Posted tagged ‘finding lost objects’

Blog Post 160 – Summer Saints, part I

June 13, 2012

Hello everyone!

Today is the feast day of St. Anthony of Padua, one of the saints for whom I maintain an altar. There are a number of saints who have feast days during the summer months, and most of them also have some sort of magical practice associated with their specific day(s) of reverence. I know not everyone reading this is disposed to work with saints, so if they’re not your cup of tea (or sacramental wine), I completely understand if you skip this post. For those of you left reading, I hope this will be an interesting glance at the “summer saints.” I tend to think of folk Catholicism as a strong magical presence in certain areas of the New World, and one that has lingered from the early days of New France and New Spain into the modern day, so maybe some of you all out there feel the same. At any rate, on to the saints!

In this particular calendar (which I’m basing primarily on the current Roman Catholic feast day assignments), I’m only including saints who have specific magical rituals or practices associated with their holy days, as otherwise the list would be quite extensive. I also include a few of the ‘folk saints,’ ones that have not gone through the process of official canonization yet. None of these are going to be particularly in-depth examinations of the saints listed or their stories (but there may be more on that front later, hint, hint), but instead I’ll focus on telling you a one-to-two sentence biography of the saint, a little about the symbols and offeratory items involved in working with those saints, and then I’ll list any relevant folk rituals, crafts, or charms associated with that saint.

Unless otherwise noted, the spells are referenced from Judika Illes’ Encyclopedia of Mystic, Saints, & Sages (Harper One, 2011).

Joan d’Arc (Joan of Arc) – May 30th
St. Joan was only officially canonized in 1920, more than 500 years after her execution as a religious heretic. Famed as a military leader, a divinely led warrior, a mystic, and a woman of tremendous influence, Joan of Arc has become a national symbol for France and a patroness for a number of people and causes. Her official saint’s day is May 30th, but she’s also celebrated as a secular French heroine on May 8th.

Patronage: prisoners, rape victims, soldiers, horses, doves
Symbols:  horses, doves, armor, swords, a military banner
Offerings: French food (especially rustic things like bread), toy horses or knights, swords, water (esp. if offering her a candle, as she was burned at the stake, so offer refreshment if using fire in her rituals)

St. Joan Home Protection Spell:
-Ingredients-
Small (“chime”) candles, in gray, white, or silver – one for each member of the household
A knife or sharp tool to inscribe the candles

  1. Name each candle for a member of your household, and carve that person’s name into the wax
  2. Petition Joan with a prayer, once for each candle
  3. Repeat for a total of nine nights

 St. Anthony of Padua – June 13th
St. Anthony is the famous “finder of lost things,” which can include lost people, lost souls, etc. He’s also a devout helper of the poor and needy, and frequently depicted warmly jostling a child Christ in his arms.

Patronage: Anyone who’s lost anything – amputees (lost limbs), orphans (lost parents), Native Americans (lost homeland), etc. Also patron of the oppressed, draftees, expectant mothers, the infertile, the elderly, spice merchants, fishermen, travel agents, shopkeepers, and (paradoxically) thieves
Symbols: lily flowers, a baby (in the arms of a monk, especially), fish, bread
Offerings: bread, olive oil, lilies, heart-shaped Milagros, charitable donations to the poor and hungry, cigars, whiskey/rum/wine, coffee

Because he’s one of my especial favorites, I’m going to share several  of the magical workings associated with St. Anthony. I’ve mentioned the famous “Tony, Tony, please come down…” lost-object finding charm before, so I’ll skip that one today, but here are three other ways to work with St. Anthony in magical practice.

  1. Judika Illes recommends a simple way to gain St. Anthony’s blessing and protection: call his name nine times aloud in succession.
  2. A cure for male impotence, from Reginald Scot’s The Discoverie of Witchcraft:

“Item, one Katharine Loe (having a husband not so readilie disposed that waie as she wished him to be) made a waxen image to the likenes of hir husbands bewitched member, and offered it up at S. Anthonies altar; so as, through the holinesse of the masse it might be sanctified, to be more couragious, and of better disposition and abilitie, &c.” (Chapter VII)

  1. Denise Alvarado gives this spell, for getting someone to return a borrowed object to you:

“If you wish something returned to you, turn an image of St. Anthony upside down by a St. Anthony candle. Carry the amulet and pray to St. Anthony until your request is granted” (Voodoo Hoodoo Spellbook 67).

