Praying to Saints and Folk Magic: San Michele Arcangelo

San Michele Arcangelo or St. Michael the Archangel is the Chief angel of the Lord, deliverer of the faithful, archangel of the sun, tutilary prince of Israel, angel of repentance, chief and commander of the heavenly hosts, and celestial leader of the army of God. The Archangel Michael is one of the seven, who stand before God's throne. He is also one of the Archangels standing in service to the Madonna as the Queen of All Angels. He is Captian of the Lord's House against forces of darkness.

Both Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christians frequently refer to the Archangel Michael as "Saint Michael," particularly in prayer. The title of "saint" does not indicate "canonization," but is an honorific title meaning "holy."

Devotion to Holy Michael the Archangel can be found among Christians, Jews, Muslims, and many others as well.

In the Catholic tradition, St. Michael acts as

Images of San Michele Arcangelo symbolize protection and the victory of good over evil. He has a large Catholic following, and a large number of churches are dedicated to him worldwide.

He is the patron of Argao, Cebu, Philippines, Basey, Samar, Philippines, Brecht, Belgium, Brussels, Belgium, Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico, Cornwall, England, Dormagen,Germany, Dunakeszi, Hungary, Germany, Iklin, Malta, Iligan, Philippines, London, England, archdiocese of Mobile, Alabama, Naranjito, Puerto Rico, Papua, New Guinea, diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Florida, diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts, Puebla, Mexico, diocese of San Angelo, Texas, San Miguel, Iloilo, Philippines, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, archdiocese of Seattle, Washington, Siegburg Abbey, archdiocese of Sherbrooke, Canada, Sibenik, Croatia, Toronto, Ontario, Zeitz, Germany.

He is likewise the patron of Sicily, Albenga, Italy, Brendola, Italy, Cerveteri, Italy, Castel Madama, Italy, Gravina, Italy, Gaby, Italy, Cuneo, Sicily Caltanissett, Italy, Umbria, Italy, Vallinfreda, Italy, Marcianise, Italy, Sant’Angelo Romano, Italy, Saracinesco, Italy, Salgareda, Italy.

Michael the Archangel is the guardian of Coptic Christianity. He is protector of the Nile, and the tutilary angelic prince of Israel.

Holy Michael the Archangel is an angel of righteousness. He is invoked against spiritual snares and temptations. He is also an angel of protection and has immense power. Traditionally, he is especially invoked against danger while crossing waters; however, Michael can be invoked for anything that threatens or genuinely frightens an individual.

Folk beliefs that are related to the role of San Michele Arcangelo as an angelic psychopomp include his association with holy death (Santa Morte) and that supposedly his face may be seen by those about to die.

Archangels are able to be in many places at one time and serve in many functions. Though Michael is refered to as an Archangel, he is also the "Prince of the Seraphim," which is the first of the nine angelic orders, and is asummed to be to serve as protector and guide to many people. It is St. Michael who rows the boat in the 19th century American spiritual, "Michael Row the Boat Ashore," collected from the South Carolina Sea Islands

Indeed, Holy Michael the Archangel is the protector of all humanity; however, he is associated with with those in occupations assocated dangerous situations, protecting others, or combat occupations.

St. Michael the Archangel's patronage tradtionally includes sailors, boatmen, watermen, mariners, storms at sea, danger at sea, sea sickness, motion sickness, fighter pilots, the Greek Air Force, paratroopers, commandos, warriors, soldiers, knights, chivalry, fencing, swordsmiths, police officers, security guards, security forces, holy death, dying people, sick people, radiologists, radiotherapists, firefighters, ambulance drivers, paramedics, EMTs emergency, and medical technicians. He is also an angel of justice.

An old tradition claimed that St. Michael the Archangel caused a medicinal spring to spout at Chairotopa near Colossae, where all the sick who bathed there, invoking St. Michael and the Blessed Trinity, were cured. There was another healing tradtion attached to the Michaelion, at Sosthenion, south of Constantinople--where the archangel is said to have appeared to the Emperor Constantine. In this church, devotees slept as part of the ancient practice of incubation to wait for a manifestation of St. Michael relating to healing.

Interestingly, this leader of the heavenly host is also traditionally the patron saint of haberdashers, hatmakers, hatters, and milleners--perhaps because he is an angel shown wearing a helmet or other head gear. One would think that would also make him the patron saint of those who make motorcycle helmets. (St.Columbanus of Bobbio, however, is the patron saint of motorcyclists.)

