Folk Practice: Burying a statue of St. Joseph upside down


One Roman Catholic tradition involves burying a statue of Saint Joseph upside down in your yard, before reciting a specific prayer called the Saint Joseph Prayer. This ritual is supposed to be done when you want to sell your house, in order to bring luck and assistance in selling the home. After the house is sold, you unbury the statue. Supposedly, he’s buried upside down so that he’ll make the process faster.


The informant is Roman Catholic and grew up in the United States, though their mother comes from Italy. When their parents had died, they went to sell their house in Florida. They spent a lot of time clearing out the house, and once they prepared to sell it, they found a st Joseph statue with the prayer in the home. So, they decided to perform the act of burying the statue. The statue originally belonged to the grandmother, but because the house was so cluttered, it was likely lost among the items. In a way, it was a way for the Informant to finish what their mother could not- having not originally had exposure to the folk practice, but taking part in it to pay respect to their mother. Later on, the Informant learned that Saint Joseph was the patron saint of the house, and that the intention of the prayer is to seek the assistance of Saint Joseph to sell the house.


The act of burying the effigy of a saint seems outright sacrilegious, and especially so when coupled with the implications of the statue being buried upside down. Elliott Oring actually discusses this very folk tradition at one point, and mentions how it’s often discouraged by church leaders to this day. That being said, it seems that there is more interest in the figure themself rather than the religion which they are derived from, in this case. While Saint Joseph is given a prayer that is catholic in nature, he is more so invoked for his connection to the home. This implies a much more physical and “human” connection, rather than a religious one.