 St. Vitus – June 15th
The patron saint of Prague (and thus one for whom I have a fondness), St. Vitus is most famous for his association with a very strange disease known as St. Vitus Dance, which caused its victims to jitter and jive and generally look like they were dancing until they literally died from it. Explanations of this disease vary, with everything from ergot poisoning (that old standby of witchcraft accusations) to religious ecstasy getting the blame, but whatever the case, St. Vitus is firmly associated with this peculiar phenomenon, now known as chorea.

Patronage: actors, theater folk, dancers (of course), comedians, vagabonds, vaudevillians, brewers, tinkers, coppersmiths, travelers (and to some extend Gypsies because of this association), vintners, pharmacists, roosters, mushroom growers, epileptics (whose affliction is sometimes called St. Vitus Dance in folk medicine)
Symbols: a palm branch, a cauldron (ahem), a rooster, dogs, lions, in some circles the fly agaric mushroom is associated with him
Offerings: dancing, donations to animal shelters (he loved dogs, apparently), candles, incense, Czech glass decorations

To Gain a Year of Good Health

  1. Find a statue or church of St. Vitus (very easy if you live in Prague)
  2. Dance before it on June 15th, preferably for an entire night
  3. Finish by falling at the foot of the statue or at the door of the church, asking for the blessing of St. Vitus

Judika Illes also mentions that you can perform a form of curse by pointing at someone and saying “Let St. Vitus take you!” in order to afflict them with his strange dancing disease.

St. Lazarus – June 21st
Frequently confused with the biblical Lazarus raised from the dead by Jesus in the Gospel of John, this Lazarus is often depicted as a decrepit old man leaning on a crutch and being followed by a faithful dog (or two). He’s a leper who receives a miraculous healing in a Christian parable, and who is frequently syncretized to the Vodoun lwa of Babalu Aye (and sometimes with Papa Legba). He’s now strongly associated with helping victims of HIV and AIDS.

Patronage: sufferers of long-term illness, especially diseases like leprosy, AIDS, smallpox, etc. He guards dogs as well, and is frequently venerated as a patron of Cuba.
Symbols: a walking stick or crutch, beggar, dogs, the Hermit tarot card
Offerings: Milagros shaped like an afflicted body part, candles, water, offerings to the poor or homeless, popcorn. Do not give him wine (according to Illes: “if it spills, it hurts his sores” (428)).

For Healing of Chronic Affliction
-Ingredients-
Milagro or symbol of afflicted part
St. Lazarus candle or a new crutch/cane
A little dry dog food

  1. Take a symbol of the afflicted body part (like a milagro, or a cookie baked into the appropriate shape) to a crossroads, especially on the evening of June 21st
  2. Place the symbol, the candle (lit if you can, but DO NOT leave a burning candle unattended in a place where it could start a fire or be a road hazard), and/or the crutch all as close to the center of the crossroad as possible without it being dangerous to oncoming traffic
  3. Leave the offering at a crossroads, praying and asking St. Lazarus to come by and “pick up” your affliction to take with him
  4. Put a little dog food out for his dogs to boost his favorability toward you
  5. Return home without looking back

That takes us up through late June, and there are still a lot of days and workings to cover! You may have noticed I stopped just shy of one of the big days in New Orleans Voodoo celebrations, St. John’s Eve, which I hope to pick up in the next post. Then I’m hoping to do the saints remaning in June, July, and August, but of course the best laid plans of mice and men…

Speaking of, I’m reading Of Mice and Men (again) as one of the approximatel 20 books I’ve been assigned for my six-week summer graduate seminar, which I’ve just begun. So please do bear with me if I suddenly become a hermit and say nothing on Twitter or the blog or the podcast for a few weeks—I still exist, and will resurface once my eyeballs stop throbbing from all the reading. I will be trying to get occasional posts up, too, so do stay tuned.

Thanks for reading!
-Cory

Podcast 37 – The Audio Spellbook

December 13, 2011

-SHOWNOTES FOR EPISODE 36

Summary
This is our long-in-the-making audio spellbook episode! Listener contributions abound, as well as a few spells from your New World Witchery Hosts. Plus we announce the contest winners from our Speak-a-Spell giveaway.