St. Michael the Archangel's feast days are May 8, the feast of the Apparizione di San Michele Arcangelo (Apparition of Saint Michael), and September 29, festa di San Michele Arcangelo e tutti santi arcangeli (which is also known as the Feast of All Angels, or Michaelmas). The festa dell'apparizione di San Michele Arcangelo commemorated appearance in southern Italy in the late 5th century of San Michele Arcangelo on Mounte Gargano near Manfredonia. Folklore has several different versions of the story. Apparently, this cave had been the site of pre-Christian worship.

According to one story, Elvio Emanuele, a wealthy gentleman of Gargano, had a large herd of cattle pasturing on the mountain. The best bull of his herd went missing and its tracks led to an inaccessible cave. Elvio Emanuele, possibly accompanied by some cowherds, spied the bull--according to some accounts kneeling--in the cave entrance. Apparently Elvio Emanuele was angry at the impossibility of recovering the bull and decided to kill the animal. An arrow was shot into the cavern. To Elvio Emanuele's surprise, the arrow flew back out, injuring the archer. Elvio Emanuele went to the holy bishop of Siponto with the story about the bull. (Some versions claim this was Bishop Felix; others state it was Bishop Lorenzo.) The archangel is said to have appeared in armor with this message, "Io sono l'Arcangelo Michele, e sono sempre al cospetto di Dio." (I am the archangel Michael; I am always in the presence of God).

San Michele also explained that cavern where the bull had taken refuge was under his protection. He forbid the blood shed from animals upon this holy site, promising that if the rock was opened, man's sins could be forgiven, and also that what was requested in prayer would be granted. The Arcangelo Michele stated a church should be built as part of the grotto for Christian devotion. "La grotta è a me sacra ed io l' ho scelta. Non ci sarà più spargimento di sangue di animali. Dove si apre la roccia il peccato dell'uomo potrebbe essere perdonato. Ciò che è stato richiesto in preghiera sarà concesso. Perciò risalite la montagna e consacrate la grotta al culto cristiano." Eventually the Sanctuary of Monte Sant'Angelo was built.

San Michele Arcangelo in this Sanctuary of Monte Sant'Angelo in Puglia is honored as protector in battles. It was to the intercession of San Michele Arcangelo that the Lombards of Sipontum (central Italy) attributed their victory over the Greek Neapolitans on May 8, 663. This feast originally honored their patron for the victory, as well the "Apparitio S. Michaelis."

Traditionally, there have been four apparitions of the archangel linked to this shrine. The fourth took place in the 17th century and related to another healing tradition.

In 1656, southern Italy was struck by an epidemic. Archbishop Alfonso Puccinelli decided to turn to San Michele Arcangelo with prayers and fasting, as there seemed no other solution to combat this plague. San Michele appeared to the archbishop on September 22 and instructed him to bless certain stones of La Grotta di Arcangelo. According to the archangel, anyone who touched the stones from the grotto of Monte Sant'Angelo in devotion would be protected from the epidemic. Indeed, the area was spared. "Relics" of San Michele Arcangelo on either medals or holy cards are likely pieces of cloth that have touched the stones of La Grotta di Arcangelo.

Other feasts of St. Michael in the Eastern Church were: June 9, in the Michaelion, at Sosthenion, south of Constantinople; June18, in the Church of St. Julian at the Forum; October 27, in the "Promotu" church; and December 10, at Athaea.

San Michele Arcangelo is usually represented as a winged angel, usually wearing a helmat and armour, holding either a sword, shield, scales, or banner. The sword, shield, and banner, of course, denote him as the commander and leader of the hosts of heaven, and as a protector and warrior. The scales relate to his role as an angel of justice as well as the one who weighs the souls at the Last Judgment. He is often depicted fighting or slaying a great serpent or dragon beneath him, which represents victory over evil. Sometimes the dragon is replaced by a demon or evil spirit.

The Catholic Church does not recognize it, but San Michele Arcangelo is likewise considered to be the patron of psychic counselors, practitoners of Benedicaria, and practitoners of stregoneria. San Michele is invoked by some against the effects of the malocchio, and other forms of negativity. Apparently some practioners may set a knife consecrated to the archangel on their altars for certain devotions relating to protection.

