Friday, September 20, 2013

The Days of the Cyprians, Fourth Offering

Continued from The Days of the Cyprians, Third Offering

A Quimbanda working with São Cipriano, performed and photographed by Madame Nadia
Between the candles can be seen a vial of the oil (made by Wolf & Goat),
 traditionally used to enliven the images and tools of São Cipriano within the cult,
and his ponto riscado drawn as the field of working.

The Days of the Cyprians
Fourth Offering
(continued from Third Offering)

While popular devotion has waned in the urban terreiros and tendas of Quimbanda (as have most of the Quimbanda Saints- Catherine, Francis, Anthony, perhaps in favor of a "purer" African practice), São Cipriano is deeply entrenched within the cult's history. As one time head of the Line of Souls, and for a time the African Line, as different Umbanda and Quimbanda houses reorganized the spirit hierarchy, Cyprian's role changed and adapted as his followers needed. Sometimes still visibly a Saint, sometimes becoming an Exu (Gato Preto), sometimes informing other spirits, like the preto velho Pai Cipriano – Cyprian is truly a complex figure. For a more detailed examination of this, look to Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold's Saint Cyprian & the Sorcerous Transmutation.

While in popular Catholicism, bonds with certain Saints form in less formal ways, in lineages (both familial and ritual) that have certain devotional practices to specific saints, a formal ingress into a Saint's cult may be desired. Rooted in the practice of novenas of devotion to petition a saint for intercession, Frisvold presents a working to secure the patronage of the mighty Saint Cyprian:

A Ritual for making St. Cyprian your Patron 
This procedure involves a nine day dedication for installing the saint. Obtain an image of him, be it a figurine or picture. You should also have at your disposal red and black cord, two white candles and one black together with St. Cyprian oil that must have been prepared beforehand. The working must be done at midnight every day, starting on a Friday at the waxing moon, ensuring that the full moon is overseeing the completion of the work. You will use as a nightly prayer the following:
Most Holy St. Cyprian
I beseech you as my Patron
May you work upon me and keep me steady
May you lend me your powers
As I take you on as teacher, tutor and Tatá
Bless my house and my life
As you close up the minds and mouth of my enemies
Make my eyes double in vision
As my adversaries will be doubly blind
Great One, Blessed One
Most Holy St. Cyprian
I beseech you as my Patron
I beg and pray
Heed my call

While the prayer is said, anoint a one foot length of the cords (both red and black) with the oil and tie it to the effigy or picture with three knots. On the ninth night you will make sure that the image is reflected in the full moon and with prayers bathe the image or picture in oil and red wine adding the last strand of cord. Then place leaves of Acacia and Laurel between the cords.  
Watch carefully during this period. If parts of cat, toad, snake or bat come to you in some way, these need to be placed in pouches of black cloth and tied to the effigy or picture with black cord. These can also be added over time as the relationship matures. 
This being done St. Cyprian is given water, bread, black beans and red wine as you burn incense of frankincense and myrrh before him. 
(from Exu & the Quimbanda of Night and Fireby Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold, Scarlet Imprint, 2012)  

Ponto Riscado of
Saint Cyprian Quimbandeiro
The ritual actions themselves are not unlike many other saint devotionals- a battery of prayer over many days, draping of a Saint in offerings or items to be blessed. This last practice, whether using cord, herbs, cloth, jewelry, rosaries- is in effect binding the Saint to you, and you to the Saint.

It is the particular flavor of Saint Cyprian however that is revealed in the animal mysteries (a hint of the metamorphic skin-leaping he is said to teach), the use of acacia and bay laurel (both powerful necromantic herbs and themselves representatives of the Saints Cyprian and Justina, respectively), and in the food offerings (black beans are a favorite food of the Caveiras, the Skull-weilding and Skull-faced legions of Quimbanda).

