well as in holy theology, burning in holy fire with love and benevolence towards our Lord God Jesus Christ and towards his brothers in Christ: and since Cyprian was aware of the malice and envy of the devil, and the great malefices put on others by bad men and women who are fellows of the devil and with evil deeds torment and pester the servants of God in different ways; Saint Cyprian, knowing the great malefices that are used today, orders this prayer to be said through three Sundays, and three times each Sunday.

And it has such a virtue that all the people who carry it with good devotion, or read it or have it read, will never be defeated by the devil, nor the enemies can harm them. And if a pregnant woman takes it with her, with the help of these holy words she can be sure that she will not miscarry, and if she goes into labour, and has this read to her or has it in her possession, as soon as she delivers her child, the creature will not be deaf, dumb, paralytic, lunatic, or possessed; the prayer is also effective against all poisons and sorcery, malefices and enchantments.


In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen. I, Cyprian, servant of our Lord Jesus Christ, put my sense and my humble self in front of the high and sovereign and praiseworthy God Almighty, (who), seeing my malice, as well as the evil deeds that I used to do, sent the power of the devil upon me but with his name defended me; and because of my great sin, it did not rain, nor did the earth bear fruit; and pregnant women miscarried, and fish and swimming beings and thus, all the beings of my malice were bound, and that is why now, my God, I beg you for your holy love that you break the clouds and all the bonds and send rain on the earth, so that all the trees bear fruit and the fish of the sea are liberated together with all the beings that are placed in the sea, and that no evil spirit can dwell in them, nor in those men or women who carry this writing with them or read it or have (somebody) read it[.]

And besides, I ask you, Lord Jesus Christ, who created Adam in the earthly paradise at the beginning of the world, and created the great flow (of water) on Earth from which the four rivers Pishon, Gihon, Tigris, and Euphrates were born, from which the whole world gains water: save me from the malevolent devil and that no evil spirit or bad thing can harm this servant of yours or any of his things, nor visible or invisible enemies can harm him or do harm to him, and you Lord, veritable God, defend him and keep him from all evil, and by your holy virtue, the highest God, may all his things be saved and his person be good, and may all parts of this servant, from the upper part of the head to the feet, inside and outside, be holy and right and without injury; and all the good holy angels of the nine orders named Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Principalities, Dominions, Powers, Virtues, and Archangels help, guard and defend him[.]

[M]ay they be free from all evil and may their persons, their thoughts and their deeds and firmness benefit from all good, and you, Lord, free them from the power of the devil and its ambushes; and this, by your holy name praised in heaven and on earth, this prayer was taught by you, Immanuel that is God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, may you be with me, your servant, all the time. And if it pleases you, place your Holy Mother over that man or that woman who carries it with them or reads it or has (somebody) read it, or keeps it in their house or within their goods.

[A]nd if it pleases you, Lord, to liberate and release your servant and his belongings by the prayers of the angels mille millia millium, which are the verses said in order that all the ambushes and temptations of the devil which are on earth cannot harm him in any place where they are used used to be some bond or machination, nor any blasphemy made can harm him, by means of the prayer of our Lord God Jesus Christ and the prayer of all saints; and by the prayer of all the saints, and by the humility of the pilgrims and by the goodness of Adam, and by your angel of Abel’s sacrifice and by the chastity of Joseph, and by the goodness of Rachel, and by the faith of Adam and by Isaac’s bonds that you, Lord, restored, and by Melchisedech’s obedience, by the affection and humility of Moses, and by the prayer and glorification of the prophet Zechariah, and by the persistence of Jeremiah, and by the prophets who do not sleep but praise you, Lord, continually, and by the height of the heavens and the humility of the seabed and by the bases of the abysses and by the holy revelations and by the tongues of the four holy evangelists, may they help me, and by the voice of the angels, and by the sermons of the holy apostles, and by those seen by the prophet Moses, and by the brightness of the lights, and by all the servants of your saints, and by your Holy nativity, and by your holy baptism, and by the most holy voice that sang above you saying “This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased, whom all people fear”, and I beg you for those five thousand men that you satiated in the desert, and for you, Lord Jesus Christ, who turned water into wine, and raised Lazarus from the dead.

