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:
Small (“chime”) candles, in gray, white, or silver – one for each member of the household
A knife or sharp tool to inscribe the candles
- Name each candle for a member of your household, and carve that person’s name into the wax
- Petition Joan with a prayer, once for each candle
- 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.
- Judika Illes recommends a simple way to gain St. Anthony’s blessing and protection: call his name nine times aloud in succession.
- 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)
- 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
- Find a statue or church of St. Vitus (very easy if you live in Prague)
- Dance before it on June 15th, preferably for an entire night
- 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
Milagro or symbol of afflicted part
St. Lazarus candle or a new crutch/cane
A little dry dog food
- 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
- 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
- Leave the offering at a crossroads, praying and asking St. Lazarus to come by and “pick up” your affliction to take with him
- Put a little dog food out for his dogs to boost his favorability toward you
- 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!