But beyond all this- it is the oil that is the carrier of his unique grace and axé. Frisvold gives the recipe for this oil in the same passage in 'Exu':

St. Cyprian Oil

Olive oil
Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium
Dog’s Mercury (Mercurialis perennis
Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium)
A pinch of bone dust
A pinch of sulphur
A pinch of goat horn filings
A pinch of copper filings
Pine or Cedar resin 

In addition you need to remove the Book of Revelation from the bible, draw his ponto on each page, leave a black candle on it and wait until it has burned down. You will then burn the pages and add to the oil. Once made, this oil should rest with the image for seven days with a seven-day candle prior to use, or with Exu Meia Noite. (ibid)

Oh, this oil. Blood of the Saints, Strength of  Martyrs – Liquid Cyprian. There is a benefit to making oils correctly and knowing where everything comes from, sourcing and taking pride in the process itself. Harvesting the plants in the name of Saint Cyprian while making offerings to the Land and angel of each plant; invoking the same angels as the oil is made and prayed over; ritual bathing, fasting and prayers to the Saint while preparing to make the oil and while gathering ingredients; the process itself should be indulged and celebrated, further engaging the spirit of this work.

The use of these specific plants as well hints at the nature of this oil- wormwood is long attested in necromantic works since ancient times, dog's mercury is a bluing plant- a hint of the sacred axé of indigo of Candomblé and Quimbanda as well as maintaining its own unique properties, and pennyroyal- like most mints, sacred to the Bom Povo of Quimbanda.

Of note too is the use of bone dust here- while any bone dust will connect the menstrum to the land of the Dead, choosing well can really allow this oil to do its job. Human skull is most prized, if possible at least one male and one female - or increments of 3, 7, 9, and 21 skull powders. Powdered bone of cat (especially black), bat, toad, and snake are all of benefit.

Truly the oil itself is a cauldron of the transfigurative powers of Cyprian himself. Having put this before Meia Noite as directed to there be worked upon and crossed by his axé as mentor to the Saint, and then using it to wash idols and images of the Saint – it is one of my favorite oils. It flows with the grace and axé of this sorcerous ally and Mestre.

San Cipriano, ruega por nosotros...


For any who may be interested, the Oil of Saint Cyprian is available for purchase from Wolf & Goat, to the benefit of any with a special devotion or need to petition the Saint.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Days of the Cyprians, Second Offering

The Days of the Cyprians
Second Offering
(continued from First Offering)

Within the varied prayers ascribed to Saint Cyprian of Antioch in the various books attributed to him, one of the standout prayers from the Portuguese versions is the Cabra Preta- or Black Goat. It is a form of amarre- or love binding. It is found in the prayer books of many divergent Brazilian religious and spiritist denominations in similar form. Here is a particular favorite: 

Oração da Cabra Preta 
Tem uma cabra preta comendo no campo verde. Dela mando tirar o leite e faço três pães. Mando um para o Satanás, outro para Caifás e outro para o Cão-Coxo que não me fica atrás. Santa Justina em campo verde andasse, a Cabra Preta encontrasse, do leite três pães tirasse e mandasse para Ferrabrás, Satanás e o Cãe Coxo que não fica atrás. Minha Santa Justina, vós como tão poderosa, o Cão quero que mande comigo para falar, que me dê (dizer a pretensão) e nada venha perturbar e se tiver de ser três coisas, quero ver o galo cantar, cachorro ladrar e gato miar neste momento. Valei0me as Sete Cabras Pretas e os seis milheiros de Diabos, valei-me os Três Reis do Oriente, valei-me as Três Almas, os Três Sinos Salomão, pois quero que o Diabo Coxo venha falar à Santa Justina, que há de mandar, já, já e já. Amém! (from Catimbó: Magia do Nordeste, by José Ribeiro, Pallas Publishers, 1991; p. 49)
A translation courtesy of good friends Nicholaj and Katy:
There’s a black goat eating in the green field. I order to take from it milk and make three loaves. I send one to Satan, another to Caiaphas and the other for the Limping Dog, that is never far behind. If St. Justina would walk on the green field, and meet the Black Goat, she would, from the milk, make three loaves and send to Ferrabrás, Satan and the Limping Dog, that is never far behind. My St. Justina, powerful as you are, I want you to send me the Dog to talk with me, that he would give me (state your intent) and that he would not bring trouble to me, and if there must be three things, I want to hear the cock singing, the dog barking and the cat meowing at this moment. May the Seven Black Goats and the six thousands devils help me, May the Three Kings of the Orient help me, May the Three Souls help me, and also the Three Bells of Solomon, because I want the Limping Dog to speak with St. Justina, who will be commanded, now, now and now. Amen! 

