Samhain, the Time of the Ancestors

Samhain, the Time of the Ancestors

Author:   Sta Muertero Steven  
Although I honor and serve my ancestors year-round, All Hallows is the time when I go all out for them and prepare a large feast. However, I find little information in many of the marketed texts of Wicca and modern Paganism that deals with ancestor veneration, a practice that is a major characteristic of the vast majority of the world’s basic religions. I’d like to share my views on this and offer what I’ve found to be effective in establishing solid lines of communication with my ancestors, essentially a novena to bring them into my daily life to provide me with love, guidance, wisdom, and protection as I go about my way in this sometimes uncertain world.
In Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner, Scott Cunningham writes, “Many Wiccans do attempt to communicate with their deceased ancestors and friends at [Samhain], but it seems to me that if we accept the doctrine of reincarnation, this is a rather strange practice. Perhaps the personalities that we knew still exist, but if the soul is currently incarnate in another body, communication would be difficult, to say the least. Thus, it seems best to remember them with peace and love-but not to call them up” (p. 143).
Thus begins many beginning Wiccans’ view of the spirits of our ancestors, including my own in the beginning. No offense to the spirit of Scott, but I now beg to differ. Through my personal journey in ecletic Wicca, then traditional Haitian Vodou, and now Wica and Traditional Witchcraft, I have come to view the above as a rather naive and simplistic view of the soul and reincarnation. I feel the above concept of the ancestors comes mainly from a combination of a misinterpreted and simplified view of the Hindu doctrine of reincarnation and the typical Western concept of a single-component soul.
A previous co-worker of mine who is from India and a practicing Hindu both believes in reincarnation and honors the spirits of his ancestors. I’ve not asked him to explain how these seemingly contradictory beliefs are reconciled, however, I have to wonder if the explanation is in any way similar to the concepts found in Haitian Vodou, where there are many components to the soul, one of which reincarnates at some future time, one which joins the spirits of the ancestors in the waters below, while the others perform other functions and journey to different destinations. All of these components are important, and one should not be thought of as the “real” soul above the others.
In any case, I believe that one can adhere to a doctrine of reincarnation and honor the spirits of one’s ancestors, even bringing them into their daily lives for guidance and protection, without having the beliefs contradict one another in any way. This has been uncommon in my knowledge of the majority of eclectic Wicca and the modern Pagan religions, however, it seems this may be changing as more individuals and groups (re-) discover ancestor veneration. I feel this view can easily be adopted by the rest of them, giving a more solid foundation in the traditional practices found in almost all basic religions throughout the world. The eagerness with which many of the ancestors of those of European origin seem to flock to the service provided when a descendant begins the service of the Lwa Ginea, in other words, practicing Haitian Vodou, or another Afro-Caribbean tradition, is evidence enough for me that our pre-Christian ancestors possessed a tradition of honoring the ancestors that is long overdue in being re-established in some form by their descendants.
The following is a ceremony I have found effective based on my training in Haitian Vodou. I hope that by sharing this information, the long-forgotten ancestors of those who perform this ceremony will be brought back to this realm to bestow their wisdom and blessings upon their descendants to help guide them toward a more fulfilling life in every way.
The Ancestor Novena
This ritual, although seemingly simple, has enormous effect on a person in that if that person has never successfully established contact with one’s ancestors, this will allow for the ancestors to come fully into one’s life. The ancestors are how every person alive exists. We stand on their shoulders; we have their blood in our veins. Their spirits surround us through the tie of that same blood. For these reasons alone, we should honor them and invite them to be active in our daily lives. But also, they possess knowledge of ourselves and of the world and can provide protection that we would not have otherwise.
In the beginning, one should only establish contact with direct blood relatives, meaning parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and so on. In an ideal ancestor-venerating society, all other relatives, such as aunts and uncles, would be taken care of by their descendants. However, in this country (the U.S.) and in the majority of the Western world, as you may know, this is not the case. In some cases, passed extended family members may have had a greater effect on the person than parents, and so on, and those spirits may wish to be honored in the person’s line of ancestors, as well. That is fine, however, they should be invited after the direct blood relatives. Those extended family members and even the spirits of those not related to you by blood can be included in your service to your ancestors after this novena has been successfully completed simply by calling their names and asking them to join your ancestors during one of your regular services.
This ritual is effective even if one’s parents are unknown, because we all have never met the vast majority of our ancestors (three, four, five, six, seven, and so on, generations back). This ritual is also effective, and even essential, for a person who had a negative or abusive relationship with one’s parents or grandparents. Whatever that person or those people were like during life, they are now beyond the veil and have learned many things. That’s not to say that they’re more spiritually evolved by virtue of being dead, but that they can now see a larger picture and can be spiritually elevated if they so choose and if you help them to be. They are also now surrounded by the spirits of their parents and families and are possibly being guided by them, helping them understand where they may have gone wrong in life. This is essential for those people’s spiritual evolution because the unresolved issues with their ancestors tie them to the past, preventing them from moving forward. We are never completely free of the past; we are always connected to everything and every time–we are one.
Items to obtain for the novena

