Ss. Cosmas and Damian service for petitions related to health and healing (both physical and spiritual), casting off evil, removal of crossed conditions, and protection from plague and other illness.
Cosmas and Damian were twin brothers who were practicing physicians in the 3rd century and treated their patients at no charge, hence their title of “unmercenary” or “silverless.” They have different feast days within different churches and denominations, and in the Orthodox church, in fact, there are considered to be three distinct sets of saints named Cosmas and Damian. Of course they all have different bios and feast days, as well. As with most saints from the early centuries of the church, there’s very little or nothing in any historical or archaeological record about their lives — we have rather to deal with legend (and subsequent mystical revelation, in some cases).
But these brothers who were doctors, twins, and ultimately martyrs, have for centuries had the reputation for interceding for the faithful who called on them for healing, and numerous miracles have been attributed to them. They are also the patrons of twins, surgeons, and pharmacists, are widely venerated in Brazil as patrons of children in general, and in some houses and temples, are associated with the lwa the Marassa.
Have a vigil light set and worked on my Jesus Malverde altar in community altar work service beginning on Monday, May 3rd, which serves as the feast day of this folk saint. There is some wiggle room and you can join up after the work starts as long as you see that there are still spots left and it doesn’t say “sold out.”
Jesus Malverde, also known as the Angel of the Poor or the Generous Bandit, is a folk saint who is said to have lived and died in late 19th/early 20th century Sinaloa, Mexico. His reputation as a sort of Robin Hood figure began before his death, as the legend has it; he targeted the rich, redistributed the money and goods he stole to the poor, and basically spent his life on the wrong side of the law but by all accounts on the right side of morality.
While many details of his life and death are the stuff of legend and as such unverifiable and certainly prone to dramatic embroidery, what’s undisputable is that he has a solid reputation for responding to the prayers and petitions of his devotees, especially those who find themselves running afoul of the law due to poverty and corruption.
Since the 1970s, he’s gained greater notoriety in the public eye as a narco saint — the patron saint of drug dealers and smugglers — and that is how many folks beyond the borders of Mexico who hear of him categorize him, increasingly so since the 1990s. But to dismiss him as merely a narco saint and his devotees as drug kingpins and criminals is to ignore the lived realities of the faithful in a complex world where things aren’t always so black and white – where sometimes breaking the law is the right thing (or the only thing) to do, where justice isn’t blind, where the distribution of wealth is immoral, where there is government corruption and the police aren’t always on the right side of the law – humanity’s or God’s.
His devotees petition him to have enough food for their children, for safety in dangerous lines of work (including but definitely not limited to smuggling), and to get them out of legal difficulties, as you might expect from a bandit folk saint. But they also tell of how he miraculously cured their illnesses, returned lost or stolen property, even helped them get *off* drugs and get their lives on firmer footing.
His reputation as a narco saint has blossomed only over the last 40 or so years and not without a good bit of help from the media. His reputation as the Angel of the Poor and the Generous Bandit, however, long predates the sensationalist “narco saint” appellation, and as a folk saint, there’s a lot more to him than this. So it would be appropriate to petition him for pretty much anything related to living a life that is in some way “on the margins” or precarious or dangerous. It would also be suitable to use this service as an opportunity to “introduce yourself” to Jesus Malverde if you’ve been thinking you wanted to learn more about him but haven’t begun working with him yet.
If you are experiencing financial difficulties, you do not have to pay for a spot in the vigil service in order to have your name and petition included in my prayers and offerings to Jesus Malverde on May 3rd. You can simply submit your name and petition via the intake form and in place of the service/order #, type “jesus malverde prayers only.” There is no cost for the prayers-only option, though if you’d like to, you can make an optional donation in any amount you wish to help offset the cost of time and materials used, and in this case, I will set at least a votive light for you to burn for a few hours, depending on the number of reduced rate/pro bono requests I get for this service.
I’ve been doing some sort of pro bono or reduced rate/pay what you can service every month since COVID began to help those who need spiritual help but can’t afford to book private services. And I’m happy to present your petitions and pray for you as part of my own thanks to Jesus Malverde. Remember, when Jesus Malverde answers your prayers and grants your petitions, you should “pay” the saint by making a donation to the poor. Don’t protest that you are the poor and therefore you’re exempt from this duty – there’s *always* someone poorer than you. You must participate in the spiritual economy, which with Jesus Malverde is always already a financial one as well, and approach him with open rather than closed hands. Make sure you keep your side of the bargain!
Please note that community altar work services do not come with individual readings/reports, though I will post at least one photo of the work to the Discord “forum” for clients, which you’ll receive an invitation to after you book your vigil service spot.