And you crossed the sea and stopped the wind, and walked with your friends on the water, you were crucified and buried and resurrected on the third day, and by your miraculous ascension, by the sending of the Holy Spirit, by the consolation of the pilgrims, and by all those who love you, Lord, may all the machinations which are or will be done against this servant of yours or in his goods or to his belongings, and may all the bonds be destroyed.

And you, Lord, defend them by the present holy prayer and by the virtues that have been written here by me, Cyprian, by the commandment of Jesus Christ who created all things, and by the holy words that you, Lord, said on the cross when you died in a cruel way to save the human genealogy. I beg you if it pleases you that if any machination or bond is made of gold or silver or something else, it cannot harm the person of this servant of yours, and if any woman reads this prayer or has it read or keeps it in her house, or takes it with her to the field or home, wherever this prayer could be, may all the bonds that were made by some Christian or lay or Saharan or another person be destroyed by the holy virtues said above, neither visible nor invisible enemies can harm him or do harm to him, they will be saved in every way, and said bonds will be released by you, omnipotent Lord.

And by your holy name praised and glorified: either in stones, or in water or in the river or in the sea, or in the choir of birds, or of animals, or of fish or in the hairs, above or below, in the countryside, in the vineyard or on a tree, or in a lamp or on the road or outside the road or elsewhere. Whether should them be made of metal or glass or any other thing from which these bonds or spells are made, may them be dissolved and undone, so that they cannot harm this servant of yours, nor to his property, goods and belongings, neither bad spirits nor bad men, nor bad women, nor visible or invisible enemies, nor any bad thing can harm him, nor harm him in the soul, neither in the body, nor in his goods, nor in the house of this servant of yours; and they may be freed and acquitted of evil deeds by virtue of this holy prayer, and by your holy glorified names of God Abraham, of God Isaac, of God Jacob, and you, Lord, give them your holy love and keep them in it by the names of Saint Michael, Saint Gabriel, and Saint Raphael.

And by all nine orders of the angels. And by all the prophets, Jeremiah, David, Isaiah, Daniel, Micah, Ezekiel. And by all the patriarch saints, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And by the twelve Apostles, Saint Peter, Saint Paul, Saint Andrew, Saint Thomas, Saint James, Saint Philip, Saint Bartholomew, Saint James, Saint John, Saint Simon. And by the four evangelists, Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John, and by the prayers of the blessed angels and by all the holy martyrs, Saint Stephen, Saint Lawrence, Saint Vincent, and by the saint Confessors, Saint Sylvester, Saint Dionysius and all his companions, by Saint Martin, and by the doctors and saints, Saint Augustine, Saint Ambrose, Saint Jerome, and by the crown of the virgins, Saint Mary, Saint Thecla, Saint Eulalia, Saint Catherine, and all the virgins that sound the glory of Paradise before You, Lord.

And by the sacrifice that you, Lord, made to save humanity, and by the holy names, by the holy prayers that are in the book of the Mass, this servant of yours and all his goods will be acquitted and released from all evil eyes and bonds, from all the ambushes and temptations of the evil spirit, and from all their visible and invisible enemies, and by your holy name, Lord God, Father and Son and Holy Spirit. I, Cyprian, on behalf of our Lord God Jesus Christ and by virtue that will not start or end, and by your virtuous majesty I expel the evil spirit, and no bad people will have power in any way wherever this prayer is placed, and [they shall] be acquitted, that no one can harm them, and be saved from that, like the three infants, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who cannot suffer any harm in the house, nor any evil enemy can harm them, and you, Lord, defend them by the prayers said above, and so many maledictions will come upon the evil spirit that may you, Lord, destroy it and put it in the darkness and from now on it will be there so that it does not do any evil; by the voice that was heard in the Mount Sinai that was enlightened by your holy clarity and by the holy host that the priest consecrates in the Holy Church and by your precious blood that you, Lord, shed for all those who have this holy prayer, may they be saved from all dangers forever and ever, Amen.

Bringing back a lover, part two

First, the infamous black cat bone. 

I have to admit something here. My uses of the cat bone are not entirely traditional hoodoo.  Let me give you a snapshot.