So identified with this prayer (and its variants) is Cyprian that sometimes he is called by the same name, as is the book itself. Alternatively he is Exu Gato Preto, Black Cat Exu, in a thinly veiled mask of the Saint within some houses of Quimbanda. This too has its origins in a working ascribed to the Ciprianillo:

The Work of the Black Cat Bone  
This work must be done on the half moon or even better on the night of Holy Friday. Go to a river, making sure that you are alone, and fill an iron cauldron with water from the river. Make sure that the moon is reflected in the water, then add seeds and twigs of willow and lilies to the water and make a fire of willow and other lunar woods. When the water is boiling put the black cat into the water alive and boil it until the meat is loosened from its bones. Then take a linen cloth upon which the ponto of Exu Meia Noite has been drawn and strain the bones through it. You can now attain the bone of power or the bone of invisibility. The bone of invisibility is found by placing each bone in turn in your mouth as you look into a mirror; when your image fades or blurs the correct bone is in your mouth and will be taken for safekeeping and proper use. To gain the bone of power you need to throw all the bones into the water whilst singing the ponto of Exu Mea Noite having a black candle lit at your back and observe closely, as one bone will go against the current. Seize this bone and wrap it in the cloth and do not let it leave your sight for three days and nights, because in these days and nights Exu Meia Noite will come to try and take the bone away from you. Whatever you do, do not lose the bone, it must be kept as your sign of triumph. This being done, Exu Meia Noite will grant you the powers to direct his legions. (from Exu & the Quimbanda of Night and Fire, by Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold, Scarlet Imprint, 2012; p. 219)
Quimbanda's Pomba Gira Maria Padilha herself is said to have learned her magic from a copy of the Ciprianillo given to her by the Witch of Evora, her mentor. Interesting too that Cyprian is considered a student of the great Exu Meia Noite, and the workings of the Ciprianillo are felt to echo the force and influence of this particular Exu. While the Black Cat Bone and the Prayer of the Black Goat are notorious stand outs, there are thousands of prayers and workings attributed to the Saint's Book. Another example Frisvold gives us reads:
How to make a pact with a demon and create a little devil 
Write on virgin paper in your own blood:  I, with the blood from my little finger, write this to Lucifer, so that he will do everything I want in life, and if this does not happen, I will no longer belong to him – then sign your name. 
Write the same words on a black hen’s egg which has been fertilised by a black cock. Puncture a hole in the egg and let a drop of blood from the little finger of your right hand drop into it. Wrap the egg in cotton and black silk together with silver dust and place it under the black hen. From this egg will be born a little devil which should be kept inside a silver box with silver powder. Every Saturday feed the box blood from the little finger on your right hand so the little devil can drink the blood and grow strong. As the little devil grows in the blood bond with you, so will your magical abilities grow stronger and stronger. (ibid, p. 220)

What is certain is that Cyprian of Antioch exudes a particular mystique, an old world sorcerous practice given new life in the Americas. He is not a typical saint; he is truly a worker of both hands. In some areas, public devotion would carry with it a stigma of malefica and brujeria- which of course furthers his reputation, and increases divergent traditions of observation. As with the left-handed petitioning of any saint, what a saint protects the devout from is also what they can be used to attack and send. In this case, Saint Cyprian is as good at throwing curses as breaking them, healing as well as cursing, blessing as well as damning. In this way he is the model spirit ally and model sorcerer- for his devotees must make their own measure of morality and ethic.

