Praying to Saints and Folk Magic: San Giuseppe

San Giuseppe or St. Joseph was the earthly spouse of the Madonna and foster and adoptive father of Jesus Christ. He is also known as St. Joseph of the House of David, Spouse of the Mother of God, St. Joseph the Worker, and St. Joseph the Workman. According to the bible, St. Joseph was a craftsman and carpenter.

His feast day is March 19. He is also honored on May 1 as St. Joseph the Worker.

He is the patron saint of carpenters, craftsmen, cabinetmakers, civil enginers, laborers, those seeking emploment, workers, working people, the working poor, poor people, married people, husbands of expectant mothers, families, orphans, adoptive parents, foster parents, social justice, fathers, house/home hunters, real estate sales, travellers, immigrants, dying departing souls, holy death, happy death, confectioners, Sicily, Radazzo, Sicily, Spadafora, Sicily, Florence, Italy, Orvieto, Italy, Turin, Italy, Santa Marinella, Italy, Querceta, Italy, Ladispoli, Italy, La Spezia, Italy, Castelplanio, Ancona, Italy, Fonte Nuova, Italy, and several other countries and regions. In 1870, Pope Pius IX declaired him protector of the Catholic Church. He is invoked against hesitation and doubt. Those who fall under his patronage should also donate to the poor.

Catholic tradition stated that St. Joseph (San Giuseppe) died a peaceful death of natural causes content in the arms of Mary (Maria) and Jesus (Gesu) some years prior to the Crucifixion. Due the tradition about the peaceful nature of his death, he is viewed as the patron of departing souls, and is therefore invoked for a happy death or holy death.

"Go to St. Joseph," is the advice and counsel given to every Catholic who needs a favor or benefit and venerated the sanctity of the Holy Family--Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. This message was certainly important to Italian Catholics who understood the power of famiglia. (Ite ad Joseph.)

San Giuseppe is a favorite saint in Italian folk magic.

One may petition the foster-father of Jesus anytime, but one tradition of Benebicaria claims his special day is Sunday. Novenas for him can be begun on Sunday. Yellow candles can be offered to him on Sunday for help. In other traditions, other colors are associated with him as well. His chaplet is traditionally composed of white and purple beads. White symbolizes his purity and purple symbolizes his piety. He is sometimes depicted in white and/or purple. However, he is also humbly clad in green and brown.

Typical petitions to San Giuseppe include overcoming financial difficulties, curing an illness, assisting a loved one through a dangerous situation, giving birth to a healthy child, finding and keeping employment, finding a home, or selling a house.

Finding and Keeping Employment

As the patron saint of working people, San Giuseppe is often invoked for assistance in getting a job. In particular, he is said to have a soft spot for parents working to support a family. He is commonly depicted holding his emblem, the lily, which denotes purity, but he also is sometimes depicted with a loaf of bread and a pitcher, indicating that as one who provided necessities for his family, he would be interested in assisting others providing victuals for their family as well.

An Italian folk spell invokes San Giuseppe's aid in finding employment. The petitioner should burn a white novena candle, annointed with holy oil in front of the saint's image. Then, the petitioner should put three pinches of powdered cinnamon from the spice rack on lit charcoal in an incense burner. He or she should then recite some appropriate prayers to the saint (see below), along with his novena. Also as the petitioner states his/her request, he/she should specifically state the sort or type of job her he/she wants, including salary, benefits, etc. The petitioner should repeat this devotion for nine days.

San Giuseppe can also be invoked to help keep a job.

The petitioner should again burn a white candle, annointed with holy oil, with her or his name etched into candle along with the name of the present place of employment. This candle will be burned while petitioning the saint for help in keeping that job.

Help in Selling That House

As he is a carpenter and a house builder, he is also invoked to help sell a house.

A centuries-old tradition claims that burying an image of the saint in the yard will help sell a house. There are seveal variations on how this ceremony is supposed to be performed.

Frequently, the hopeful sellers recite a heartfelt prayer to the saint and then bury a small statue of St. Joseph gently wrapped in a bag laying down in a flower bed. There is disagreement about which direction the feet or head face. (Condo owners often bury the image of St. Joseph in a flowerpot.) Joseph's staff is often topped with flowers in icongraphy, so I heard the image should be put in the flower bed in the late 1980's.

Alternatively, some folks state that the statue ought to be buried by the "For Sale" sign with feet facing the street. Some folks set the statue in a cuboard in the house's basement or bottom floor. Folks disagree as to whether or not the seller is supposed to take the statue with them or leave it buried in the yard.

