Tag Archives: Saints

Saint Joseph and Selling a House

Informant: “If you want to sell your house, you dig a hole and you put a statue of Saint Joseph in the ground in your yard and then when you sell your house you dig it up. Its a real estate thing. You bury it upside down, it’s supposed to make it happen faster. Joseph was a carpenter and I think its related to the holy family fleeing to Egypt. Everybody I know does it, its just what you do when you sell your house.“

The tradition of burying a statue is a kind of Catholic folk magic practiced to bring about the desired outcome (selling of house). Saint Joseph is the figurehead associated with this, a way to request divine intervention in a real world situation.

Praying to Saint Anthony

Main Content:

Praying to Deceased Saints

I: Informant, M: Me

I: I’m Catholic and a lot of people pray to Saint Anthony when they lose something.

Context: My informant learned this through her congregation and while she does not regularly pray to Saint Anthony or any deceased saints in particular, she says it is very common within the congregation, even though it isn’t necessarily codified. When I lost my Apple Pencil a few weeks prior she told me to pray to Saint Anthony to help me find it.

Analysis: As is true with most religious folklore, praying to deceased saints -often to help you with something in particular- is not an official part of Catholicism. In fact, the official Catholic stance would consider this practice idolatry as people are praying to someone other than G-d. Thus, this truly is folklore as it allows for something that would typically be unacceptable behavior in ‘normal contexts,’ and makes not only acceptable, but also popular. There is nothing biblical or official about praying to saints yet it is still a very common Christian practice. Unofficially, people pray to the patron saint of whatever they need, so in this case Saint Anthony is the patron saint of lost things.

Ferias Monucipilanas

Every city, every town, has a yearly party, feria monucipilanas, and each have their own saint in which they cherish and praise during the festival. The people of the city make a big tower that you light at the bottom of the tower so then the fireworks make really colorful designs upon explosion. Alex is a Colombian native who immigrated here when he was just a little boy. His family left Columbia in response to all the violence that was emitting from Pablo Escobar’s reign of terror. In order to keep his family traditions alive, his parents constantly told him about the vast events and beauty of his homeland and people. These fairs seem like the walks that Catholics due in Los Angeles during Easter to acknowledge a saint.

How Cubans Find Lost Objects

Original Text: “Si pierdes algo, amarra un trapo negro a la pata de una silla para que San Dima te ayude a encontrarlo.”

Transliteration: “If you lose something, tie a cloth black to the foot of a chair so that San Dima can help you to find it.”

Translation: “If you lose something, tie a black cloth to the leg of a chair so that San Dima can help you find it.”

 

The source says that Cubans have many different superstitions for finding lost items, but this is the one she’s heard of the most.  She said San Dima is the patron saint of finding lost things. When I tried searching more about Saint Dima, though, I was unable to find anyone by that name. I also asked what the significance of the black cloth and the chair were. Apparently, it’s a black cloth because the item is lost somewhere it can’t be found, somewhere “dark” to the finder. She didn’t know exactly why it’s tied to the leg of a chair, but she speculated it had something to do with being close to the floor and how lost things are usually on the floor.

This belief sounds like it stems from Santeria, a Latin American religion that combines witchcraft with Christian beliefs.  The original practitioners of Santeria were African slaves that had been taken to islands like Cuba and whatnot by the Spanish. In order to protect themselves from being punished for practicing their native rituals, the slaves exchanged the names of African deities for Christian saints. As such, many of the deities’ abilities were carried over to the saints. It’s possible that San Dima received their power for finding things from whatever African deity their name was used to replace. While Santeros aren’t the only ones who practice this belief, it seems very likely that that’s where it stemmed from.

FISHING WITH ST. FRANCIS

ABOUT THE INFORMANT:

My informant is a father of three who lives just outside of Boston with his wife of over 30 years. He is originally from Cambridge, MA, but moved to central MA when he was younger. Graduating from Tufts, Northwestern, and the getting his PHD at MIT, he is an engineering professor.

EXAMPLE:

Interviewee: I was out fishing with my father-in-law, Billy, on the lake in New Hampshire. He has a house up there. Well not him, but his mom. It is a big house where that side of the family has family reunions. And it’s right on the lake, so me and him go fishing up there a lot.

Interviewer: What type of fishing?

Interviewee: They have like a small boat. It’s almost like a tin can. I mean sometimes we’ll do trout fishing in the brook up there, but not during the family reunion. It’s too much of a hassle.

So anyways, we were fishing and I caught a small fish. Like a small, it wasn’t like a sunfish, you know? Because those I can never get. Especially out there, that deep. It was like a small bass. But it was too small to do anything with; I wasn’t gonna eat it or anything. So I carefully tried to get it back to the water, you know? Took the hook out slowly, made sure I didn’t hurt it.

Interview: Because they’re fragile?

Interviewee: Yeah, exactly.

So, I’m taking care of this fish, and Billy, he’s just watching me. And I let it go, and he says, “If St. Francis saw you he would be so proud.”

And I say, “If St. Francis was here he’d have the fish jumping in the boat.”

So we go back to fishing. I put another worm on my line and everything. Cast it out. Next thing you know I got a big bass on the line. And it’s putting up a big fight. The tin can boat is rocking, I’m reeling and reeling as hard as I can, and then I feel it go under the boat. Suddenly the line goes slack. And then I just here this big “Billy” laugh. A belly laugh, his whole body laughing.

I turn to see what’s so funny, and he just points down. I look and sure enough there was the fish flapping around in the boat. It had jumped in the boat!

ANALYSIS:

The informant went on to tell me that this particular story has been repeated and told by people in the family who were not even there. It has even been performed as a skit for the family. It is considered to be one of the classic stories of New Hampshire and of this family.

First when dissecting this story it is important to note the obvious religious connotations. Both Billy and my informant were religious, though not strict practicers, so when this happened there was definitely a part of them that wondered what just happened. That is of course what makes the story so compelling. Is it a coincidence or is it a story about Saint Francis showing his presence at that moment to those two men? That mystery makes it enticing.

It is interesting because when and where this took place probably has a lot of reason as to why it is so popular to this family. That location is very special to them, so for them to feel like they and that place is blessed makes sense. They feel blessed to be around their family, and fortunate to have had so many happy family reunions there. If someone said God or a supernatural presence was there, I’m sure that they would buy it more than if you told them they were somewhere else.