  1. One or two white 7-day candles (large, tall candles encased in glass), or a set of white tapers.
  2. Cascarilla (dried and ground egg white in the form of a compacted powder), or white chalk.
  3. A clear glass of water.
  4. Perfume or incense of a soft, light nature (with an incense holder).
  5. A corner of your home or small space that’s not in your bedroom which can be used (at least temporarily if you can’t dedicate permanent space) to house your ancestors.

Items to have for the ninth day

  1. A white plate.
  2. White flowers.
  3. Food that they may have enjoyed in life, cooked by you, with no salt added (if the ingredients inherently contain sodium, don’t worry about, but do not ADD salt).


  1. Clean the space you have chosen for your ancestors. If you plan to have an altar table, that’s fine, but during the novena, place everything directly onto the floor. If you have pets, partition this area off somehow so they will not have access to it, at least during the novena.
  2. Take the cascarilla, rub your finger into it, (or use the chalk) and begin to draw an arc on the floor from one wall to the one perpendicular to it. Make it a solid arc; this will take more work if you have carpet. If for some reason, you can’t use a corner but a section of wall instead, make this a half-circle, starting from one side of the area, moving around it, and closing it in on the other. The purpose is to spiritually close off this section.
  3. Using the cascarilla (or chalk), make nine short dashes along the arc or half-circle. It should look like railroad markings on a map.
  4. Place one 7-day white candle inside the marked-off area, along with the clear glass filled with water. Also, place the bottle of perfume or the light, clean scented incense inside the area.
  5. Choose a certain time of the day that you are sure you can be free to talk with your ancestors at the same time for nine consecutive days, beginning on a Monday.

The Novena

  1. When the time comes, settle yourself in front of the area, light the candle, and open the bottle of perfume or light the incense. Prepare yourself for spiritual communication and open yourself to the spiritual world, whether that is with the Our Father and three Hail Mary’s, or meditation, or a prayer to the God/dess, the Cabbalistic Cross, or whatever. Do this at the beginning of each session.
  2. Also at each session and after the opening part just mentioned, state your full name along with any other name by which you are known, and call to your ancestors both known and unknown. Ex: “I, Paul Michael Smith, Grey Wolf, call to all my ancestors, those I know and those I currently do not…”
  3. After you’ve gotten their attention, thank them for giving you life, for without them you wouldn’t be here.
  4. Next, talk with your ancestors the way you would family members at a family reunion, catching those up who have missed the latest bit of your life, and introducing yourself to those you don’t yet know, which of course will be the majority of them. Tell them what you’re doing (the novena) and why you feel it’s important to you. Chances are, they already know, but it’s necessary for you to speak this aloud to them; it gives purpose and power to your physical actions. Ask them to come into your life and help you do what you need to do.
  5. When you have said all you wish to say, thank them again. Tell them you will be back again at the same time and place to talk with them more the following day.
  6. Extinguish the candle, or allow it to burn the remainder of the day/night until you go to sleep, or allow the candle to burn continuously throughout the novena, which will require at least two 7-day candles. (All depending on how nervous you are about fire hazards. I allowed mine to burn continuously and asked my ancestors to guard the candle to make sure it didn’t tip over or catch anything on fire-nothing bad happened.)

On the Ninth Day

  1. Do your prayers as usual, talk with your ancestors, and then explain that this is the last day of the novena, and that from now on you will come to them once a week to light their candle, supply fresh water, and serve them food if they tell you they need it.
  2. At this time you can place the altar in the area, if you plan to have an altar. Then place all their items on the altar (this is “lifting them up”), give them the flowers you’ve gathered or bought, give them the food you’ve prepared, and thank them again for being an active part of your daily life.

