By guest contributor Judika Illes*
Where do you go if your legal papers are taking forever to process? What if your international flight is already booked but now your passport renewal is delayed? Where do you turn? For many, that’s a no-brainer – turn to Saint Expedite. Saints are frequently specialists – invoke Saint Lucy for eye ailments, for instance, or Saint Barbara for protection from natural disasters. Saint Expedite’s specialty is cutting through red tape and ending delays. As his name indicates, this saint expedites.
Officially, Saint Expedite is the patron of merchants, sailors, and navigators. Unofficially, he has emerged as the favored saint of computer programmers and hackers. He’s a great role model for procrastinators – ask “What would Saint Expedite do?” and inevitably the response is ‘act now!’ Saint Expedite is also the favored saint of many magical practitioners who seek his aid in obtaining fast cash. Various African Diaspora traditions use his image to represent their own sacred beings, for example, Vodou cemetery spirits Baron Samedi and Baron LaCroix.
Perhaps because of these complexities, some insist that he is not a ‘real saint’ or that he emerged only recently. A popular legend recounts how a convent, either in Paris or New Orleans, received boxes of votive images in the 19th century. Some of the saint statues were immediately identifiable, but when the nuns were unable to recognize one handsome saint, they searched the packing material for further information. When they saw the word ‘Expedite’ stamped on the box, the nuns assumed this was the name of the saint, thus ‘inventing’ him. Not only does this story insult nuns, it’s untrue. In fact, Saint Expedite is a very early Christian martyr – a Roman soldier of Armenian descent executed in 303 during Diocletian’s persecutions. He appears in this context in the Martyrology of Jerome (Martyrologium Hieronymianum), the oldest surviving list and calendar of Christian martyrs.
‘Expedite’ was not initially a name but instead refers to the saint’s occupation as a type of foot soldier who carried little or no baggage and so was able to travel expeditiously. Saint Expedite’s votive imagery depicts him as a handsome, young Roman soldier holding the palm branch indicating martyrdom in his left hand. In his right, he holds aloft a cross with the Latin word ‘Hodie’ on its crossbeam. With his foot, he stamps on a crow, which holds in its beak a ribbon emblazoned with the word ‘cras.’ The image sometimes horrifies crow lovers, but it’s not an inducement to harm birds. Rather, it’s a Latin pun – simultaneously mimicking the sound of a crow, cras means ‘tomorrow’, while hodie means ‘today.’ Expedite stamps out tomorrow in favor of today.
The official explanation for this image is that it is the saint’s urgent reminder to be baptized today, not tomorrow, then it may be too late, but it’s easy to see why he would become associated with fast action, in general. Other reasons may also be at play. Legend suggests that beneath the mask of the saint lies the Roman deity Mercury, who lends his name to the swiftest planet. A patron of merchants, Mercury is also a psychopomp, among those spirits
who escorts souls to afterlife realms, which may explain Expedite’s associations with spirits of death.
Saint Expedite’s feast is celebrated on April 19, a day to honor him, but also to request his favors. While most saints are honored with candles or incense, Saint Expedite has idiosyncrasies. Many swear that he will not respond to a petition unless first given crimson flowers, although this has not been my own experience. In addition to candles—traditionally either red or green–Saint Expedite is given loaf cakes. The type of cake depends upon location—in England, he is traditionally given a madeira cake, while in the US, pound cake is the offering of choice.
Saint Expedite is a gregarious saint. Rather than just leaving offerings on an altar or before an image, sit down with him and share a drink and a slice of cake. Toast his prowess, especially if he has helped you. Give Saint Expedite a slice of pound cake when requesting his help and promise to give him a whole loaf if your prayers are answered. But remember: Expedite does not like to wait. If you’ve promised him something— a candle, flowers—deliver it fast. If seeking his help with an emergency – speeding up an organ transplant, for instance— burn nine green candles for nine days in front of his image, accompanied by prayers and petitions. If burning small votives, eighty-one candles are required. Alternatively, nine nine-day candles (large jar candles, designed to burn for nine days, and available from spiritual supply stores), may be burned instead.
*Judika Illes is the author of numerous books including Encyclopedia of 5000
Spells, Encyclopedia of Mystics, Saints, and Sages and the forthcoming 365 Magical Days: A
Perpetual Calendar of Spells, Rituals, and Feasts. Follow her on Twitter. Featured image by Andrew Chesnut and all other photos by Judika.