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La Santisima Muerte: A Practitioner’s Overview

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To get the ball rolling, here's an article I recently wrote. 


La Santisima Muerte: A Practitioner’s Overview


La Flaka (the Skinny Lady), La Huesuda (the Boney Lady), La Niña (the Girl), La Madrina (the Godmother), Santa Muerte (“Saint” Death)...these are all names given to a very powerful and popular folk saint from Mexico, La Santisima Muerte (the Most Holy Death). Santisima Muerte is a very complex figure, having taken on Her most recent manifestation through the same Catholic land that provided the world with what is believed to be the most widely-venerated face of the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe. Although She is denounced by the Mexican Catholic priests and bishops as a figure of Satanic worship, Santisima Muerte’s popularity over the last decade has exploded. From an estimated 500,000 devotees a roughly ten years ago to possibly over 5 million today, it seems that Lady Death is wasting no time in making known Her presence and power among the living. Her devotion has now bled across Mexico’s borders into many other Latin American countries, as well as into the U.S. Many chapels and churches have been established in many places where Mexican immigrants have settled, but these visible establishments are in no way indicative of the number of private altars and shrines most keep in their homes, secretly in many cases.
So, what lies behind this exponential growth of an enigmatic, borderline occult figure, bearing the stark image of the European Grim Reaper, complete with skeleton, cloak, and scythe? What is the appeal of a constant reminder of our own mortality and inevitable death? Despite being labeled a “Narco Saint,” whose tattoos give law enforcement officers reason to detain and discriminate, Santisima Muerte refuses to allow any establishment, including the Catholic Church, to slow the growth of Her devotion or sway the minds of those for whom She has performed miracles. In this article, I’d like to share my own personal beliefs about Santisima Muerte, stemming from the teaching I received from a person who lived in Mexico and studied under an Hechicero (sorcerer), as well as my own experiences with La Milagrosa (the Miraculous One). My hope is to provide those interested with a bit of information about Santisima Muerte and to help dispel much of the misinformation, causing La Santisima to be feared and demonized by Her many detractors.
In the Beginning, God Created...

Exactly from where the current figure of La Santisima Muerte originated is very hard to say. There are theories that She is the revival of the pre-Hispanic Mexican goddess of death, Mitchecacihuatl, that She may be a re-invention of the female Grim Reaper from Spain, La Parca, that She was once a Mexican Catholic nun, and that She came from Italy with roots going all the way back to the Fates of ancient Greece. Regardless of all this, Santisima Muerte now presents Herself as the embodiment of Death itself, with power over life unrivaled by any other saint, spirit, or deity. However, there is one catch. She chose to manifest through a Catholic culture, and Catholic is how She sees Herself. The Catholic/Christian creation story has been tweaked to include Her, for as Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, Death entered the world as an active force. Santisima also takes credit for being the Angel of Death who reaped the first-born sons of Egypt in the Book of Exodus. However, Her most proud moment was when God ordered Santisima to reap His only Son, Jesus, and therefore Good Friday is Her most holy feast day, a close second/third being All Saints Day/All Souls Day.
Although Death is present the world over, and many religions and spiritual traditions have their own images and names for it, when calling upon Death as La Santisima Muerte, it is through the Catholic prayers, always asking God’s permission to invoke Her, that She works the best and responds to prayers. Removing her from this paradigm is something I strongly advise against. For those who are uncomfortable with the Catholic aspects, think of it as being respectful to a very powerful force. You don’t have to be Catholic yourself to pray to or work with Her, although the vast majority of Her devotees in Mexico consider themselves Catholics. I also advise against placing Santisima into the hierarchy of other spiritual systems, such as Neo-Pagan traditions and the Afro-Caribbean traditions, i.e. Santeria, Vodou, and Palo. She is a very proud spiritual being who enjoys Her own services and altar spaces, and no matter how much a person believes he or she knows about different spiritual systems and how they work, Santisima will always know more.
...A Holy Trinity...

Although I recognize that there are other ways of working with Santisima Muerte and see where many others in Mexico have her wearing many different colored robes, the way She came to me, and the way in which I was taught, was through a tri-colored system. For me, Santisima wears only three robes: white, red, and black. When She wears the white robe, She is La Blanca (the White). She is called La Roja (the Red) while wearing her crimson cloak, and She is La Negra (the Black) when She wraps around Her the shadows of the night. Each cloak alters Her personality, and therefore, She is approached differently according to the color of Her robe. However, like Her masculine counterpart, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Santisima is three persons in one, a feminine Holy Trinity.
...To Help the People.

Presently, there are many from outside of Mexico and its traditional systems who Santisima is calling upon to work with her. And rest assured, Santisima chooses the worker, not the other way around. A person can receive all the training associated with Her, but if She rejects the person there is nothing to be done about it. Among those She does choose I’ve noticed several similarities, such as an intimate knowledge of how to work with the dead and the dangers associated with venturing into her home, the cemetery. She very much loves and protects those within her home, and She appreciates it when Her workers honor their own ancestors. There also tends to be a working knowledge of a system similar to Afro-Caribbean spiritual practices, the hoodoo of the Southern U.S., and traditional folk magic in general. Also, She tends to work better and faster for those who treat Her like a Catholic saint and observe certain guidelines.
In the End, La Muerte

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