The Most Holy Death – Santa Muerte 

La Santa Muerte has crossed the US/Mexico Border for over a decade, accompanying her devotees on their arduous journeys north. Also known as La Flaquita (The Skinny One), La Niña Blanca (The White Girl), La Niña Negra (The Black Girl), Señora de las Sombras (Lady of the Shadows), La Huesuda (Bony Lady), La Niña Bonita (The Pretty Girl), La Madrina (The Godmother), and more reverently, La Santísima Muerte (The Most Holy Death), she is a beloved saint of dispossessed peoples.

LOIS ANN LORENTZEN
«Santa Muerte» by Ravi Zupa (2017)

Nuestra Señora de la Santa Muerte (Spanish: [ˈnwestra seˈɲora ðe la ˈsanta ˈmweɾte]; Our Lady of the Holy Death), shortened to Santa Muerte, is an unsanctioned saint of death in folk Mexican religion. She acts similarly to Death of European mythology, collecting the souls of the dead and deciding when people die. Unlike Death, however, she is worshipped and loved, with many shrines dedicated to her. She is celebrated, as death is seen as a transition rather than a loss of life. She personifies this transition, and many Mexicans see her as benevolent. She is associated with healing, well-being, and safety in the afterlife. She is often depicted carrying a scythe or a globe.

Santa Muerte and the liminal brujas

La Santa muerte and the liminal brujas.
In the Latinx community, especially among migrants and border witches or liminal witches (brujas), La Santísima has been an icon that redefines issues of empowerment; She is a bridge that connects with the roots of Mexicanness and its imaginaries, with the power of the displaced and marginalized. There, on the other side of the Rio Grande, far from the homeland, She has also arrived. The icon It has complexities and an implicit political discourse, «la flaca» is also associated with Mexican folk magic and apocryphal saints who do not need official recognition to help and «hacer un paro».

Christian Ortíz

Relation to the Catholic Church

As an unsanctioned «Saint,» the Catholic Church has condemned Santa Muerte worship as blasphemous and satanic. Many Catholics say that Santa Muerte is a false idol. Even though Santa Muerte is actively discouraged by the Catholic Church, some still give offerings to Santa Muerte in secret. In some cases, this has caused worshippers of Santa Muerte to leave the Catholic Church and start their own churches in her honor.

The Most Holy Death – Santa Muerte, Christian Ortíz. This audio is a part of the talk recorded in June 2022.

Worship

Shrines to Santa Muerte often include gifts to the «Saint,» such as flowers, fruits, incense, candies, coins, candles, and alcoholic beverages. Santa Muerte is supposedly very powerful and grants many favours and miracles. She is often invoked as a saint of the night and a few of those that work dangerous jobs at night worship her for protection. Figures of Santa Muerte are often made to pray to, and the colours of her robes differ depending on the reason for invocation. White robes represent cleansing and purity. Red robes represent love and passion. Gold robes represent money, success, and prosperity. Green robes represent justice and legal matters. Amber robes represent health. Black robes represent protection from black magic. Shrines can be found in hospitals, homes, religious stores, and cathedrals. Her image is often invoked during gay marriages, as she is seen as a protector of those outcast by society, including the LGBTQ community. According to Professor Andrew Chesnut from the Virginia Commonwealth University, the cult of Santa Muerte is the single fastest growing new religious movement in the Americas.

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