By Frater S.C.F.V.
A. Introduction: “The Queen of the Eastern Townships”
Following up on the esoteric adventures in Bourcherville that were recounted in the preceding article, my travels next took me to the historic city of Sherbrooke. Located in the Estrie Region of Québec, Canada, Sherbrooke has long been dubbed “The Queen of the Eastern Townships.” Of course, the city of Sherbrooke, like all of the cities in the province, was founded on Indigenous land. First Nation Peoples first settled the region between 3,000 to 8,000 years ago and subsequently referred to it by different names; the Abenaki People called it Ktinékétolékouac (The Large Forks) or Shacewanteku (where one smokes) (Commission de Toponymie, 2022). The first colonial settler in the area was a French farmer named Jean-Baptiste Nolain, who came to the area in 1779.
Situated at the confluence of the Saint-François and Magog rivers, a fur-trading center developed in the area which developed into a full-blown settler colony by 1802 when American pioneers from Vermont built several mills. To quote the Canadian Encyclopedia, “the village took the name of Governor General John Coape Sherbrooke in 1818. The city owes its initial urban growth to industrialization, which occurred in waves from the 1840s. It became a textile centre with the establishment of Canada’s first cotton manufacturing plant in 1844 and a large wool plant in 1867. The town’s success in the 19th century is due as much to its dynamic anglophone businessmen, who established a regional bank and promoted railways and new industries, as to its francophone population, which supplied much of the industrial manpower. The development of agriculture and mining in the region also enhanced Sherbrooke’s role as a wholesale trade and services centre. Since the 1950s, the city has had difficulty attracting new industry and has experienced a decline in its textile and clothing industries. The founding of Université de Sherbrooke in 1954 and the decentralization of the province’s administration have helped restore much of the city’s dynamism.”
I came to the city to explore its rich history, culture, attractions, and sandy beach, but was equally interested in its spiritual riches. I expected Sherbrooke to be a city so steeped in Christian tradition that the chances of finding an occult shop there would be slim; indeed the 2011 Census found that 79% of Sherbrooke residents identify as Catholic. However, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the city plays host to a surprisingly well-stocked esoteric shop called Wiccan-Trinity (18 Rue King O, Sherbrooke, QC J1H 1N8, https://www.wiccan-trinity.com/herbes-et-sauges-herbs-and-sage?page=2). There, I picked up a variety of curios and herbs for use in my ongoing studies of Hoodoo, Conjure, and Rootwork with my fantastic teacher Fr. Aaron Davis. The prices were surprisingly fair; indeed some were half the price of what one would pay for the same item in Montréal! I enjoyed the small-sized minerals they had available, of which I purchased Tiger’s Eye, Jade, Aventurine, and Howlite, and which I intend to integrate into Rootwork Condition oils and Mojo bags.
I also picked up a Medal of Saint Christopher, Patron Saint of Travelers, which I exorcised, consecrated, prayed over, and anointed with Protection Oil before affixing to my backpack for protection while traveling.
Many things could be written about the wonderful memories I formed here. However, for the purpose of this article, I will focus only on the occult adventures that transpired at (a) the Magog River Gorge, (b) the Basilica of Saint Michael the Archangel, and (c) the Cathedral of John the Baptist.
B. Communing with the Flow of Forces: Attuning to Elementals and Drowned Dead Above a Waterfall
With its rich colonial history spanning hundreds of years and thousands of years of Abenaki oral before that, Sherbrooke is replete with the spiritual traces of countless beings, both human and not. Those who have esoteric eyes to see and ears to hear–to paraphrase Isaiah and Christ in Isaiah 6:10 Matthew 13:9-16–will find many subtle energies at play here from the ruins of old houses to the spans of nature and the ”forlorn and isolated spots free from all interruption” where daimons roam (Le Grand Grimoire, Peterson, 1999).
One such place to which I felt drawn was the series of rapids and waterfalls, both natural and man-made, that make up the Magog River Gorge. Here, a promenade takes one directly over the main waterfall where the river above plunges into the gorge below. The elemental energy here was palpable, with beautiful green trees flanking a deep pool, which cascaded down with the power of falling water.
I decided to pour a libation of alcohol directly into the waterfall, offering it to the Most High on behalf of the spirits of the area, and inviting any local spirits to partake of it. The practice of alcohol libations has a rich history; Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey both feature libations of wine being poured out to various spirits, from the dead to the Olympic gods and similar practices were also well-attested in Babylonian engravings (Klingbeil, 2018).
