Santa Muerte: Saint Death
Santa Muerte is the female personification of death. She goes by many names, such as Lady of the Night, Skinny Lady, Santa Sebastiana, and The Godmother among others. She is not seen as being a dead human being herself, unlike other Catholic saints, although some people do believe that she was once a real person. There are many people that follow the cult of Santa Muerte, but the most common are the outcasts, criminals, and younger working class females. Oddly enough though, some policemen have been known to follow this cult. People that work at night may also pray for her protection.
Santa Muerte has a long history in Mexico. Originally, she was an Aztec goddess of death and co-ruler of the underworld known as Mictecacihuatl. Her sister, Tonantzin, is the Aztec personification of the earth, and she is actually the figure people in Mexico now refer to as the Virgin of Guadalupe. This is most likely where the theory comes from that Santa Muerte is ’the skeleton of the Virgin of Guadalupe.’
There have been differing opinions as to whether or not Santa Muerte was a real human being or not. The first opinion says that Santa Muerte was alive, and that she committed suicide because her husband wasn’t faithful to her. The second opinion says that she is the ‘Angel of Death’ or the ‘8th archangel’. What makes Santa Muerte an unusual saint, is that she is generally considered to have never been human, unlike other Catholic saints. She is also the only female death saint in North or South America.
Santa Muerte is often depicted carrying a scythe, and a globe. The scythe symbolizes the moment of death, where a silver thread is cut. The globe symbolizes Death’s dominion over earth. Sometimes, Santa Muerte is seen holding scales (Justice), an hourglass (the time we have on earth), an owl (ability to navigate darkness, and the possession of wisdom), or an oil lamp (intelligence and spirit, navigation through doubt).
The color of the statues of Santa Muerte that are on altars dedicated to her have different meanings. The color of Santa Muerte statues have different meanings. On altars, using different colored statues can be a magical gesture to obtain different things related to the color’s symbolic meaning. Candles of differing colors can also be lit on an altar to Santa Muerte to obtain different things.
White (most common) – Gratitude, purity, cleansing of negative influences.
Red – Love, emotional stability, and passion.
Gold – Economic power, success, money, and prosperity.
Green – Justice, legal matters, unity with loved ones.
Amber/dark yellow and purple – Health and healing. Images and statues with this color are often seen in rehabilitation centers.
Black – Total protection against black magic and sorcery, or to deal out negative energy.
Blue – Wisdom and health. Images of this color are favored by students.
Brown – Used to invoke spirits.
Santa Muerte is also often a symbol associated with healing, protection, and a path to the afterlife.
Yronwode, Cat (1995-2013) Santisma Muerte, Most Holy Death, Mictecacihuatl: Keeper of Men’s Fidelity. Retrieved 11/13/2013 from: http://www.luckymojo.com/santisimamuerte.html
N.A. (n.d) La Santa Muerte. Retrieved 11/14/2013 from: http://www.brujonegrobrujeria.com/page/page/2215114.htm
Wikipedia (2013) Santa Muerte. Retrieved 11/13/2013 from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Muerte
Hurley, Tonya (2013) Santa Muerte: My Search for the Bony Lady. Retrieved 11/13/2013 from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tonya-hurley/santa-muerte-my-search-for-the-bony-lady_b_2868614.html