Of course when selling any house, those selling must keep the building and property neat and clean, make any necessary repairs, and be honorable in their business dealings. St. Joseph is also known as the "just and upright man."

Once the house is sold, the sellers are supposed to honor and thank St. Joseph, such as recite a "Prayer in Thanksgiving to St. Joseph for a Favour Received" (see below). Many people dig up the image to take with them and install on the family altar. Others state they leave the statue there to bless the land for the new owners, but they often display another image of St. Joseph in their new home.

In the 2000's, there are a number of St. Joseph Home Selling Kits in a range of prices on the market which generally include a traditional prayer of St. Joseph, instructions, and a small statue of the poweful saint. There is now a ECOJOE Home Selling Kit, which is designed to be left in the ground after the sale to bless the land for the new owners. ECOJOE is a green alternative to the current plastic St. Joseph products on the market. As plastic breaks down, it releases toxins into the yard and local eco-system. ECOJOE™ is made with material that is bio-degradable.

According to, this practice in the USA for selling houses can be traced to approximately to the 1980's. It became quite popular in the 1990's. Interestingly, this practice has spread in use not only among sundry ethnic sub groups Catholicism (Italian, Irish, Polish, etc), but also to non-Catholics.

The origins of the modern practice are frequently explained that an order of nuns somewhere Europe during the Middle Ages, buried a St. Joseph medal with prayers that the saint to help them acquire land for their convent. Frequently, St. Teresa de Avila is reported as the one having instructed her Carmelite order to pray to San Jose (St. Joseph) for assistance. Devotion to St. Joseph was flourishing in Spain during the 16th century. St. Teresa de Avila did dedicate the mother house of her order to the good saint. Indeed, 12 of the 17 new monasteries which she founded were adorned with the statue and dedicated to her patron saint, San Jose (St. Joseph/San Guiseppe).

Nevertheless, the practice of burying the statue is very common in Italy. One Italian-American told me that it was not uncommon to tip over a statue of San Giuseppe in order to sell almost anything important.

According to Charles Leland (19th century), there was a medieval tradition in which the statues of saints were taken down to the drying river bed during a drought and stuck in the mud to show them just how dire the situation with the situation was. Perhaps this event may be the root of the practice of burying a statue.

Though he is popular for selling a house, St. Joseph is also invoked to find a suitable dwelling to call home (including temporary housing, apartment rentals, sublets, or purchasing a house). A common form of thanksgiving, if you have recieved the saint's help in getting some place to call home, is to leave an old key at a public shrine, often with reciting the Prayer to St. Joseph in Thanksgiving for a Favour Received.

St. Joseph's Day Altars

There is another Italian-American tradition which involves setting up a St. Joseph altar on his feast day March 19 (Festa di San Giuseppe).

The tradition of building an altar to St. Joseph on goes as far back as the Middle Ages in Sicily, in gratitude to the saint for answering prayers for deliverance from famine. The altars involve a labor of love by Sicilians who create them to give thanks for good fortune, fulfill a promise or just to share with those who are less fortunate. Sicilian immigrants brought the tradtion of St. Joseph's Day altars to New Orleans, Lousiana, USA, among other places in the USA.

According to legend, there was a severe drought in Sicily, and the people prayed for their patron saint to bring them rain. They promised that if San Giuseppe answered their prayers, they would prepare a large feast to honor him. When the rains came, the people of Sicily prepared a large banquet for their patron saint. The fava bean was the crop which saved the population from starvation. Today, dried fava beans can be kept as a charm to ward off poverty and hunger.

A St. Joseph's Day altar usually has three tiers, representing the Trinity, and is covered with a lace table cloth. A typical altar for the feast is decorated with fava beans, a statue of San Giuseppe, a representation of the Holy Family, possibly any other statues of saints that the family wishes to honor, candles, limes and other fruits, figs, wine, St. Joseph's Day bread (Pane di San Giuseppe), other specially prepared breads, sheet cakes with "San Giuseppe" written on them, pignolatte cookies or other cookies, zeppole di San Giuseppe., mounds of pasta (often with red tomato sauce), pizza, sundry meatless dishes, rice pudding, candies, and flowers. Various dishes will be sprinkled with bread crumbs. Pane di San Giuseppe is a challah-like bread, sometimes made with aniseed and raisins. It's shaped into all kinds of forms, including crosses, chalices to braids and rosettes. As San Giuseppe is a carpender, the crumbs symbolize evidence of his hard labors--sawdust. Supposedly, there ought to be a minimum of 13 dishes. Some claim there should be 19 dishes. The number of the tiers to the altar, three, and the number of dishes, 19, relate to one tradition that claim his favored numbers are three and 19.