If you’d like to make a donation to help offset the cost of pro bono and reduced rate services that I provide for folks experiencing income instability and career challenges during this COVID mess, you can do so here. (Offsite PayPal link)
There’s a lovely little post at Le Lapin dans la Lune, the blog of French children’s book author/illustrator Delphine Doreau, titled “From riches to Reckkit’s, ultramarine blue at 14 Henrietta Street, Dublin.” It talks about her encounter with a wall on that street in Dublin, striking because painted an incongruous but beautiful ultramarine blue. She was told it was blue because it had been painted with Reckitt’s bluing, which was once used as a disinfectant. Thinking that sounded a little odd (quite rightly), she investigated. The blog post explains what she discovered and where her thoughts took her as she pondered that wall and what it encoded as a tiny slice of history. Very cool little piece.
Laundry bluing is one of my favorite ingredients for spiritual baths, waters, and similar preparations. I always, always have some around, and I use it for all kinds of things. You can read more about what it’s used for in the Southeastern folk tradition, or get some, at the shop here.
I don’t have time to summarize anything right now, but I’m hoping if I leave this here, it’ll spur me to do so later.
James H. Diaz. Atlas of Human Poisoning and Envenoming, 2nd ed. Boca Raton: CRC Press, 2014.
Hilda Roberts. “Louisiana Superstitions.” Journal of American Folklore 40: 156 (1927), 144-208.
We’re gonna have to talk about this one when I have some time. This sure does have some… stuff in it. I mean, totally aside from its being “a product of its age” and all that. The blanket conflation of hoodoo doctors and Cajun traiteurs is a pretty humongous one. This would never get published today, and it’s not because of the language. It’s because of shoddy scholarship / painting with too broad a brush.
F.A. de Caro. “A History of Folklife Research in Louisiana.” Louisiana Folklife: A Guide to the State. Nicholas R. Spitzer, ed. Office of Cultural Development, 1985.
John L. Gibson. Archaeology and Ethnology on the Edges of the Atchafalaya Basin: A Cultural Resources Survey of the Atchafalaya Protection Levees. Center for Archaeology Studies, University of Southwestern Louisiana. Final report to the Department of the Army, New Orleans District, Corps of Engineers, Jun. 1979 – Jan. 1982.
Maida Owens. “Louisiana’s Traditional Cultures: An Overview.” Swapping Stories: Folktales from Louisiana.Carl Lindahl, Maida Owens, and C. Renée Harvison, eds. University Press of Mississippi and the Louisiana Division of the Arts, 1997.
Alec Sonnier. Cajun Traiteurs: Faith Healing on the Bayou / The Cajun Traiteur and Transmission of Cajun Folk Healing Knowledge. Master’s Thesis, Dept. of Anthropology. California State University Northridge, May 2020.
A quick note that Alec Sonnier’s preface reprints two prayers that a Louisiana traiteuse shared on her Facebook page in early 2020 as the coronavirus epidemic was spreading across the country. You really, really gotta love at least a couple of things about the 21st century – at least a traiteuse sharing healing prayers from her personal practice on social media.
I don’t know if that was her private Facebook page or what, so I haven’t posted those prayers here. I don’t know if everybody’s the same way about this, but a lot of times those prayers are not for public consumption. I’m not gonna be the one to assume they are. But in his conclusion, Sonnier prints a prayer shared by another traiteur, Mr. George, who received it in a dream. Mr. George said it “can be used by anyone who wishes to be healed of an ailment” and he encouraged people to use it “to help themselves in the healing process” (131). It goes like this:
“Heavenly Father, I call on You right now in a special way. It is through Your power that I was created. Every breath I take, every morning I wake and every moment of every hour, I live under Your power. Father, I ask you now to touch me with that same power, for if You created me from nothing, You can certainly recreate me. Fill me with the healing power of Your spirit. Cast out anything that should not be in me. Mend what is broken. Root out any unproductive cells, open any blocked arteries or veins, and rebuild any damaged areas. Remove all inflammation and cleanse any infection. Let the warmth of Your healing love pass through my body to make new any unhealthy areas, so that my body will function the way You created it to function. And Father, restore me to full health in mind, body and spirit so that I might serve You the rest of my life. I ask this through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.”
(Mr. George qtd. in Sonnier 131)
He cites a 2008 article on traiteurs by one Julia Swett, too, which is a name one or two of y’all might know :). But careful, y’all, look – this Sonnier’s father is kin to those Heberts, and you know you gotta watch out for those Heberts!
How did you know you’d been afflicted with the evil eye in Scotland back in the day?