If you ever read “The Once and Future King,” you might recall that Morgause, the Queen of Air and Darkness, was introduced to the reader via a vividly grotesque episode in which she is in the process of boiling a cat alive. She does this to find the bone that will render her invisible.  Being Morgause, she loses interest way before anything exciting happens.  T. H. White calls this spell a “piseog” [1] and says that while the “little magics” run in her family, she’s not a great witch like her sister. Well, that would be the attention span problem, I guess. Anyway, this is a traditional use of the black cat bone. For more information on this incredibly well-known spell, see the medieval grimoire attributed to San Cipriano [2].

Another one, not mentioned in the San Cipriano material, is the use of the bone to return a lost love.  Unfortunately, in much of the available recorded material, tradition has it that you have to go through the same de-catting process in order to get the magic bone that will do the trick.

Some accounts of this are recorded in early 20th century folklore collections.[3]  According to some informants, black cat bones were used in this time and place (the 1930s) to rid oneself of troubles, as lucky pieces,  to cause sickness to visit an entire community, and by a jealous lover to get his or her lover back from a rival.  The cat bone is said to “enable you to marry your choice,” “bring you good luck all your life,” “will fix you so that you can do anything.” ( mostly p. 156).  But you usually have to boil the poor thing.

One informant says, though, that even if you find a dead black cat in the woods, its bones are stil powerful magic.  I think that some of the uses of the black cat bone that I learned in the early 90s in central Alabama have some roots in these developments of the black cat bone traditions, somewhat different from those of the European grimoires.

This usage involved making a necklace of a ritually prepared (and, unfortunately, ritually killed) black cat bones. (Yes, I know how to do it, and no, I’m not telling you.  I’m not going to be responsible for another string of black cat abductions adn killings like any cat owner living in the outskirts of Birmingham in the early 90s can tell you about.) This necklace conferred occult power to the wearer, particularly for travel in the spirit world (called “dreamwalking”) and for protection against psychic attack.  It was standard “getting ready to do work” garb for those who wore it, and considered a source (and symbol) of power that was worth guarding ferociously.  This group used the leg bones of black cats for this purpose (not any other bones).

So, my uses of the black cat bone are informed by a few diverse strains of folk belief and recorded practice, as well as my time in central Alabama as a participant in and collector of the eclectic magickal practices of those black cat bone folks.  This is also why I collect and sell the leg bones of black cats (and I collect them without the use of violence, by the way).  In theory, according to most of the lore, the power bone has to be discovered by a process of trial and error — the special bone will make itself known to you in the de-catting process.  My use of the leg bones as ritually powerful items is shaped by my time and experience working with this stuff  in central Alabama.  So now you know what’s not quite traditional about some of my uses of the black cat bone.

Great, you think.  I don’t care about all that crap.  I don’t care WHY you use a black cat bone to return a lover, and I don’t care why you say it doesn’t have to be boiled in order to work.  I just want to know how to use it.

Fine.  Here’s what I recommend.  Either build a reconciliation altar around it, or else have it as the key ingredient in a mojo bag.  In either case, dress it with Van Van oil (the Mrs. Dash of hoodoo condition oils), or else a Come to Me and/or Reconciliation oil.  There are a number of different reconciliation spells you can use in conjunction with this.  I would incorporate name papers and herbs as well for a mojo bag, and candle burning for an altar.  Like any ritual item of this nature, keep it where other people won’t mess with it.

[1] Piseog is Gaelic for black magic, sorcery, an evil spell, or an incantation, depending on which dictionary you use.

[2] A post on this will follow.  For now, see the following list of links for your reading enjoyment

Magic Spells from the Book of Saint Cyprian Antigo Livro de São Cipriano, 1993, Editora Espiritualista, Ltda, Rio de Janeiro, Translated by Ray Vogensen

Cat Yronwode at Lucky Mojo on the Black Cat Bone
[n.b.  Cat’s page suggests that Hurston’s account of getting the cat bone involves returning a lost lover.  I believe this to be an error; In Of Mules and Men, Hurston says the Frizzly Rooster (a root doctor) told her she needed it so she could move secretly and invisibly sometimes in her conjure work.]

[3] See The Frank C Brown Collection of NC Folklore, by Wayland Debs Hand and Frank C. Brown.  Duke University Press, 1964.