After the Novena
Choose one day of the week (usually this will be Monday) that you can go to your ancestors, light their candle, give them fresh water, give them food if you feel they need it and whatever type they ask for (again with no salt added), give them flowers, alcohol, cigarettes, whatever they enjoyed in life, and talk with them. Place pictures of them and items they owned on the altar; truly make it yours.
While chatting with them share with them your good news and bad news. When you feel you need help in life’s difficult journey, ask them for support and guidance.
Once you have established a good relationship with your ancestors, let this relationship evolve as they dictate. In other words, this is only the beginning.
Brightest Blessings

Make Your Own Worry Dolls

Here is how to make your own extra strength worry dolls using your poppet. Make some tiny little poppets as above – 7 would be good! – and find 7 different coloured pieces of string or thin ribbon (tip – you can pull a string from a piece of fabric). Assign one topic to each colour – let’s say:

Purple: Magic/Spiritual/Religious worries

Blue: Work/Study worries

Green: Money problems

Pink: Love problems

Red: Physical/health/self esteem body problems

Orange: Emotional Problems

Yellow: Thought/Intellect/memory worries.

Tie one of these around each moppet’s neck, line them all up and one at a time, give them your worries to worry about. They will not only worry for you, but also in real voodoo doll fashion set to work and go and resolve these worries for you. There’s one thing though. If you start worrying about a worry you have given over to a worry doll, you are taking the worry BACK to YOURSELF and the spell is broken.  Should this happen accidentally, go back to the doll and give it the problem afresh. When the problem is resolved, you can take the ribbon off the voodoo doll and it returns to a neutral waiting state until you want to use it again for something.

I Married a Iwa: The Sacrad Nuptials of Haitian Vodou

I Married a Iwa: The Sacrad Nuptials of Haitian Vodou

by Kevin Filan

All is on earth. Nothing is in the sky. Nothing was made in the sky. No one needs to speak to the sky. Instead of talking about the sky, talk instead of the earth. André Pierre[1]

In most religions, devotees talk to the divine; in Vodou the divine talks to its devotees. Vodou is a very concrete school of mysticism. The lwa (spirits served in Vodou) are not part of some ineffable astral choir detached from reality; to their followers, they are as real as the local greengrocer or the noisy neighbor who lives down the hall. Vodouisants (devotees of Vodou, also known as serviteurs) come to their spirits with worldly concerns — difficulties in romance, financial needs, health problems — and ask for their intervention. In return, they provide the lwa with food, housing, gifts and, via the mechanism of possession, their own bodies. Many Vodouisants will show their love for the spirit in a time-honored fashion: by taking wedding vows in the ceremony of the maryaj lwa.

To understand Haitian Vodou, one must understand Haiti, and to understand Haiti, one must understand Haitian history. If Vodou is a mirror of Haitian culture, Haitian culture is a mirror of colonial St. Dominique. A study of the maryaj lwa — and of marriage in Haitian culture — can help to illuminate many of the ways in which a century of slavery, followed by two centuries of poverty and oppression, has shaped every aspect of Haitian life.

Bay kou bliye pote mak sonje (He who strikes the blow forgets; he who bears the bruises remembers.) Haitian Proverb

Among the various African tribes whose members came in chains to the New World, there were many different conjugal relationships. Some tribes were polygamous, while others were monogamous. Brideswealth marriages, cross-cousin marriages, slave marriages, secondary marriages and ritual marriages could all be found in Central and West Africa. Few of these customs had meaning in the harsh conditions of St. Dominique. Family relationships were regularly torn apart at auctions, while plantation owners who wanted to sleep with an attractive slave woman rarely considered their own marital vows, never mind those of their “property.” Slave owners forbade anything that smacked of African “heathenism” and “voodooism,” and brutally punished any slaves who were caught preserving their native traditions. Nor would the customs of any one tribe necessarily be reflected in the customs of another. To minimize the risk of organized uprisings, it was common practice to keep slaves from different groups together on a plantation; Africans separated by language and by ethnic identity were considered less likely to band together than Africans from the same region or tribe.