Yawning and vomiting were signs. So were a “general disturbance of the system” and a “grim, gruesome, and repulsive” appearance (42), according to the gorgeous treasury of lore gathered in Carmina Gadelica by folklorist Alexander Carmichael (1832-1912).
How did you cure it?
Collect water from a stream with a wooden ladle in the name of the Trinity. To this water add a gold ring gotten from some wife and something or other made of gold, of silver, and of copper. Make the sign of the cross over it and chant the following formula:
Who shall thwart the evil eye ? I shall thwart it, methinks, In name of the King of life. Three seven commands so potent, Spake Christ in the door of the city ; Pater Mary one, Pater King two, Pater Mary three. Pater King four. Pater Mary five. Pater King six. Pater Mary seven; Seven pater Maries will thwart The evil eye. Whether it be on man or on beast. On horse or on cow ; Be thou in thy full health this night, [The name] In name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
If the victim’s a sheep, you’ll tie a thread around his tail, give him a drink of the water, and sprinkle some on his head and spine. If a cow, the sprinkling or anointing is on his horns and in the space between the horns.
If that one doesn’t work, there are about 12 more where it came from, and they are all delightful, each with something different to recommend it.
Carmichael, Alexander, ed. and trans. “Cronachduinn Suil” [Thwarting the Evil Eye]. Carmina Gadelica: Hymns and Incantations, vol. 2. Edinburgh: T. and A. Constable, 1900. pp. 42-43.
Good old chicken feet curios, a probably-New-World invention – at least in the painted, decorated iterations…
… that people nevertheless like to claim have been used in all kinds of magical traditions all over the globe for *centuries,* for everything from love to money to hexing the crap out of your roommate for leaving the toilet seat up.
(They’re used for protection, for the most part, though some pro workers use them in cleansing and healing rites as well. Not love or money, though, not that I’ve seen any evidence of – sorry.)
I’ve been making chicken foot charms for over 20 years now, but this batch is special.
I usually make them with commercially available chicken feet that come from the same source as the chicken you buy at the grocery store wrapped in plastic.
These are different. These come from a source I know firsthand to be cruelty-free and devoted to humane practices. I know for a fact these chickens had as good a life as it is possible to have as a chicken bred for meat. They were not cooped up their entire lives. They got to feel grass under their feet and sunshine on their feathers. And I know they were slaughtered cleanly and quickly with great skill and compassion. They did not spend their final moments in terror with the sound of machinery filling their ears.
Matter of fact, they were *individually prayed over* during the process and individually thanked for the gift of their life that in turn sustains other life. This is no assembly line anything. These birds’ lives were not taken for granted. No joke, I kind of had to do an interview about what I use them for and what kind of spiritual economy they’d be circulating within before this all got finalized. You can’t lie to the chickens, you know, and tell them they’ll be honored and appreciated if they’re just going to end up on the trash heap.
I don’t know how much she wants me to say about her in a public place, but they were provided by a family member who works at a very small organic, farm-to-table operation in Louisiana. In addition to knowing her way around farm animals, she also happens to be one of the most deeply spiritual people I know, and I mean the type that gets into the messy bits of life and deals with the real stuff instead of just isolating herself in an ivory tower where she doesn’t have to see and think about dirt and pain and poverty and death in the world (though she does have the ivory tower education – in theology, no less).
In short, I couldn’t dream up a more competent person to have made this a truly spiritual practice with genuine gratitude and deep connection, messy bits and all.
And while I totally get that not everybody is comfortable with materia magica like this, for those who do participate in the carnivorous economies and want to use these quite traditional curios, this is the most ethical way I can even imagine to obtain these things. And I am really grateful to be able to source them from a place like this – from someone I know to be a person of real compassion who is powerful in prayer and deeply connected to the life around her and the land under her feet.
Obviously I can legally make no claims guaranteeing you any particular results from your use of this charm, but I gotta say at the very least, if I were a thief scouting for my next target and I saw a chicken foot charm on a house, vehicle, or person, I would probably pick a different house, vehicle, or person to target instead of that one.
And yes, Louisiana folks, I can do the hot pink ones. I don’t imagine most folks are gonna get to Courir de Mardi Gras in 2021 with all this COVID craziness, but you can have your own little brightly-painted piece of Mardi Gras, complete with beads, trinkets, even a doubloon if you request a Mardi-Gras themed chicken foot, [*] to keep your spirits up until the day comes when we can all go back out there, swill beer, dress like very cheerful killer clowns, fling things at each other’s heads — sometimes on horseback — and have a grand old time scarfing boudin or funnel cake, depending on where you’re from, hanging out in the streets getting dirty and loud.
[*] And before anybody asks, no, it does not come with a Moon Pie.