Sicilian Cunningcraft: Saint Magick
Sicily is a super tiny island that has been wrought by wars, famine, plague, subjugation and revolution since tribes first set foot on her unique landscape. Wars and other atrocities were fought for centuries over her ports, people and resources. Therefore, making her cultural influences enormous. Simply by geography alone, Sicily boasts many enriching inspirations. There are perhaps more Greek ruins in Sicily than there are in Greece and it’s also only about 60 miles off the coast of North Africa with ferries leaving several times a day from the City of Palermo.
So, as you can imagine, the magickal practices of the land are just like her people, deliciously diverse.
The practice of Sicilian Folk Magick, however, does share some similarities to another distinct folk magick system, that of American Hoodoo. As countless new regimes took hold of this small island and its inhabitants, the religion du jour would be introduced to the people, whether that be by integration or implementation or inquisition. The “old” ways would be hidden and folded into the new and the former Gods are reborn and given new life.
As is seen in the story of Saint Rosalina, the Patron Saint of Palermo. Her “origin story” involves saving the City of Palermo from plague. Therefore, becoming known as a fierce protectress. She was attributed with defending the people from earthquakes and storms and was appealed to in prayers (spells) for a safe and successful harvest. Santa Rosalia's sacred site was once the sacred site dedicated to Tanit, also called Tinnit, Tannou or Tangou. Tanit was a Berber Punic and Phoenician goddess. She was equivalent to the moon-goddess Astarte, and later worshipped in Roman Carthage in her Romanized form as Dea Caelestis or Juno Caelestis. The similarities of Santa Rosalia's traditional role as a protectress from bad weather and a custodian of the harvest, it is customary in modern-day Tunisian Arabic to invoke "Omek Tannou" or "Oumouk Tangou" ("Mother Tannou" or "Mother Tangou", depending on the region) to bring much-needed rain during long periods of drought. As Evidence of centuries of Arabic rule.
Byzantines, Vandals, Goths, Arabs, Normans, pirates, Germans, Austrians, French, Spanish, the Kingdom of Naples, are but just a few of the extremely long list of successors-in-interests that came AFTER the Roman Empire. As the methods in magick and details will vary from Town to Town and even Family to Family, these enchanted ways are passed on through lineage, oral tradition and, in some cases, secret.
There is one familiar theme, the Sicilian technique of working with a “Patron Saint” sounds a lot like having or working with a patron goddess/god and working with a “collection” or “court” of Saints seems also wildly similar to working with a Pantheon. And that’s because it is! Working with the Saints or ‘Saint Magick’ is a beautiful practice and one that is easy and adaptable. If you find yourself wanting to connect more with your Sicilian heritage or if Sicilian Folk Magick is your jam, beginning a relationship with your/a Patron Saint could not be easier in this day and age of technology.
Often the first choice for a Patron Saint is that of one’s Town or Village. Every town and village has a Patron Saint. In my mother’s case, this would be Santa Lucia. My mother was born in Siracusa, Sicily. Santa Lucia is the Patron Saint of this City and many of the women in my family are named Lucia, after their patron.
St. Lucy, Italian Santa Lucia, (died 304, Syracuse, Sicily; feast day December 13), virgin and martyr, who is associated with light, (lucid) she is therefore the patron saint of sight. St. Lucy is venerated on her feast day, December 13, by a variety of ceremonies. In some traditions, St. Lucia’s Day marks the beginning of the Christmas celebration. On that day the eldest daughter of the family traditionally dresses in a white robe and wears as a crown an evergreen wreath studded with candles. The festival is meant to bring hope and light during the darkest time of the year.
Saint Lucia may be called upon to aid in shining light on difficult or cloudy subjects, to aid in seeing a situation clearly or to bring lucidity to a situation and also for help in bringing healing to the eyes. Saint Lucia is the most beloved saint in folk magic and is among the saints closely associated with witchcraft and magick spells. It's believed that different female spirits operate under her name, such as Lucina, Freya, Juno and Hulda. She is the patron saint of the blind and people with eye problems. She averts the evil eye; bestows clairvoyance and she's often petitioned for physical healing. Petition her to help see the way in a certain situation, to see things clearly, to see the truth. As the traditions associated with her feast day attest, she may also be called upon to bring comfort during the darkest days of winter, both literal and metaphorical. There’s a special type of pastry, the St. Lucia Bun, which is also made in her honor and on her feast day, children leave out coffee or chocolate for Lucia, as well as bread and grain for her donkey. I myself have a small altar and statute for Santa Lucia as she is my Patron Saint.
Some other ways to choose a Patron Saint is to ask – was I named after a Saint? - what is the Patron Saint of your occupation? - or current struggle? - or country of birth? Every Country has a Patron Saint. A Saint may be trying to work with you as well. Perhaps, you’ve seen an apparition or had a dream. Maybe you found a statue or a rosary. A gift may herald a Patron Saint announcement. A Saint may even show up someplace super unexpected.
The information highway will provide a plethora of information regarding the Saint’s history, images, prayers (again… spells), life, death, magick, etc. Begin to build a relationship as you would with any other spiritual ally. The topic of offerings will inevitably come up when discussing working with a Patron Saint or Saint Magick and to that I say this: If it is special to YOU then it is an acceptable offering.
The practice of Sicilian Cunningcraft is as diverse as the island itself. Don’t get caught up in the “Christianity” of it all. Sicilian Folk Magick could not be farther from that dogma, don’t worry. I hope that I shed some light on the beautiful, magickal and ancient tradition of Sicilian Saint Magick.