Flung together in this hellhole, the slaves were forced to recreate their ancestral religious traditions with whatever was at hand. A ceremonial reglamen developed to honor each of the ancestral nachons (nations or tribes) in order. Roman Catholicism, the religion of the French colonial masters, would also come to play an especially important role in Vodou.[2] Africans had never been afraid to incorporate the deities of neighboring tribes. Obviously the French gods were powerful: They kept their White followers in wealth and gave them mastery over the black slaves. And so the slaves appropriated many of the symbols and practices of Catholicism into their own religious melange, including the sacrament of marriage.

Even after a bloody decade-long revolution, and the 1804 establishment of the Free Black Republic of Haiti, the influence of Catholicism and European culture did not fade away. The ruling blans (whites) were largely replaced by gens du coleur, free blacks and mullatos who were known for being “more French than the French.” They identified African culture with ignorance and inferiority: Indeed, many gens du coleur had themselves been slaveholders before the Revolution. Free Haitian society quickly became stratified between a dark-skinned poor majority and a light-skinned wealthy minority ruling class, a situation that has persisted to this day. European customs and religious practices were identified with wealth and prestige– and, inevitably, power.

The sacred obligations of marriage are but Iittle regarded in [Haiti]; the two sexes live in a state of concubinage; and, according to M. de la Croix, many irregular unions have taken place. Niles’ Weekly Register, Baltimore, Nov. 25, 1820.

For most Haitians, a civil or religious marriage is a luxury. The most common relationship among peasants and the urban lower class is plasaj or common-law marriage. Haitians typically refer to any woman who lives with a man, keeps house for him and bears his children as a “wife.” The husband and wife often make explicit agreements about their economic relationship at the beginning of a plasaj. These agreements typically require the husband to cultivate at least one plot of land for the wife and to provide her with a house. Women perform most household tasks, though men often do heavy chores like gathering firewood. These unions are distinguished from vivavek or tizammi relationships, sexual affairs that carry less responsibility and are less stable than a plasaj.[3]

Among the Haitian elite, civil and religious marriages were the norm; the “best” families could trace legally married ancestors to the nineteenth century. Legal marriages were seen as more prestigious than plasaj, but they were not necessarily more stable or productive, nor were they necessarily monogamous. In fact, legally married men are often more economically stable than men in plasaj relationships, and so it is easier for them to separate from their wives or to enter into extramarital relationships. While Haitian women are expected to maintain sexual fidelity to their husbands, whether or not they are legally married or in a plasaj relationship, Haitian men are more free to pursue polygamous relationships. Polygamy among Haitian men is not so much a sign of virility as of social and economic success: few Haitian men can afford to keep more than one family.

Danto, she says to me “You have a choice: Be with me, mon amour or I’m not responsible for what will happen to you.” I could die, you know, anything could happen. Georges René, husband of Ezili Danto[4]

When the lwa possess bystanders at a ceremony, they will frequently offer advice and blessings — and make demands in return. Often their demands will include a request for marriage. The coquettish Erzulie Freda, lwa of love, beauty and luxury, often proposes to several men when she arrives at a ceremony, while the rum-swilling warrior lwa Ogou is known for his love of the ladies and often asks for their hands in marriage when he comes. Frequently these proposals are met with reluctance. A maryaj lwa is at least as expensive as a civil or religious marriage, and may cost several years in savings. In lieu of a marriage, a Vodouisant might offer to buy the proposing lwa a gift or to make some sacrifice that is less costly and onerous. Sometimes the lwa will be satisfied with these counteroffers; as spirits residing in an impoverished land, they have long since learned to accept what is available to them. At other times they will insist on the maryaj. Vodouisants who continue to ignore these demands will often discover their luck turning for the worse, as the spurned lwa brings them misfortune and sickness. Sometimes the lwa will even punish the Vodouisant’s partner, making him or her ill until such time as the marriage demands are met.

When the Vodouisant decides (or is persuaded) to marry the lwa, a ceremony is held. The space is prepared by the Priye Gineh, a lengthy ceremonial salute in which the lwa are honored alongside God, Jesus, the Virgin and various saints. A table is set up for the spirits who are going to be married. Cakes are prepared in their favorite colors (pink for Freda, red and blue for Danto, etc.). Their favorite offerings are placed on the table, alongside offerings for other lwa who might show up at the ceremony to give their blessings. The ceremonial clothing or objects of the brides or grooms will be close at hand. The human bride or groom, meanwhile, will be dressed in his or her finest clothing, as befits such a solemn ceremony.