The practice also occurs in the Hebrew Bible, for instance, in Genesis 35:14, in which the Prophet Jacob pours a drink offering on a pillar that he erected at the place where God appeared to him as he was fleeing to Haran. I was taught it in the Hoodoo context, as it was used by African Americans in the South of the United States of America. Like many Hoodoo practices, however, this practice was carried into North America by West African slaves. As Smith (2004) notes, alcohol libations marked major events in Akan, lgbo, Kongo and Arada societies, including birth, and naming and marriage ceremonies and were often used in religious offerings. In later Hoodoo applications, it was common to provide an alcohol offering to spirits in a graveyard before collecting grave dirt for use in Rootwork.
In this instance, I poured the offering, closed my eyes, and tuned into the ”signatures” of the spirits who came to partake of it. I was interested to see that a variety of spirits took interest and partook. On the lighter side, I detected at least two kinds of Water Elementals. One kind moved quickly and rapidly; these were smaller and appeared to me in flashes of a woman and of a quickly-waving fish tail. These seemed curious about my presence and playful in nature. They reminded me of Ancient Greek Nereids or Paracelsus’ Undines.
Another kind were completely opposite; they were large and slow and appeared to me like dark blotches underwater that reminded me vaguely of whales. These seemed entirely uninterested in me and eminently focused and mature.
In addition, I observed the presence of a sprightly kind of Air Elemental that appeared to me like a fairy-sylph. These flitted about quickly also, but appeared to be enjoying dancing over the water, especially near the waterfall, where mists were being kicked up. These reminded me of the Ancient Greek descriptions of Nephelai nymphs who appear in plumes of vapour and rain. These appeared entirely absorbed in their playful activity, delighting in dancing on currents of air and water.
Off by the shore, I sensed some Earth Elementals, silently watching the Water and Air spirits at play. These appeared to have different personalities. Some appeared more jovial and to be enjoying the mirth of the spirits. Others appeared sterner and stared with flat expressions.
A final type of spirit I sensed here was darker in nature. This was a Drowned Dead spirit, the spirit of a man who had drowned in the Gorge. I could not tell when, but his clothes appeared to be in brown and tan tones and rough in nature. To me, he did not appear to be wealthy, but more of a common worker who might have worked in a nearby farm or been a worker in one of the Sherbrooke mines. His energy was heavy and dark. He appeared lost and sad. My heart sunk for him. I prayed for him, that he might feel free to leave this place and transition on. As a wise Espiritista once taught me, with spirits like this, it is best to pray for their luz y progresso y paz (light, progress, and peace). So, I took time to do this for a while. Eventually, the dark presence seemed to lift and a lighter feeling pervaded. I am not sure if this was because the spirit simply left the area or if he was finally able to move on towards the Other Side. I’d like to believe it was the latter.
C. Into the Archangelic Sanctuary: Tuning into Relics of Blessed Marie-Léonie Paradis at the Cathedral of Saint Michael
Sometimes, our Spirits guide us in ways we cannot always foresee. This happened to me on another day in Sherbrooke. I looked on my map for the nearest store where I might be able to purchase a towel for my planned trip to the Michel-Blanchard beach. Unfortunately, it would be quite the walk to get there, and all uphill; Sherbrooke is a city of many hills, quite like San Francisco, California. However, I felt a prompting from one of my Spirits to go this route anyway, so I did.
As I rounded a curve up a hill, I was stunned by the sight of a great Cathedral, which turned out to be the massive Basilica of Saint Michael the Archangel, who happens to be one of my Patrons and a Spirit with whom I have worked in the past. It was as if he wanted me to enter this beautiful edifice over which he presided. I thanked him for his guidance and was happy to oblige.
This Church was striking in its features. To quote Destination Sherbrooke (2022), ”The Basilica-Cathedral Saint-Michel is the seat of the Archdiocese of Sherbrooke, which covers the dioceses of Sherbrooke, Nicolet and Saint-Hyacinthe. It was built on the heights of the cliff Saint-Michel, close to the city center. Perched on a kind of acropolis, it dominates the city and the surrounding area of its massive, robust silhouette, which is complemented by the more aerial lines of the archiepiscopal palace, looking like a castle. Archbishop’s palace and cathedral form today an imposing masonry complex, which reveals the evolution of the thought of the principal architect of this work, the architect Louis-Napoleon Audet.”