Here too, I am reminded of the old fable of the man hiking through the woods who encounters a snake. The man recoils, but the snake calls out to him- pleads with him to carry him to the far end of the forest where the man is headed. The man is cautious and asks the snake to promise not to bite him. The snake concedes. After hours of walking and conversing, the man reaches the edge of the forest, puts the snake down carefully. Immediately the snake bites him, and as the poison takes the man's life he asks the snake why he did this when he promised not to do so- the snakes reply: "You knew what I was when you picked me up."

I am not interested in this as a simple beware the Saint, beware the occult, beware Magic interpretation. Rather- I am interested in the choice to engage the snake. The man could have said no. The man could have thrown the snake far away from him upon reaching the edge of the forest. Dropping our guard is not bravery. Vigilance is required in any sorcerous path. Any devotional path. We renew our commitments daily, hourly, with every breath. (Thus, a yearly a novena...)

Saint Cyprian makes the choice possible; the strength of each sorcerer, each bruja, each curandero, a product of their own merit alone.  There are no allegations scapegoated upon an outside figure. Here too is a hint of the Mexican tradition of the three skulls of Cyprian- or the asking of Cyprian to be one's patron in Quimbanda- we are the product of our own Work. We may be influenced by many angels and demons along the way, but it is our choice that reflexively blesses and curses.

San Cipriano, ruega por nosotros...

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Days of the Cyprians, First Offering

The Feast of the Carthaginian has passed, and with it, the days of the Saints Cyprian begin. The period between September 16th, the Feast of Saint Cyprian of Carthage, and September 26th, the Feasts of the Saints Cyprian and Justina of Antioch- are referred to commonly as 'los dias de los Ciprianos'. As there are nine days between (the 17th through the 25th), it is traditional at this time for those who are devotees of Saint Cyprian of Antioch to offer a novena, a nine-day battery of prayer to their patron. While many conflate the two Cyprians (even Church historians), for the devoted the Carthaginian is merely a "marker" feast day - in Mexican streams, his day is important culturally as Independence Day- and esoterically as the start of the Cyprian festivities that culminate on the 26th.

The story of the Antioch Cyprian is related as early as the 4th century- that a pagan magician (Cyprian) sent demons after a Christian virgin (Justina) and after she was able to fend off the demons with the sign of the cross several times, Cyprian converts to Christianity. Rising in the ranks from deacon to priest to bishop, Cyprian is at once Christian cleric and knowledgeable sorcerer (for can we ever truly forget where we have been?)- and Justina in turn becomes head of a convent. Under Diocletian they were tortured, including being boiled in a cauldron- a common depiction of the two saints- and ultimately beheaded. The same fate befell Cyprian's chief student, named by some as Theoctistus, another bishop. Unburied for six days, the bodies were then taken by sailors to Rome, where they were interred first on the estate of the noblewoman Rufina, and later interred in the Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine, also in Rome.

As the unofficial patron saint of necromancers, sorcerers, witchcraft, and the occult, Saint Cyprian of Antioch receives much veneration in the New World, in large part due to the historical popularity of his cult -and the channeled Book(s) of Saint Cyprian- in the Iberian Peninsula, whose countries provided much of the colonizing force of the Americas. Many lineages of sorcery in Mexico trace their ancestry (whether in fact or symbolically) to 16 families that came in the early days of colonization. These were marrano families by tradition, and many retained practices from the Middle East while first guising as devout Jews, then by forced conversion to Catholicism, a multi-cultured melange of sorecerous tradition came to the New World.  It is said each of these families has a copy of the original Book of Cyprian, containing record of the Saint's magic and how to perform it. Fantastical as these stories are, there are similar versions of this told by divergent groups- often citing different families as having been in Mexico, Peru and Brazil. The 'fact' of these stories is less interesting to me than the perpetuation of them.

