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As every good Catholic knows, Saint Lazarus is the Patron saint of lepers, the sick, and those with AIDS. On holy cards and chromo prints he is depicted as a thin man on crutches, clothed with rags, with leprous sores on his body. He is accompanied by dogs, who lick his wounds in an attempt to heal him.

It is obvious why a figure as wretched as Lazarus should be petitioned for relief from chronic illness, imobilizing pain, and skin diseases -- but it is also a fact that Lazarus is a favourite saint whose help is sought by those who are poor and in need of money, especially those who hope to receive charitable gifts, government grants, and other forms of philanthopic assistance. This aspect of Lazarus is confusing to many people, for a variety of reasons.

In 2010 i received a question from a person called Mercurious, who wrote:

A few weeks ago I received a dollar bill with words written on the back (the side with the seals) around the border. The words are:

"St. Lazarus....the one who receives this bill will be blessed with a lot of money if they write this on ten bills"

(I know, it kind of sounds like those e-mails "send this to 10 people and you'll have good luck, etc.")

So, upon finding it I thought I should do just that since it seemed similar to some of the hoodoo money spells I have come across. I began doing this to my own money, but unfortunately before I finished all 10, I lost the bills. I was very distressed when that happened, and I blame it on my own lack of awareness.

I had almost forgotten about all this until today when, at work, I was about to hand a customer their change and realized that a dollar bill had words written around the border. I've always kept an eye out for money with words written on them in case I come across some magic money. I kept the bill and gave the customer a different one. I know it isn't one of my bills or the original that I found in the first place because after the spell they wrote "CK", which I think is probably the caster's initials.

I was wondering if you had come across this bit of folk magic, and why do you think St. Lazarus is invoked? I'm guessing because of his resurrection. Should I try doing the spell again? I'm looking for opinions of some professionals.



This is a good spell, in the Catholic tradition. The reason Mercurious did not understand it is because he was thinking of the wrong Lazarus. He was thinking of the brother of Mary and Martha, the man who died and who was resurrected when Jesus brought him back to life, according to the story in The Book of John, Chapter 11.


This spell is based on the story of Lazarus and Dives, told by Jesus to his disciples in the Book of Luke, Chapter 16. This Lazarus was a Jew, not a Christian, but he has been called a saint by the Catholic church. Protestants and Jews just call him Lazarus, without the "saint" title.

Most Catholics do acknowledge that it is a mistake to confuse the Jewish Lazarus the beggar of the parable in Luke's Gospel with the Christian Lazarus of Bethany in John's Gospel. The former is a character in a story that Jesus tells about the vital importance of charity in Jewish culture. The latter is presented as a historical personage, the friend of Jesus.

Luckily, if you see a statue or holy card of Lazarus, you can always know which Lazarus is being called upon for help with money matters because Lazarus the Begger is shown in beggar's rags and he is always accompanied by dogs. Lazarus of Bethany is never depicted with dogs.

Oh, and by the way, the name "Lazarus" is a transliteration from the Greek name Lazaros, which in turn is a shortened form of the once-common Hebrew name Eleazar, which simply means “God (El) has helped."


In the story of Lazarus the beggar, as Luke says Jesus told it, Lazarus was a poor man, covered with skin sores, and he was followed by a couple of dogs, who licked his sores. He sat down in front of the gate of a rich man named Dives and begged for crumbs from his table, but the rich man denied him.

It then came to pass that both Lazarus and Dives died, and Jesus described what happened next: Lazarus was taken aloft by angels and rested in the bosom of Abraham, while Dives was conducted below into a lake of fire, from whence he begged Abraham to send Lazarus to him with a sip of water.

Abraham said this could not be done, so then Dives asked for a warning to be sent to his five rich brothers so that they should practice charity and not be damned as he was, but Abraham said that the five brothers, like all good Jews, had already been given God's laws by Moses and the Prophets, and they were on their own when it came to ethics, because if they were going to be hard-hearted like Dives, even seeing a man rise from the dead to warn them would not change their minds or mend their greedy ways.

The story of Lazarus and Dives has thus come to symbolize the relief of poverty through charity, and the importance of the conversion of wealthy men from self-centered greed to philanthropic goodness. It presents a central tenet of Jewish belief -- that financial charity is virtually commanded by Moses, especially in Deuteronomy 15:7-8, where it is written, "If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother: But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth."