Particularly striking to me was the monumental stone image of the Crucified Christ that towers over the Cathedral doors:
The lower-half of the Cathedral was constructed from 1914 to 1917, but a lack of funds resulted in a tragic thirty-nine year pause in construction. The the upper-half of the Cathedral was finally finished in 1957. The interior of the Basilica features some ornate artwork, such as Archbishop Chapel artwork by the great Canadian painter Ozias Leduc. However, it was the images of Archangel Michael that attracted me the most. One such image was a painting, displayed upon a wall, depicting Michael standing on the head of Satan:
Another image was an illuminated statue of the Archangel spearing the Dragon of Revelation 12:7–10, with a French prayer on the wall beside him:
The atmosphere in the Cathedral was light, pleasant, and yet solemn at the same time, in a quasi-Kabbalistic blend of Divine Mercy and Severity.
As it turned out, the Cathedral also contained relics of the Blessed Marie-Léonie Paradis (12 May 1840 – 3 May 1912). In 1854, at the age of fourteen, and while her father was seeking gold in California, she joined the Marianites of Saint-Laurent in Montreal, a female branch of the Holy Cross Congregation, despite her frail health (Meenan, 2022). She received the name of “Marie-Léonie”, formally known as “Marie de Sainte-Léonie.”
She taught in Montreal for several years until, in 1862, she was sent to the Church of St. Vincent de Paul a parish for French speaking Catholics in Manhattan, where the congregation ran an orphanage (Meenan, 2022). She remained there until 1870, when she joined the Sisters of the Holy Cross, the American branch of her order, located at Notre Dame, Indiana. There she taught French and needlework to the sisters training to become teachers. In 1874, Paradis was appointed Mistress of Novices at the Collège Saint-Joseph in Memramcook, New Brunswick, and supported the Holy Cross Fathers there in their educational ministry (Meenan, 2022).
Meenan (2022) notes that ”Sister Marie-Léonie felt called to found a new religious order with the specific task of supporting the priests and seminarians, dedicated to service, which would be home-grown Canadian. Thus was founded on August 26, 1877 the ‘Little Sisters of the Holy Family’, without whose help many colleges and seminaries would not have been able to survive, as was also the case for many hospitals.” The kind Sister died in 1912 at the age of 71, after a brief battle with cancer, and was beatified by Pope Saint John Paul II on his pilgrimage to Canada, on September, 11, 1984.
To quote the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (2022), ”By ensuring the training of the young women who wanted to collaborate in her work, the founder was also ensuring their well-being. Most of these women came from poor families, and religious life was their hope of contributing something meaningful and getting a better education than their families could provide. As she wrote in 1899 to a priest at Suncook, New Hampshire, “The community of the Little Sisters of the Holy Family was founded to give poor, uneducated young girls the advantages of religious life.”’
The Conference (2022) writers go on to add that ”Bishop Paul LaRocque would say that she spent her life giving herself away: “She always had her arms open and her heart was transparent. She was always ready with a hearty, open laugh, welcoming each person as if they were God himself. She was a woman of the heart.” Her generosity was not limited to her religious family. No matter how poor her community might have been, she responded without hesitation to all needs. She helped the sick who came to the door or a family that she met in her travels. She hospitably received several religious who had been forced to leave France. She even adopted a young Berber woman, whose son became a priest.”
“Our mission in the Church is to help the priest on the temporal and spiritual planes,” she wrote. “But what it really demands as a supreme witness is for us to love one another and to love all people, not with just any love, but with all the love that God wants to give them. We must therefore repeat without tiring that our principal work is to give love.”
The Saint Michael Cathedral-Basilica features, in addition, to items that belonged to the Blessed Marie-Léonie, also a shrine in her honour, complete with relics belonging to her over which one can pray while kneeling:
I felt drawn to kneel at one of these reliquary stations and to tune in psychometrically with my hand on the relic to see if I could get a sense of the Blessed Marie-Léonie.
Her spiritual presence was eminently loving and radiant. With my hand over her relic, I saw a vision of her smiling face, with love in her eyes, and nurturing and benevolent intentions in her heart. I could sense that she would have made an effective teacher because her sincere commitment to her students and love for their well-being. I prayed and gave thanks to God in her honour and asked for her to guide me in her ways of love, service, pedagogy, and kindness. At the end of my prayer, I saw her luminous face, smiling once more…
D. Astral Signatures Embedded in Stone: Psychometry at the Church of St. John the Baptist
As fortune should have it, the Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Michael should not prove the final church I would visit during my time in Sherbrooke. From across the river, I glimpsed the shining silver towers of yet another towering Cathedral and climbed a hill to get to it. This was the Église de Saint-Jean Baptiste (Church of Saint John the Baptist). As it turned out, I arrived at his eponymous church in the weekend of his Feast Day, which is celebrated all across Québec for he is also regarded as a Patron Saint of the Province of Québec itself.
