We hear so much about the Santa Muerte. When She’s not judged plain evil, She gets the morbid label. Some say She is the Goddess of the drug traffickers, the Dame of the Cartel, and if you hang around her, you’ll be judged the same way. And so it goes in the gossip files of human misunderstanding. Old story.
Based on our experience with Her, we have some other views of the Lady, obviously. We’ve shared experience with Her in some of the toughest situations life can throw. Oh, we’re not sanctioned or endorsed by anyone to speak for Her, or even speak of Her. Yet, here we are with Her blessing, validated by that experience.
Is the Santa Muerte evil, or is it what humans do with Her power that turns evil?
We believe you and your own experience are the ones who must decide that. “Just curious,” is great, and welcome here, but if you’re thinking of following Her in some way, you might find a hint or two below. Knowledge is essential in working with Her.
The words Santa Muerte translate directly as Saint Death or Holy Death and neither translation does Her justice. But like any worthy deity, She has many names of respect and awe, and those are designed with you, the devotee, in mind. Some names work better than others, one soon learns.
To provide a perspective on this deity let’s look at the Mexican Virgen Mary, the Virgen Guadalupe, for a moment. She arose when the People were destitute, about to go extinct. She brought love and fertility to the People, and now hispanos of all kinds are fruitful everywhere. Her miracles are known to every Catholic Latino and to all the indigenous and Mixed Blood Peoples from Mexico to Chile.
For the indigenous Peoples the Virgen Guadalupe was there long before the Church approved Her, as the Earth Goddess of the People. When the People saw Her, in this new form, She saved us from the genocide that was upon us, helped us adjust into the new world the so-called conquest had brought.
Similarly, the Santa Muerte rose when the Church began failing the People, failing abused women, and the people who work the night in the streets. She may look like the Grim Reaper, but She came, in this form, long before that Hollywood character. She was known in the ancient past as Micltantecuhltli, Lady of the Land of the Dead. Death, in some form or fashion, has always held a role in our pantheon.
Since those ancient times until the present She offers Her devotees the power of death in matters of personal, Earthly needs. Consider that death is a singular event which all living creatures have in common. It’s power over life is definitive, neither good nor evil, and very powerful when employed in the needs of the People.
The People found a deity with priests who’d listen, and against all odds, made something change in their lives, for the better. When a devotee expresses his/her will, the Santa Muerte responds. When you go to Her for food and safety, she doesn’t start by listing your sins. She makes food and shelter appear and lets you figure out morality for yourself.
Her miracles and works are now known all over the world, with many finding the help that had only been promised before. She’s, to say it bluntly, a very functional deity. The Church, as you can imagine, does not approve, not one bit.
In 1968, the year of the Olympics in Mexico City, at an indigenous sacred site, Tlatelolco, the police/government massacred and made disappear 300 plus students and civilians at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, UNAM. That same year of Death some of the poorest areas of Mexico City took the Santa Muerte public.
She’d been worshipped in this form since the 1920s, say some reports, but in fear of church and state, worshipped in secret. That year, 1968, some of the toughest neighborhoods in Mexico City raised powerful, public facing out-in-the-open altars to Her. After that auspicious debut, you could say She went viral.
These two Ladies, by the way, are the pillars of this altar. Everything we do either needs love and fertility to flourish, i.e. the Virgen Guadalupe, or the power of one’s will to bust through obstacles in the path, i.e. the Santa Muerte.
During a rough patch for family, myself and the altar, the Santa Muerte started showing up all over the place. I saw her on TV (favorably – an amazing occurrence at that time and more so now), in my reading (like She was whispering to me), and at the local yerbería, Mexican herb store (where Her culture thrives). I spoke to practitioners and devotees about Her ways, some good guys, some bad guys, the karmic price, all that. I knew enough to know I was being led to her, and boy, did we, need a rescue.
Our altar had just gone public and we were finding ourselves in dark places in our attempts to help others. When you go to a dark place, even to do good things, it’s hard to come away clean. We knew She was calling to us, in part, because we work with the dying and the not quite departed, the confused populations of the spirit world.
We carry light, a torch. We follow an owl or other animal that sees at night and can watch after us, but our light wavers with the amount of power we can bring to each situation. We encounter some unsavory types, who mostly come in ambush and trickery. Long story short, it’s good to have the Queen of the Underworld on your side.
When I arrived at Her court, so to speak, I wasn’t judged guilty or unworthy. I wasn’t chastised even, for the ugly thoughts I had in anger, nor the fantasies about revenge. She impressed upon me what we had already been taught from the toltec view of life, that awareness of our death, lived out, brings power to oue decisions and purpose to our work.
Our experience with her has been enthralling and fulfilling. She heals the sick, strengthens victims of abuse, answers questions of destiny and fate, protects families, helps prisoners, fills financial holes, teaches devotees how to work with her and loves the arts of healing and conjuring like no other Deity we’ve worked with. She also loves, music, dance, and all things alive. A very lively deity, indeed.
She asks you, “What do you want to do, to have, to be, in the short time you have left? You are the only one who can choose every moment of your life, so choose.”
In other words we can access the power of the Santa Muerte to lie, manipulate or terrorize, or we can wield her scythe to heal, to free the oppressed or to evolve to our highest potential. She makes our choice clear being that we all have an expiration date.
We need to leave the subject here for now, but there are so many questions and answers to working with this powerful deity. In future articles we’ll talk of morality and ethics, cause and effect, rites and rituals, keys to working with Her. As always, questions or comments are welcome. Meanwhile,