After the Priye, the houngan or mambo (Priest or Priestess) in charge will begin calling the various lwa. Starting with Papa Legba, the gatekeeper who “opens the door” for the other lwa, s/he will salute the spirits in the order of the reglaman. At the appropriate time, the bride/groom spirits will possess one of the participants. That chwal (“horse”) will be dressed in the clothing of the lwa — a straw hat and bag for agricultural lwa Zaka, a denim dress for Ezili Danto, etc. Then s/he will be seated before the table beside the serviteur s/he is marrying. A pret savanne (literally “bush priest”) will recite the Catholic marriage ceremony; the lwa and the serviteur pledge fidelity to each other. The serviteur’s rings are “passed through fire” — incense smoke, really — and then the lwa places the ring on the serviteur’s finger.

This ritual is repeated for each lwa whom the serviteur is going to marry. Only rarely does one marry a single lwa: usually it is necessary to marry two or three so that their energies will be balanced. A woman who marries Ogou will also marry Damballah, the Great White Serpent, and Zaka: It is believed that Damballah will “cool” Ogou’s hot, intense energy while Zaka will help to “ground” it. And any man who marries Freda must marry her hardworking peasant sister Ezili Danto, and vice versa: the acrimony between these two women is legendary in Vodou and it is believed that marrying only one will cause the other to become enraged with jealousy. (Polygamy is also the rule among the lwa themselves: Erzulie Freda is “wife” to Damballah, Ogou and the sea king Met Agwe, while even Ogou has to wear the rings of both Freda and Ezili Danto.)

The serviteur is now married to the lwa. S/he will be expected to set aside at least one night per month — and perhaps as many as three nights a week — during which s/he will not have sexual relations with anyone else. During that time many spouses of the lwa will sleep alone in a bed that they have specially prepared for the occasion. They may wrap their heads with a cloth in their spouse’s color, and will almost certainly wear their wedding rings. On that evening they are frequently visited by their husbands/wives in dreams that may have sexual content or which may involve more platonic counsel and advice.

While most wealthy planters in St. Dominique were having sexual relations with one or more of their slaves, few would admit to this publicly. They might grant favored status to those women and their offspring, but always in private. The whole process became an open secret, one of those things that everyone knew but no one discussed. Among Haiti’s wealthy, the same could be said of Vodou. Rather than holding public fetes in their homes, or attending ceremonies, wealthy Haitians might honor the lwa privately through a maryaj lwa performed in their homes. This allows them to serve the lwa discreetly. By setting aside days for the lwa and maintaining an inconspicuous shrine, they can gain the spirit’s continued protection and blessings without incurring the social stigma that open service to the lwa would bring. If poor Haitians marry the lwa, rich Haitians take them as concubines.

Entering the Vodou is like choosing a whole new family. Choosing a family is rightfully a serious undertaking. Houngan Aboudja[5]

The maryaj lwa ceremony is not only costly; it also involves considerable responsibility. Violating your wedding vows is seen as extremely dangerous. Edeline St.-Amand, a Haitian Mambo living in Brooklyn, tells the story of a man who married Erzulie Freda, then had relations with another woman on the day set aside for Freda. “He says his nature is gone,” Mambo Edeline explains. “I try to call Freda for him so he can say he’s sorry. For three hours I try to call Freda, but Freda won’t come. Finally I call Brav (Brav Ghede, a dead spirit with whom Edeline works frequently). Brav come and he say `Freda don’t want to talk to you.’ He beg Brav, tell her I’m sorry, tell her I’m sorry. Finally Brav tells him, `Okay. Freda say you got to go to Mass every day for 21 days, then you need to throw a big party for Freda. Then maybe she think about forgiving you.”[6]

Whether rich or poor, Vodouisants see the maryaj lwa as both a sign of devotion and a guarantee of success. The Vodouisant throws a party for the lwa and sets aside special days for the spirit’s honor. In exchange, s/he expects the lwa to provide support and protection. The maryaj lwa, like marriage and conjugal relationships, is as much a promise of mutual support as a sign of undying love. Kathleen Latzoni, an American woman who recently married Ogou, Damballah and Zaka, says that her maryaj had a pronounced positive effect on her life. “I’ve become much more productive at work; and while I still have a demanding job, I feel that things around the office have started to run more smoothly. I also feel less anxious and better able to cope with whatever life throws my way — no matter what happens, I’ve got somebody (or three somebodies!) on my side.” For Latzoni, the Maryaj also served as a community-building experience. “Even though my cultural background is very different from most of the Vodouisants I know in Brooklyn, I feel more bonded to them now, as if this shared experience gives us something in common.”[7]


[1]Sacred Arts of Haitian Vodou, Donald J. Cosentino, Editor. Los Angeles: UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History, 1995. p. xxiii.