Vito Quattrocchi, a practioner of Benedicaria, has also written books about Sicilian stiletto fighting discussing his own family tradition of this martial art. The Quattricchi family style is also referred to as the "San Michele" style, after their patron, St. Michael the Archangel.

An old prayer to San Michele Arcangelo petitions protection:

San Michele to the right of me;
San Michele to the left of me;
San Michele above me;
San Michele below me;
San Michele within me;
San Michele all around me
San Michele with your flaming sword
of cobalt blue, please protect me. Amen.
At the end of the prayer, a devotee may request protection on behalf of another--friend, relative, etc.

Frequently the protection of San Michele Arcangelo is invoked with other angelic powers, especially San Gabriele and San Raffaele.

Arcangelo Glorioso, San Michele Arcangelo, principe della milizia celeste, difendici nella battaglia contro le potenze sataniche, noi che fummo creati da Dio e riscattati con il Sangue di Gesù Cristo.Prega il Dio della pace, affinché non prevalga satana a farci schiavi, né a recare danni alla Chiesa e ricacciato negli abissi, non possa sedurre più le anime. San Michele Arcangelo sostienici contro la perfidia del diavolo. San Gabriele fortificaci nel cammino della vita. San Raffaele guariscici da ogni male. Santi tutti e, particolarmente, gli Angeli nostri custodi, pregate per noi. Amen.
This short Italian prayer to San Michele Arcangelo is a request for protection against malign influences, diabolic powers, and the malocchio.
San Michele Arcangelo, difendici nella battaglia; contro le malvagità e le insidie del diavolo sii nostro aiuto. Tu che sei la salvezza di coloro che a Te si rivolgono, Ti chiediamo e Ti invochiamo, vanifica, scaccia e metti in fuga ogni potenza diabolica, ogni presenza e macchinazione satanica e ogni influenza maligna e ogni maleficio o malocchio di persone malefiche e malvagie operanti sul tuo servo. Amen.
The following Latin phrase can be carried as a blessing:
Sancte Michael, defende nos in proelio (St. Michael, defend us in battle.)

It is from an old Latin prayer:

Sancte Michael, defende nos in proelio ut non pereamus in tremendo iudicio.
San Michele Arcangelo cannot be bribed with gifts for answers to petitions, but he can be honored with certain offerings--especially in recognition of his benificent patronage. In Sicily, there is a tradtion of offering San Michele sweet liqueurs. As with angelic spirits, frankincense, angelica, or myrrh are suitable offerings during prayers and other devotions. Likewise the following plants have become associated with St. Michael the Archangel: Garlic (Allium sativum) Garden Angelica herb (Angelica archangelica) and the Michaelmas Daisy (Aster).

There is a tradition in Benedicaria that garlic is a protective charm associated with San Michele Arcangelo. The following blessing can be said over a clove of garlic, and should problably be commpanied with other prayers to San Michele.

Miraculous Garlic grown on Mount Calvary where Jesus died to give eternal light and free us from all evil. Free me from prisons and malign spirits, when my enemies seek to kill or hurt me, may their eyes not see me, may their feet not overtake me, may their hands not hold me, may their blades miss me, and may no evil pursue me. Miraculous Garlic of goodness, take away envious glances, keep away my enemies, and help me at work or in my business. Shield me with the care of those who surround me. So be it, and may it always be. Amen.
Another charm which calls upon the protective powers of St. Michael involves angelica root. On a slip of paper the petioner writes either in English, "I am the archangel Michael; I am always in the presence of God," or in Italian, "Io sono l'Arcangelo Michele, e sono sempre al cospetto di Dio," or both. The petitioner ties angelica root, the slip of paper, and a small sword replica, into either a white, gold, or blue pouch. The small sword represents the protective sword of St. Michael. The devotee may also purchase a St. Michael medal if he or she does not already wear one. While reciting appropriate prayers, the devotee annoints the pouch with frankincense and myrrh oils. This charm may be carried by the devotee.

There is a forty day devotion to San Michele Arcangelo involving prayer and fasting, allegedily performed by St. Frances of Assisi, from the feast of the Assumption (August 15) to Saint Michael's feast day (September 29).

copyright 2010 Myth Woodling

Useful Prayers: Prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel
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