Boing Boing guestblogger Mitch Horowitz is author of Occult America: The Secret History of How Mysticism Shaped Our Nation and editor-in-chief of Tarcher/Penguin publishers.
One of the most interesting aspects of folk religion in America is the enduring figure of Saint Expedite - a youthful, Roman-garbed saint barely tolerated or acknowledged within the upper echelons of the Catholic Church but the subject of loving circles of worship throughout Latin America and many parts of the United States. (I've encountered his statue in a Catholic Church in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.) Simply put, Saint Expedite is the patron of those who need help in a hurry: with jobs, relationships, money, etc. In Brazil, he is the venerated helper of people looking for work; in America, so says Wired magazine, he is the "patron saint of the nerds," i.e., a figure who can help untangle internet connections and the keep communications networks flowing; to church authorities he is merely an icon of "popular religiosity" who never historically existed.
The story of Saint Expedite's existence dates back to logs of martyrs kept in the Roman Empire, where the surname appears. Some speculate that the Saint Expedite cult got started when a box containing the statue of an unnamed Roman sentry got labeled "expedite" for shipping purposes and fell into the hands (and hearts) of a Paris convent. Whatever the case, church authorities step carefully around Saint Expedite, not wanting to alienate his devoted following among many Latin American Catholics; Saint Expedite is also a focus of devotion among practitioners of the African-American magical tradition called hoodoo, among some New Agers, and followers of Santeria.
For the story of Saint Expedite, check out LuckyMojo.com and Wired magazine. I also write about him in Occult America.
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