[2]For an excellent and extensive study of the interplay between African religions and Catholicism in Haiti, see Leslie G. Desmangles, Faces of the Gods: Voodoo and Roman Catholicism in Haiti. (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1993).

[3]Haitian Women’s Role in Sexual Decision-Making: The Gap Between AIDS Knowledge and Behavior Change (II. Presentation of Findings),  available at

[4]Cosentino, p. 292.

[5]From a post entitled “Living in the Spirit,” to the mailing list “VodouSpirit,”, December 11, 2002.

[6]Conversation with Mambo Edeline St.-Amand, February 2003.

[7] Conversation with Kathleen Latzoni, October 2003.

The Witches’ Magickal Thinking for Monday, August 13

“The Strange Case of St. Expedite”

By Denise Dumars


Hoodoo, Vodou, Santeria practitioners call on St. Expedite when something absolutely, positively, has to get done overnight. He is sought out specifically for particular financial needs – the more specific, the better. For example, one college student needed a certain amount of money over and above what his initial financial aid award. He asked St. Expedite for the extra money, and the next time he went to financial aid office, he learned that the award had been amended to include the exact dollar amount he needed. He credits St. Expedite.

St. Expedite also, yes, expedites results that are moving too slowly. It gets very interesting here, for now our special delivery saint aids not just traditional adherents, but also those who work in contract jobs, freelancers, and anyone else who gets paid after they do the work, rather than getting a regular salary. One freelancer reports that a company was very slow in paying her for a project she complete, so she taped a Saint Expedite card to her computer monitor and the money suddenly came through. There are self-described “computer geeks” who now count St. Expedite as their patron saint!

To ask St. Expedite for help, place his image, a glass of water, and a red candle on your altar, bureau or computer workstation. Say the prayer on the back of the prayer card (or one of many found online), then ask him specifically for what you need. The best time to do this is on Wednesday, the day of Mercury the messenger – in Hoodoo and Vodou, St. Expedite is associated with Papa Legba, Baron Samedi, Ellegua, and other “messenger” spirits. Light the candle every day until your wish is granted.

After he grants your wish, offer him flowers, a glass of water, and a slice of pound cake. According to Ray Malbrough, believers leave nine quarters by his statue at “the Voodoo church” with their offerings. New Orleans tradition has it that he prefers Sara Lee pound cake. How anyone figured that out is unclear. Here are two prayers to St. Expedite from St.; one is clearly in the Christian tradition, and the other is more ecumenical:

When in Urgent Need:  Pray to Saint Expedite

Our dear martyr and protector, Saint Expedite,

You who know what is necessary and what is urgently needed.

I beg you to intercede before the Holy Trinity, that by your grace my request will be granted.

_______________(Clearly express what you want, and ask him to find a way to get it to you.)

May I receive your blessings and favors.

In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.

For Quick Help:  Pray to Saint Expedite

Saint Expedite, you lay in rest.

I come to you and ask that this wish be granted.

____________________(Clearly express what you want, and ask him to find a way to get it to you.)

Expedite now what I ask of you.

Expedite now what I want of you, this very second.

Don’t waste another day.

Grant me what I ask for.

I know your power, I know you because of your work.

I know you can help me.

Do this for me and I will spread your name with love and honor

So that it will be invoked again and again.

Expedite this wish with speed, love, honor and goodness.

Glory to you, Saint Expedite!

In addition, there are many videos on YouTube about St. Expedite, many of them made for the express purpose of thanking him for his help. His reach across religions is evident as the videos were created by followers of numerous belief systems from numerous countries:  Wiccans from the United States and Candomble followers from Brazil among them.

A statue of St. Expedite figures prominently in the film Skeleton Key, a fine supernatural thriller set in Louisiana that depicts some of the most authentic Hoodoo I’ve seen on film, but he is never named in the film or even referred to ….he’s just there for those in the know to recognize!