All over the Iberian colonies, different versions of this book- called the Ciprianillo, the Book of Saint Cyprian, the Treasure of Sorcerers- appear, and each claims similar mythic origin, usually at the hands of a devout religious clergyman who 'received' the book in a vision from the Antioch Cyprian himself, and less commonly, as the preservation of some of the pages of one of the original New World copies. There exist, for example, different color books - Green, Red, Black, Silver, Gold - offering different specialties of magic for the reader. The workings tend to be of an older flavor, and similar in character and utility as other popular Grimoires. It is still possible to find copies of other grimoires like the Keys of Solomon bound as the Ciprianillo.

The importance of the Saint in Mexican curanderismo and brujeria is well noted. He has a strong place in the Peruvian Shamanic Mesa tradition, and his cult is just as strong in Brazil where he shows up in full magical vigor in Quimbanda as well as Umbanda and its derivations. Folk Catholicism, while far from unified, appeals to him as San Deshacedor, the Great Saint Curse-Breaker, and the candles and prayers to Cyprian follow similar patterns of asking for the unbinding of all those afflicted by maledictions, sorcery and 'possessed of evil'. Popular tradition ascribes him the colors purple (the bishopric standard), red, and indigo; and the number 9 and less commonly 8 or 13.

In honor of these Days of the Cyprians, while I offer my personal novena to the great Saint, I will post a prayer or working each day for this Saint who is so important in so many of our lives. These are not meant to substitute for a novena proper, but I do hope they show the variety and richness of the traditions of the Antiochian Cyprian.

The Days of the Cyprians
First Offering

This prayer is commonly found as a general appeal for those afflicted by malefic magic, and for those tempted by the dark arts themselves. 

 San Cipriano, suplico
que aquellos que estén ligados con hechizos, +
embrujos, +
y poseidos del maligno, +
les desateis, +
les desembrujeis, +
para que el lobo rabioso no tenga dominio sobre ellos. +
 San Cipriano, ruego preservarme de todos los maleficios, +
arterías, perfidias de Lucifer; cuidad la vista y el pensamiento mio, +
sean llenos de confunsión los que atentan contra mi vida, +
que mis enemigos sean confundidos y alejados, +
mantenedme triunfante sobre ellos eternamente. +
 Así Sea.

Saint Cyprian of Antioch, I beseech you + 
that those who are bound by maledictions, + 
sorcery, + 
and possessed of evil, + 
that you unbind them, + 
that you untie them, + 
so that the rabid wolf not have dominion over them. + 
Saint Cyprian, I pray preserve me from all evil intents, + 
arts, + and deeds; + guard my vision and my thoughts; + 
may they be full of confusion those who attempt against my life, + 
may my enemies be confused and driven away, + 
keep me triumphant over them eternally. + 


Offer 9 Our Fathers, and 1 Glory Be.

I found the above prayer in several internet forums and blogs online, as well as on a candle in a botanica here in New York. The first is the commonly found prayer in Spanish/Castellano, the latter a common translation found on the internet. If anyone knows the original source, please let me know. Similar in vein is this prayer to Cyprian, translated from an Italian Spanish prayer card, and strikingly similar to many Spanish prayer cards.

Glorious Martyr,
Saint Cyprian of Antioch,
who by Divine Grace converted to the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ,
you who possessed the highest secrets of Magic,
build now a refuge for me against my enemies and their evil deeds.
For the merit that you obtained before God, Creator of heaven and earth,
cancel out all evil spirits, products of hate,
the spells that hardened hearts have cast or will come to cast
against my person and against my home.
With the permission of the All Powerful God,
answer my prayer and come to my assistance,
through the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Offer 3 Our Fathers, 2 Hail Marys, and 1 Credo.

In the days to come I will post more prayers and workings from different sources. May the good name of Saint Cyprian be spread, may his Grace keep the devout free from toil and strife, and through his intercession may we come to know our purpose and find the power to manifest it.

San Cipriano, ruega por nosotros...