The altar is blessed by a priest on March 18. Over the doorway a fresh green branch is placed to indicate that the public is invited to participate and to share the food.

People are invited to partake of the treats on the altar after the "Tupa Tupa" ceremony when a trio of children dressed as the Holy Family enter to recieve hospitality and partake of the foods.

There are other traditions, including that one can break off a piece of St. Joseph's Day pastry and toss it out the door to prevent storms during threatening weather.

Leftovers are traditionally donated to the poor. Collecting and giving food to the needy or to food banks is a St. Joseph's Day custom, which likewise relates to St. Joseph's patronage of the poor.

Because March 19 always falls during Lent, a tradition developed that St. Joseph's Day feasts are meatless. However, because the feast day of St. Joseph is classed as a solemnity, the abstinence from meat is not required according to Canon law--even if the feast falls on a Friday. Nevertheless, the meatless custom persists. Cooked fish dishes (sardines, baked and fried codfish, salmon balls, etc) are often part of the meal.

In some USA communities, it is traditional to wear red clothing on Festa di San Giuseppe. Others claim one should wear white or purple in honor of the saint.

Chaplet of St. Joseph

St. Joseph is one of the saints with his own prayer beads or "chaplet" which may be used in petitions to him.

Traditionally, the Chaplet of Saint Joseph consists of 15 groups of 4 beads, one large, white, and 3 small, purple, which is a total of 60 beads. The white bead symbolizes St. Joseph's purity, and the purple beads his saintly piety. The beads are designed to keep count of the prayers. However, the beads are not required to perform the devotion.

There was some conflicting and incomplete information about which prayers are said on which beads. Below is what I pieced together after reading through a number of sources as instuctions for the chaplet if used in devotions by a single petitioner.

Chaplet of St. Joseph: Family Protection

One example of a devotion using the Chaplet of Saint Joseph focuses on family protection.

While holding the St. Joseph medal, the petitioner makes the Sign of the Cross and recites:

Pray for us, O holy Saint Joseph, that we may be worthy of the promises of Christ!
On each of the large white beads, the petitioner recites:
St. Joseph, guardian of the Holy Family, bless our family.
On each of the small purple beads, the petitioner recites:
St. Joseph pray for us.
The petitioner concludes with this prayer:
O God, Who has predestined Saint Joseph from all eternity for the service of your eternal Son and His Blessed Mother, and made him worthy to be the spouse of this Blessed Virgin and the foster father of your Son: We beseech you, through all the services he has rendered to Jesus and Mary on earth, that You would make us worthy of his intercession and grant us to enjoy the happiness of his company in heaven. Through Jesus Christ our Lord we pray. Amen.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I give my heart and my soul.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, assist me now and in my final hour.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, may I breathe forth my soul in peace with You. Amen.

Chaplet of Saint Joseph: The Mysteries

The Chaplet of Saint Joseph can also be used in devotion to contemplate the 15 Mysteries:

While holding the St. Joseph medal, the petitioner makes the Sign of the Cross and recites:
St. Joseph, Foster-father of the Word Incarnate intercede for me that I might understand these Mysteries.
On each large white bead, the petitioner recites 2 Hail Marys. On each white bead, he/she considers one of the 15 Mysteries.

On each of the smaller, purple beads, the petitioner recites the following:

Praised and blessed be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.
To close, the petitioner recites:
Pray for us, O Holy St. Joseph, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

O God, who has predestined St. Joseph from all eternity for the service of Thine eternal son and His Blessed Mother, and made him worthy to be the spouse of this blessed Virgin, and the foster father of Thy Son: We beseech Thee, through all the services he has rendered to Jesus and Mary on earth, that Thou wouldst make us worthy of his intercession, and grant us to enjoy the happiness of his company in heaven. Through Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

Chaplet of Saint Joseph: Other Petitions

Several other prayers were mentioned in connection with the Chaplet of Saint Joseph and this example of praying to obtain the virtues of St. Joseph, included My Sovereign Lady, Anima Christi, Prayer for the Help of the Holy Ghost, Our Father, etc. To be honest, I didn't quite understand the directions of which of these prayers were prayed on what beads as explained in this example. It was apparently a devotion intended for a group of people as it also seemed to involve a call and response at one point.

