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At holy sites around the world, it is traditional for many pilgrims, especially Roman Catholics, to leave behind various objects called “ex-votos.” These symbolize their visit and their reason for their journey. Fortean Picture Library.


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Ex-votos (literally, “according to the vow”) are objects left at holy sites that document in some way a petition made by a pilgrim. Among the most simple of ex-votos (also called votives or, in Spanish, milagros) are simple published notices ofthanks to a patron saint for help received, which in Catholic countries may be published in the newspaper as a classified ad. More involved exvotos, those of most interest to anthropologists, will include an illustration of the object of a prayer and some text describing what occurred or what the petitioner wishes to occur. These may be very simple or very elaborate and made out of a wide variety of materials. At healing shrines, exvotos associated with an individual’s illness (such as crutches, canes, or wheelchairs) or representations of body parts are often displayed to show the effectiveness of intercessions to the resident saint.

Today, ex-votos are most identified with Roman Catholicism, but they have been and continue to be used in a variety of religious traditions. Found in ancient religious sites, ex-votos have been a significant means of discerning the exact purposes to which worship at the site was directed. The ex-voto is activated after its construction by leaving it at the holy site and/or close to a representation or relic of the saint/deity to whom one is making a request.

Among the most famous of ex-votos are those painted on pieces of tin that may be seen as shrines throughout Latin America. These usually picture events of a healing along with words of thanks.


Ackerman, Jane. “The Theme of Mary’s Power in the Milagros de Nuestra Senora.” Journal of Hispanic Philology 8 (1983): 17–31.
Coulter, Lane, and Maurice Dixon, Jr. New Mexican Tinwork: 1840–1940. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1990.
Egan, Martha. Milagros: Votive Offerings from the Americas. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1991.
Mayes, Frances. Ex Voto. Barrington, RI: Lost Roads Publishers, 1995.
Salvatori, Mariolina. “Porque no puedo decir mi cuen-to: Mexican Ex-votos’ Iconographic Literacy.” In John Trimbur, ed. Popular Literacy: Studies in Cultural Practices and Poetics. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh, 2001, 17–42.
References in periodicals archive ?
Several of the objects on display originally belonged to monks or nuns, who inevitably lived in communal institutions, and there is also a good selection of painted ex-votos, left by grateful individuals at shrines.
A massa da promessa reflete a tradicao de fe e esta presente durante essa festa; trata-se de ex-voto que representa a devocao ao Espirito Santo, ofertado como pagamento de uma promessa de fe referente a questoes de saude em troca de graca que foi alcancada.
Assim, colocar seu ex-voto em exposicao significa, segundo a autora, inscrever-se numa narrativa de santidade e assinalar seu pertencimento a uma comunidade de devotos.
Although the book seems to have been written with an undergraduate audience in mind (which would explain the rather rudimentary definitions of hagiography, relics, ex-votos, and the like), even more advanced scholars will find something to appreciate in Saints Alive.
lt;<Era in uso che, quando si verificava una guarigione miracolosa, si offrisse come ex-voto al Santo intercessore una raffigurazione in cera della parte del corpo gia inferma, esagerandone a bella posta le deformita e le piaghe>> (G, p.
From its beginnings in 15th-century Italy through its spread to the New World in the 16th century, ex-votos have played a role in the daily lives of the faithful, especially in Mexico, and continued to be a popular expression of faith and healing into the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the most prolific period of ex-voto production.
The traditional Spanish conception of artistic revelation arising from religious fervor and the celebration of the agonies and ecstasies of the saints likely played a role in Goya's conception of his ex-voto.
Dessa maneira, define-se um ex-voto como uma doacao de objetos, dos mais variados tipos, aos santos julgados como interventores na resolucao de situacoes aflitivas que permeiam os varios campos da vivencia humana ou, como nota Giffoni (1980: 27), "sao objetos, ou ainda, praticas de sentido religioso ofertados aos seres sobrenaturais e, particularmente, aos Santos, em retribuicao a gracas ou favores recebidos".
Why is it that images of Elvis seem to have taken on the dimensions of faith and devotion, viewed by many Elvis fans as links between themselves and God, as ex-votos for expressing and giving thanks, as empowered objects that can fulfill wishes and desires?
He willingly acknowledges her contributions, be they the forehead inserts she used to reveal thoughts, cutaway views of the torso to show inner feelings, or explanatory text that mimics ex-voto captions.
Muitas pessoas com as quais eu conversava em outros locais proximos ao museu fizeram questao de me levar ate la para me mostrar seu ex-voto.
Two Egyptian ex-voto offerings from around the late 25th Dynasty were discovered during excavations in the 20th century inside the sanctuary of Hera on Samos.