origins are as mysterious as her allegiances. Is she part of the Underworld --
hades, possibly even hell -- or is she a divine princess of heaven? Could a figure as scary and menacing as this skeleton saint truly be The Blessed Virgin and Mother's
kick-ass sister or cousin? Whatever the case may be, Santa Muerte has been a craze in Mexico, Central America, and South America, for
quite some time now and she's gaining popularity in the United States and other parts of the world.
Most of all,
her devotees claim that when they worship Santa Muerte, pray to her, carry her
picture in their wallets, wear her medallion around their necks, or carry coins around in their pockets with her depiction engraved on on such tokens - perhaps even build shrines to The Saint of Death - they always get results of some type. Her devoted claim this is one saint that delivers!
Why do folks pray to Santa Muerte? Well, her incredibly large group of fevered followers - estimated at between 10 and 12 million overall (in the United States, Mexico, and Central America alone) - pray and petition her for various reasons. Some say they worship her for prosperity for themselves, their family members, and their friends. There have even been accounts of people with compulsive gambling problems who pray to this entity for a big win, a super jackpot of some type. Others pray to Santa Muerte so she brings them good health; and also the well-being of their loved ones. Some pray and worship this pseudo-deity because they have had close scrapes with death at times during their lives and Saint Death spared them the ultimate sanction of "lights out for good". Others say they worship Santa Muerte for protection -- to keep enemies and harm away and to be an archangel, of sorts, to keep what they see as evildoers out of their lives. And as violent and volatile as most Latin American countries are these days, it's easy to see why "Saint Death" is held in such high regard. Most shocking, however, is that a large segment of Santa Muerte's faithful worship the skeleton saint for vindication and revenge. And there are reports indicating that this group of violent criminals - those involved with gangs, drug trafficking, and who make their livings resorting to heinous acts of unspeakable violence - were the core group of the supernatural entity's first flock during the course of the last century and into this new one - before the skeleton of shadows took the world by storm.
is always depicted as being a skeleton saint. And although there are numerous
skeleton saints, she's the queen, by far. She is a she, too; which probably
makes her popular among women, particularly women who have been abused,
neglected, possibly even badly harmed by men. And Santa Muerte's help is
available to all, her followers claim. She does not care how much money you
have. She could care less if you are beautiful, handsome, or ugly. What are your sexual preference? "I don't care," those who claim to know her personality have reported. Neither does she care who your connections are - her followers say Santa Muerte wants to be the connection. She likes being petitioned and she listens to prayers - each and every one. She's egalitarian and fair. Righteous to the good and horrible to the wicked, yes she is - and she deplores those who intentionally harm others. For many, Santa Muerte is a saint of vendetta. Nice? Perhaps. But scarier than hell, too!
One of the
most prevalent ways in which Santa Muerte is depicted in illustrations and paintings is that of a
gowned saint, with a hood covering her white skull, holding long pistols that
are firing at the ground. This is one saint that does not play games. She comes
at you with long barrels on those pistols drawn and firing. But Santa Muerte is in every aspect a true lady - she is often pictured carrying flowers. Beautiful flesh bouquets with every color represented in the mix. For the sake of simplicity
and expedience, Santa Muerte looks a lot like the Grim Reaper or the Angel of
Death, except she is feminine, a lady that is to be revered, respected, and reckoned with; and
her personality -- both the good and the bad sides of it -- have characteristics
that most women have. She is loyal yet vengeful. She demands respect and
dignity yet she knows her place in the cosmos and the metaphysical puzzlement.
Coy and humble, she doesn't flaunt her physical attributes, always adorned in a cloak covering her entire body. But she is very proud of her face, which is always
depicted as a grinning human skull. Her vanity shows: Santa Muerte thinks she is a very pretty girl. Yet, in many illustrations, she is drawn with her head staring down, as if she is shy or introverted. And she likes to have friends. The more the better - she never turns her back to anyone and once she accepts you as hers, you're in for good.
Many religious, including Roman Catholic priests, say that Santa Muerte is not a saint. She is part of the occult and should not be worshiped and adored. You might as well pray to the devil, El Diablo, than to petition Santa Muerte for gifts or some type of request. But there are some, even in the religious community, that say 'Saint Death' is one of the oldest and most high of all religious entities and to disregard her is a blasphemy to God himself. She's part of heaven and its structure. Sure, Santa Muerte's job it a tough one - a nasty one - but she is the first metaphysical being a soul encounters when passing through this worldly existence and into the afterlife. And unlike all other saints, Santa Muerte has been here forever and is not mortal. She was never an actual person, like Christ's apostles, the martyrs, the great saints or the lesser ones.
According to a blog post in Bewitching New York titled "Santa Muerte, the Virgin Mother's Kick-Ass Sister and Beloved Goddess of Death" (writer unnamed): "Santa Muerte (also known as Santisima Muerte) is the beloved goddess of death. Her origins date back to the Pre-Hispanic period of Mexico, and was believed to be a protector of souls who resided in the dark underworld. There are a great many theories and beliefs about her origin, from being the revival of the Pre-Hispanic Mexican goddess of death, Mitchecacihuatl, a re-invention of the female Grim Reaper from Spain, La Parca, or that she was once a Mexican Catholic nun, coming from Italian roots going way back to the Fates of ancient Greece."
"Either way, in short, she scares the hell out of the Vatican."
"According to professor R. Andrew Chesnut of Virginia Commonwealth University, who has studied the rise of Santa Muerte, 'Santa Muerte is particularly appealing to people on the margins of Mexican and U.S. society because she's seen as the saint who embraces everyone regardless of race, sex, age or gender orientation'."