Yet another form of devotion involves the Chaplet of Saint Joseph petitioning the saint.

While holding the St. Joseph medal, the petitioner makes the Sign of the Cross and recites:

O Saint Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires O Saint Joseph, assist me by your powerful intercession and obtain for me from your Divine Son all spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ, Our Lord; so that having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of Fathers. O Saint Joseph, I never weary contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms; I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His fine head for me, and ask Him to return the Kiss when I draw my dying breath. Amen.
This prayer is usually known as the Novena to Saint Joseph and may imply this particular chaplet devotion is supposed to last nine days.

One item that is traditional to petition St. Joseph for is to obtain virtue. If a petitioner wanted to pray to obtain the virtues of which St. Joseph himself was a perfect model, he/she could make this petition using the saint's caplet.

Each set of beads could the be dedicated to a different virtue which the petitioner is requesting St. Joseph to obtain for him/her.

The virtues of St. Joseph include: joy, peace, patience, charity, prudence, temperance, justice, fortitude, longanimity, fidelity, gentleness, benignity, modesty, continency, and chastity.

At the beginning of each section, the petitioner could recite the "Prayer to St. Joseph for a Heavenly Crown," adding "I humbly pray for the virtue of ____"

On each of the smaller, purple beads, the petitioner would still recite the following:

Praised and blessed be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!
After the last set of prayers, the chaplet could be concluded with the Prayer of St. Joseph prescribed by Pope Leo XIII.
To you, O blessed Joseph, we have recourse in our affliction, and having implored the help of your thrice holy Spouse, We now, with hearts filled with confidence, Earnestly beg you also to take us under your protection. By that charity, by which you were united to the Immaculate Virgin, Mother of God, and by that fatherly love, with which you did cherish the Child Jesus, We beseech you and we humbly pray that you will look down with gracious eyes upon That inheritance which Jesus Christ purchased by His Blood, And will aid us in our need by your power and strength. Defend O most watchful guardian of the Holy family, The chosen offspring of Jesus Christ. Keep from us, O most loving Father, all blight of error and corruption. Aid us from on high, most valiant defender, In this conflict with the powers of darkness, and even as of old, You did rescue the Child Jesus from the peril of His life, So now defend God's Holy Church from the snares of the enemy and from all adversity. Shield us ever under your patronage, that, following your example and strengthened by your help, we may live a holy life, die a happy death, and attain everlasting bliss in Heaven. Amen.
To close, the petitioner recites:
St. Joseph hear our prayers and obtain our petitions.
St. Joseph of the House of David, pray for us.
St. Joseph of the House of David, pray for us.
St. Joseph of the House of David, pray for us.
(If anyone has other information about the Chaplet of Saint Joseph, please contact me, Myth Woodling, as I wish to be as accurate as possible. I did get the general impression that it was acceptable to add in other prayers to St.Joseph while praying with this saint's chaplet.)

I assume that it would be acceptable to use the the Chaplet of Saint Joseph to petition the saint to seek protection for one's home in rough economic times.

copyright 2009 Myth Woodling

Devotee of St. Joseph
Useful Prayers: Prayer to St. Joseph
Useful Prayers: Another Prayer to St. Joseph
Useful Prayers: Prayer to St. Joseph, Patron of Workers
Useful Prayers: Prayer to St. Joseph the Workman
Useful Prayers: Prayer to St. Joseph for Protection
Useful Prayers: Prayer to St. Joseph for a Happy Death
Useful Prayers: Another Prayer to St. Joseph for a Happy Death
Useful Prayers: Old Prayer to St. Joseph for a Happy Death
Useful Prayers: Prayer for St. Joseph and the Holy Death
Useful Prayers: Pious Union of St. Joseph Prayer
Useful Prayers: Prayer to St. Joseph for a Heavenly Crown
Useful Prayers: Novena to St. Joseph
Useful Prayers: Unfailing Novena to St. Joseph
Useful Prayers: Prayer to St. Joseph in a Difficult Problem
Useful Prayers: Prayer to St. Joseph for Hopeless Cases
Useful Prayers: Prayer to St. Joseph in Thanksgiving for a Favour Received
Useful Prayers: My Sovereign Lady
Useful Prayers: Anima Christi
Useful Prayers: Prayer for the Help of the Holy Ghost
Seeking Employment
St. Joseph images

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