Here are the lyrics to a well known and quite popular Christian gospel song based on this parable of Jesus. The words and melody are by Hazel Cole and Grady Cole, and it was published in 1957. In this song, Lazarus is compared to Jesus, who knocks at the door of our hearts, the way a beggar might. This song has been recorded by Hank Thompson, Hank Williams, Rose Maddox, and (in my favourite version) by Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper:




Only a tramp was Lazarus' sad fate
He who lay down at the rich man's gate
He begged for some crumbs from the rich man to eat
He was only a tramp found dead on the street.

He was some mother's darling, he was some mother's son
Once he was fair and once he was young
Some mother once rocked him, her darling to sleep
But they left him to die like a tramp on the street.

Jesus who died on Calvary's tree
Shed His life's blood for you and for me
They pierced His side, His hands, and His feet
And they left Him to die like a tramp on the street.

He was Mary's own darling, he was God's chosen Son
Once He was fair and once He was young
Mary, she rocked Him, her little darling to sleep
But they left Him to die like a tramp on the street.

If Jesus should come and knock on your door
For a place to come in, or bread from your store
Would you welcome Him? -- Or turn Him away?
Then God would deny you on the great Judgement Day

He was Mary's own darling, he was God's chosen Son
Once He was fair and once He was young
Mary, she rocked Him, her little darling to sleep
But they left Him to die like a tramp on the street.


Why is Lazarus the beggar confused with Lazarus of Bethany, the brother of Mary and Martha? Simple: both stories involve the mention of someone being revived from the dead. In the story of Lazarus the beggar, no one is actually revived, but the deceased spirit of Abraham discusses the issue with the deceased spirit of Dives:

Luke 16:19-31

[19] There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: [20] and there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, [21] and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.

[22] And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; [23] and in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. [24] And he cried and said, "Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame."

[25] But Abraham said, "Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. [26] And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence."

[27] Then he said, "I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house: [28] for I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment."

[29] Abraham saith unto him, "They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them."

[30] And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.

[31] And he said unto him, "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead."

I hope this helps you understand why the spirit of Lazarus the beggar is petitioned for assistance in spells pertaining to financial aid -- and why people who profess to be Christians but do not know their scriptures often confuse the beggar Lazarus of Luke 16 with Lazarus of Bethany, the brother of Mary and Martha, from John 11.


To further distinguish between the two men, i would like to quickly go over the story in the Gospel of John concerning the resurrected Saint Lazarus:

In The Book of John, Chapter 11, the sisters Mary and Martha send a message to Jesus saying that their brother Lazarus, whom Jesus loves, is ill. However, instead of travelling to see Lazarus, Jesus tarries where he is for two more days. By the time he arrives in Bethany, Lazarus has been dead and in his tomb for four days. Mary and Martha are distraught, but Jesus tells them that those who believe in him will never die. He also likens death to sleep, but states that Lazarus has, in fact, died. Then, accompanied by a group of mourners, he goes to the tomb. There, at Jesus' request, the stone that covers the entrance to the tomb is rolled away, and Jesus calls Lazarus to come forth -- which he does, still wrapped in his shroud, but quite alive. This event causes many people to revere Jesus as a man of supernatural powers, which does not sit well with the collaborationist religious authorities in Jerusalem who support and uphold the Roman colonization and oppression of the nation.

In The Book of John, Chapter 12, after some time has passed, Jesus returns to Bethany for a Passover supper which is held in the home of Martha and Mary, and is also attended by Lazarus. At this point, the narrator makes it clear that the authorities have considered killing Lazarus to silence belief in the magical powers of Jesus, but that, instead, they decide to kill Jesus, to put an end to the crowds who have taken to following him in hopes of witnessing further miracles. And so, shortly thereafter, John tells the story of how Jesus is crucified.

To Christians, the story of the resurrection of Lazarus is an evident sign of the divinity of Jesus and perhaps his greatest miracle, and Lazarus has been declared a saint in the Catholic church. Among Jews the resurrection of Lazarus is sometimes presented as an artful feat that was undertaken by Jesus and his cohorts as part of the so-called "Passover Plot" -- a concerted attempt to arouse a violent popular uprising against Israel's colonial Roman oppressors and their complicit Jewish collaborationists. In this view of the story, the failure of their revolutionary political plot is what led to the crucifixion of Jesus and ultimately paved the way for the Christian religion to exist as distinct from Judaism.

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