He could quite possibly be the most effective unofficial saint of urban legend ever to have been discovered. For a variety of reasons, the Roman Catholic Church will not officially recognize St. Expedite; but, at the same time, they won’t discount him either. That’s because he’s just too damned popular. And, according to his devotees, he’s just that damned good.
But that’s okay, New Orleans Voudou has no problem embracing St. Expedite as one of her patron saints. And hoodoos, rootworkers, conjure doctors, spiritualists and sorcerers appreciate his worth, as well. No officialities are needed in these camps. Because when a saint works as well—and more importantly, as quickly—as St. Expedite works, he is more than welcome in the wide world of conjure.
In studying Louisiana religious cultures, St. Expedite rises to the forefront as a significant icon of the syncretic relationship between folk Catholicism and Creole Voudou. His unofficial and questionable origins provide just the right amount of mystique to place him squarely on the shrines of anyone in need of a quick favor. Even in the Italian rural community of Independence, Louisiana, St. Expedito is publicly celebrated with feasting and festivities (Williams, 2011). And, in other parts of the world such as the French Island of Réunion, Argentina, Chile, the Philippines and Haiti, for example, St. Expedite can be found in varying degrees among diverse religiomagical landscapes.
Yet, popular as he may be in the pocket niches where he is found, he has spent most of his post mortem life in obscurity, comparatively speaking. Although he is very popular in New Orleans, the Catholic Church only tolerates him. In fact, some people refuse to speak of him and others downright deny his very existence. For example, he’s not even mentioned on the website for the Our Lady of Guadalupe chapel where his statue is housed. This denial does not diminish his influence among supplicants, though. In fact, it lends itself to his mystical appeal.
The use of wordplay and puns associated with St. Expedite’s name is found in virtually all discussions about him. Referred to by informants in Harry Middleton Hyatt’s Hoodoo-Rootwork-Witchcraft-Conjuration as the Minute Saint, St. Expedite is known by many other names as well, including Expedite, Expedit, Expeditus, Expedito, Spedito, Espidee, and Speedy. Never has there been a saint whose name describes so obviously and perfectly his patronage. Those invoking his intercession seek instant gratification and according to his devotees, that is the saint’s main attraction.
But, who exactly is this saint of rapidity? According to legend, Saint Expeditus was a Roman Centurion in Armenia who decided to convert to Christianity. Before he did so, it is said the Devil appeared to him as either a crow or a snake and told him to put off following through with his decision until the next day (hence, his association with procrastination). Instead, Expeditus stomped on the animal and killed it, proclaiming, "I'll be a Christian today!" Unfortunately, St. Expeditus met with the same fate as many Christian converts preceding him and was one of several other Armenian Christians—Saints Hermogenes, Gaius, Aristonicus, Rufus and Galata—beheaded in Melitene (modern day Malatya, Turkey) on April 19th, during the Diocletian Persecution in 303. As a result, he became known as Sant-Espedito di Melitene, or Saint Expedite of Melitene.
*Excerpt from The Conjurer's Guide to St. Expedite, Copyright 2014 Denise Alvarado, All rights reserved worldwide.