The Saint-Jean-Baptiste parish built this monumental Catholic church between 1905 and 1908, and was very typical of the religious architecture of Quebec at that time. A first chapel, transformed into a parish hall (300, rue du Conseil), was first built in 1884 to serve the faithful of the parish of Saint-Michel living east of the Saint-François River. Autonomous since 1890, the growing parish at last embarked on this grandiose project, known as “the cathedral of the East”. The project was entrusted to the young Sherbrooke architect Wilfrid J. Grégoire and to Raoul-Adolphe Brassard of Montreal. Louis-Napoléon Audet would first be Grégoire’s intern on this project before becoming his associate in 1907. The inauguration of this “temple to the glory of the Most High” in 1908 gave rise to numerous celebrations in the city. More than a century later, the Saint-Jean-Baptiste church still stands in the heart of Eastern Sherbrooke.
Here, I undertook to do a session of psychometry, by resting my hand on the stone of the church and then on its massive doors to sense what I could of what had transpired here in the past and whether there were any current Spirits still lingering here.
As a refresher on this practice, I will quote my previous article on weather magic and psychometry in Boucherville:
For those who may not be familiar with the term, the word Psychometry (from the Greek: ψυχή, psukhē, “spirit, soul” and μέτρον, metron, “measure”) was coined by American physician and Professor of physiology Joseph Rodes Buchanan (December 11, 1814 – December 26, 1899) in 1842. The term came to refer to the metaphysical practice of obtaining information about the history of an object or place by “tuning into” it while touching it or placing it to one’s forehead (New World Encyclopedia, 2007).
As I understand the practice, what we essentially do with Psychometry is open up our astral senses and then attempt to tune into the the region of the Astral Plane that corresponds to the physical object or location. Then we attempt to surrender to the reception of images, sounds, smells, touches, and other impressions that sometimes show “snapshots” or, as it were, “movies” of things that happened there in the past (I call these “psychic history traces’“), and at other times allow us to tune into the spirits of the dead who still have a connection to the place or object in question (I call these “connected spirits“). I had no success with it at all for years until I started to develop my astral senses and also improve at spirit conjuring, divination, and scrying, after which I found it to be a very similar practice. Psychometry is almost like doing a divination and reading, assisted by touch, of an object or place instead of a set of Tarot cards, Runes, Geomancy markings, etc. combined with the kind of reception of spirit impressions that we experience in an evocation.
On this particular occasion, and in contrast to the Magog River Gorge area, where there were connected spirits like the Drowned Dead who had drowned in the river, I did not detect any connected spirits here.
However, I did detect an abundance of ‘psychic history traces’ here, that is, impressions of events that unfolded here in the past. Over the many decades of the church’s history, many people passed through here. I saw images of happy families celebrating marriages with black-clad grooms and white-dressed brides. Images of christenings came through as well, with crying babies being baptized and proud parents looking on. There were also images of a variety of people, some poor, some more wealthy as evidenced by their clothes and fine hats, who had come to the church over the years for ordinary Sunday Mass. The energy here was overwhelmingly positive, although I’m sure many funereal tears and penitent sinners with heavy hearts had also passed through here over the years. One women, clad in a green dress and green hat, stood out from the others. I thought at first she might be a connected spirit, but she was not. This woman was still alive and had passed through here recently.
The Saint John the Baptist Church has a rich history, but its history is still being written. I was grateful for my chance to peer into the Astral traces of some small portion of that history, which is a legacy of people celebrating the milestones of their lives, the connectedness of their community, and the glorification of their God within these massive stone walls.
E. Conclusion: The End of One Chapter, Beginning of Another
My time in Sherbrooke was eminently positive, despite its steep hills reminding my legs just how out of shape they are. I was grateful for its kind people, great restaurants–such as a Steakhouse and an Indian Thali restaurant run by a man and woman who are a couple and poured their love of food into twin establishments that run in parallel–and historic sites. May the Spirits of those who reside here be blessed with all manifestations of the Good, warmed by love, soothed by the kindness of Marie-Léonie Paradis, and cradled in the Divine Presence that carries them to Glory. B’shem Yeshua. Amen.
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