Play:

Download: New World WItchery – Episode 37

-Sources-
All the spells come from listeners this time. Here’s a list of what you can hear:

1. Odom of the Evil Eye – Gambling Charm
2. Baron Chatdelamort – Chicken Foot Spell
3. Cory Hutcheson – Academic Crown of Success Mojo
4. Leathra (read by Laine) – Safe Travel Spell
5. Scarlet Page – Employment Spell
6. Nashoba – Cicada Creativity Charm
7. Jaina (read by Laine) – Prosperity Spell
8. Leathra (read by Cory) – Lost Object Teacup Spell
9. Ro – Matchbox Spell
10. Jessica – Warding and Protection Spell
11. Bev (read by Cory) – Coral Anti-Negativity Spell
12. Mama Fortuna – Cleansing Ritual Bath
13. Cory Hutcheson – Feet Water Charm
14. Cedar – Socializing Spell
15. Laine – Get a Job! Spell
16. Cory Hutcheson – Addled Brain Curse
17. John from MN – Icelandic Staves Curse

Here’s the photo from John’s Icelandic Staves spell:

Congratulations to our contest winners!

Don’t forget to follow us at Twitter!

Promos & Music

Title music:  “Homebound,” by Jag, from Cypress Grove Blues.  From Magnatune.

Additional Music from Musicalley.com (all podsafe):

1. Armand van Helden – “Witch Doctor”
2. Michael & Spider – “Enchanted”
3. Dreamline – “The Day the World Stood Still”
4. Todd Parker & the Witches – “Greetings from the Star Chamber”
5. Witcher – “Astral Phantasm”
6. Clouseaux – “Jungle Witch”
7. Witcher – “Kuin Metsaan Huuta”

Blog Post 146 – Dowsing

December 7, 2011

Today’s entry deals with a very specific type of magic, one which has been associated with the word “witch” in a positive way even within deeply Christian communities for a century or more. The practice of dowsing, or “water witching” as it is sometimes called, essentially deals with the use of divination instruments to find something. Most frequently, that something is water, but on occasion it might be oil, precious metals, lost objects, or even lost people. The phenomenon of water witching is one of the most accepted mystical practices in the West today, and there are organizations devoted to its study from both scientific and metaphysical perspectives. A person can be a dowser and still be a respected member of his or her community, even a highly valued one if he or she is effective at it, though magic or divination of any other kind might be frowned upon by the neighbors. But just what is dowsing and how does it work? Here is an excellent description taken from a folklore handbook on a specific area of the Appalachian foothills:

Almost without exception, dowsers were used to ‘witch’ wells dug in the region [the Upper Cumberland area of TN/KY] before the 1930s. A dowser, or water witch, is a person perceived to have a skill for discovering underground water with the use of a divining rod, usually a small, forked limb cut from virtually any fruit-bearing tree or willow. Because a water witch’s method is not scientifically proven, reliance on this technique is considered a folk practice. However, there were at least 25,000 active diviners in the United States as late as the mid-1950s, according to folklorist Trudy Balcom, and the results of their predictions have proven as successful as those of hydrologists and geologists.

Dowsers were often called in before a new home was built, so that the house could be located near a well. To find the water, the dowser typically holds the free ends of the forked prongs, wrists turned upward. Thumbs are pointed horizontally outwards so that the loose ends of the prongs extend three to four inches beyond the thumbs. (There are variations on the manner in which the switch is held.) The dowser walks slowly toward the desired location of the well. When the witch comes upon a subterranean stream immediately below, the vertex of the fork turns toward the ground; the stronger the stream, the more forceful the downward pull. The fork often twists in the dowser’s hands when a strong stream of water is discovered. Some say that the bark will even twist off into the dowser’s hands, and a few people claim that the forked limb often begins to nod, one time for each foot of dirt and rock that will have to be excavated before water is reached (from Upper Cumberland Country, by William Lynwood Montell, 37-8).

This summary of water witching covers most of the basics: a forked rod, used to find water before digging a well, the power in the dowser, and the nodding to indicate well depth. It also addresses the issue of scientific verification, which is a sticking point for a lot of professional dowsers. Some argue that they can produce repeatable results with their methods, even going so far as to get large mining companies to acknowledge their findings. Yet many scientific studies are at best inconclusive when it comes to water witching, or even outright disprove the phenomenon (on paper, anyhow). I’m not here to argue the merits of scientific proof of spiritual phenomena, so I’ll just say that both sides have evidence of some kind, and both seem to be firmly convinced of their interpretation of that evidence. Getting back to the folklore of dowsing, I found a rather interesting footnote explaining the dowser’s use of the forked branch in the book Kentucky Superstitions, which seemed to indicate that the forked shape is related to lightning in some way (292).