It’s been more than twenty years since that Santera told me about St. Expedite and I’m happy that in 2009 I actually got to see his niche in “the Voodoo church.” I’m taping his prayer card to my computer monitor right now.

Excerpt from:

“The Strange Case of St. Expedite”

By Denise Dumars

Llewellyn’s 2012 Magical Almanac

For Everyday Living



This should be used to prevent someone from giving away a secret. It is a form of sympathetic
Magick. A clay or wax figure may be used, or a clothe poppet (voodoo doll). In the ritual it is named
for the person whom it represents. Then, with appropriate word, the witch takes a needle threaded
with a twenty-one inch length of red silk, and sews up the mouth of the figure. She finishes off by
winding the thread all around the body of the figure. The concentration is on the fact that the person
is unable to speak on the forbidden subject – whatever the secret may be that is being safeguarded.
At the end of the ritual the poppet is stored away in a safe place, wrapped in a piece of white cloth.
So long as the thread remains in place, the person represented is bound.


Paper can be the Spell
Certain scripts are perceived as inherently powerful, for instance, Arabic, Chinese and Hebrew. If there was a pagan Greek belief that the world was created and activated via the sound of the vowels, in traditional Judaic teaching life is activated through the Hebrew letters. Ancient Egyptians utilized different scripts for different purposes, mystical and mundane. Northern European runes and Celtic Ogham script are specifically for magickal and spiritual use. Many contemporary Wiccans and ceremonial magickians use various magickal script.
Paper can create lasting amulets. The most readily accessible example is the Jewish mezuzah, attached to doorposts. The use of mezuzahs has been adopted by some Hoodoo practitioners. Similar written amulets exist in Chinese, Japanese, Ethopian, Muslim and Tibetan traditions.
Paper as we know it was invented in China in 105 ce, and China remains the primary home of paper magick. Paper charms are traditionally written in red cinnabar ink on yellow or red paper with a peach wood pen, in special magickal scripts known as “thunder writing” or “celestial calligraphy.” Charms are used in various ways: Pasted over the door or on the walls, worn in the hair or carried in a medicine bag.

Some paper spells are created in ordered to be destroyed via fire or water. Destroying the paper spell releases its energy into the atmosphere so that the spell can work as intended. Sometimes water and fire are combined: some Chinese charms are burned first, and then the ashes are mixed with tea or water and drunk. Rice paper is particularly effective for this as it dissolves easily in water.
*A written spell doesn’t necessarily require paper: an ancient custom was to inscribe a clay bowl or plate with spells and incantation. It is then shattered to release the energy into the atmosphere. (If you make your own pottery, the traditions can be combined; insert tiny pieces of paper directly into the pottery, inscribe further so the magick is contained inside and out, then shatter.)
*Not all paper spells require words. Spells can be cast with images. Chromolithographs incorporate the power and blessing of a Spirit. They may also substitute for a statue. If you don’t have no artistic ability, a collage of sacred and power images create an amulet.
*A traditional alternative is to write the name of the desired divinity in gold ink on red paper and post it on the wall.
Many spells suggest using “magickal inks” formulas. Although this is never required, it can empower a spell.


Pen and ink are only one form of magick writing. There are many traditions of drawing designs on the ground, particularly to invite, invoke and honor spirits. Materials used include flowers, flour, cornmeal and special rangoli powder.
*Angelic sigils are written on paper or engraved onto metal. Each angel has a specific sigil that can be used to summon them. The “veve” designs of Haitian Vodou have similar purposes. Each Iwa or spirit has a “veve” that expresses its essence and is thus worthy of meditation, but the “veve” may also be used to summon and honor the spirit. “V’eves” may be drawn on paper but are most frequently drawn on the ground. Candomble and Romany spirits also possess sigils as do others.
*Rangoli, the women’s spiritual art of India, utilizes rice flour with brightly colored flowers and spices to create patterns. As Earth’s tiny creatures eat the rice flour, they carry imbedded prayers and petitions to the Earth’s womb.
*In Brazil, pemba, a kind of chalk which may contain pulverized herbs, is used to create invocational markings on Earth. Originally an African practice, the finest pemba is still thought to come from Africa and may be imported and purchased at a great cost to a less-than-wealthy practitioner.