Water witches proved to be incredibly valuable members of their communities, and were not only popular but highly regarded for their skill, with no diabolical associations. From Vance Randolph’s Ozark Magic & Folklore:

Nearly all of the old settlers in the Ozark country believe that certain persons can locate underground streams by ‘cunjurin’ round’ with forked sticks. These characters are called water witches or witch wigglers, and the forked switches they carry are known as witch sticks. Despite this sinister terminology, the waterfinder has no dealings with the Devil, is not regarded as dangerous by his neighbors, and has nothing to do with witchcraft proper (83)

Randolph himself takes it very seriously, indicating that it’s not something that he has seen scientifically proven, but which he has seen demonstrated over and over again, which is a fairly sharp contrast to his usual bemused skepticism with regard to the folk beliefs of those he studied. He also makes several other observations on the powers of water witches:

  • He says that the power is in the dowser, not the stick itself, but that he felt a distinct sensation upon holding a witch stick in his hands ( 84)
  • He discusses the societies built around the practice of water witching or dowsing, including ‘Water Surveyors’ Club’ of Butler, MO (86)
  • He gives the story of Fred Goudy of Everton, MO, who dowsed using copper wire instead of tree branches, and gained great fame by doing so (87)

Of note, however, is his doubt about water witches who claim to find mineral deposits or oil. He does not put stock in the ability to find anything other than water with this method, at least as far as the Ozarks are concerned:

Many hillfolk are interested in the search for lost mines and buried treasure, and some of these people have tried to use the witch stick in their quests. If a man is looking for buried gold, he fastens a gold ring to the end of his stick ; if it is silver that he expects to find, he splits the end of the wand and inserts a silver coin. Rayburn says that to locate mixed ores one uses two different metals usually a dime and a penny. Witch sticks thus equipped for treasure hunting are sometimes called ‘doodlebugs,’ but I don’t know if this is an old backwoods term or a recent importation. I have seen perhaps a dozen doodlebugs in operation but have yet to hear of any treasure being found by the doodlebuggers in the Ozarks. It is said that a switch loaded with metal will not react to water, or to any other substance save the particular metal which is attached to the stick (88)

Richard Dorson records the presence and commonality of ‘water witches’ in Illinois in his book Buying the Wind, saying that (in the early 20th century), most farmers had dowsers find wells for them, often for only a dollar or two in payment. He also reports that dowsing for oil had lately (the book was published in 1964 for a sense of temporality) become more common and profitable than dowsing for water (321-22). Veering momentarily into recent history, in a letter dated December 8, 1993, the Chevron Oil Company told Welsh dowser J.P. Taylor that “you opened our eyes to the world of dowsing…it certainly made us think there is more to it than we had previously known.”  The letter goes on to highlight how Taylor, with no prior knowledge of the specific geology of two regions, had been able to accurately identify subterranean oil and gas reservoirs. This is hardly proof positive of dowsing’s power, but it should put into perspective the acceptance with which water witching has been met, even in the past quarter-century or so.

I’d like to conclude today by going back in time and abandoning the present-day (not that it’s not a nice place to visit, but let’s go where the history is hanging out) and looking back at dowsing in the Colonial period. Peter M.’s New England Folklore blog tells a humorous and interesting story about the “Rod Men” of Middletown, VT. He also mentions a few of the late 18th-century powers ascribed to dowsers:

  • Determining lifespans
  • Finding wild plants to cure illnesses
  • Treasure-finding
  • Receiving divine messages
  • And my favorite: “Tell young women their clothes had the Devil in them, and should be removed”

So that’s it for this cursory examination of water witching. There are probably far more qualified folks to write on this phenomenon than me, so consider this a fleeting glimpse into a fascinating subject. My own experiences with dowsing have been limited to using bent copper rods and attempting it (unsuccessfully) with a broken tree branch (which was not taken from a living tree, so that might explain the problem). If you’ve had experience with water witching or treasure/mineral/oil dowsing, I’d love to hear about it! Please leave a comment below! Otherwise, here’s hoping you find what you seek in life!

Thanks for reading,

-Cory


%d bloggers like this: