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Santa Muerte: Mysteries, Rituals and Mexican Spirituality | Santa Muerte

The Santa Muerte

The cult of Santa Muerte, or Holy Death in English, is a religious practice that emerged in Mexico and is gaining popularity in other regions of the world. Representing a unique fusion of indigenous beliefs, Catholicism, and popular culture, Santa Muerte is often venerated as a benevolent, protective, and compassionate figure, but also formidable in her aspect as a reaper. The followers of Santa Muerte come from various social backgrounds and find in this deity a source of spiritual comfort, as well as intercession in difficult moments of life, such as illness, crime, or poverty. However, due to its association with marginal and criminal practices, the cult of Santa Muerte also raises controversies and concerns within certain religious and governmental institutions. Despite this, Santa Muerte continues to exert significant influence as a complex expression of popular faith, reflecting contemporary social and cultural dynamics.

skull bracelet

The Santa Muerte skull bracelets

Santa Muerte, also known as Santisima Muerte, is the beloved goddess of death whose origins date back to the pre-Hispanic period of Mexico. Mexicans knew her by another name: MICTECACIHUATL "Lady of the Land of the Dead"; another spelling could be MICTLANTECIHUATL, she was believed to be the protector of souls residing in the dark underworld. Mistress of MICTLANTECAHTLI Lord of the Land of Mictlan of the Lord of Dark Death.

Santa Muerte is represented as a woman in traditional Mexican feminine attire, adorned or decorated with flags that were placed on corpses prepared for cremation. She wears a skull mask with a beak protruding from the nasal cavity of the skull mask, or perhaps it is a knife or blade of it. Mictecacihuatl is the goddess who is linked to the sacred day of the dead in Mexico: Dia de los Muertos, originally the festival fell at the end of July and the beginning of August, dedicated to children and the dead.

The festival was moved by Spanish priests to coincide with All Saints' Eve, a vain attempt by the church to convert this sacred day into a Christian holiday. The Day of the Dead nevertheless retains its ancient roots by honoring the Lady of the Land of the Dead. It is said that the ancient gods are not dead but sleeping and can be awakened by faith and prayer. Mictecacihuatl and her lord Mictlantecahtli both received blood offerings from the Mexican who asked them in exchange for a favorable or peaceful death when the time came to die. Tradition has it that to receive a favorable fate by making an offering, one must have the right hand covered in blood to ensure the favor of Lord Mictlantecahtli. As blood offerings were considered of the utmost importance, the color red became intimately associated with the Lord of the Land of the Dead and, by extension, the color is attributed to his mistress due to her connection with her Lord. It is important to note that Mictlantecahtli and his mistress Mictecacihuatl both lived in total darkness.

bead bracelet men skull

Skull bracelet dark night tigre acero by Santa Muerte

Although there is no specific reason why the goddess of death has gained so much popularity, one theory is that she survived post-conquest times due to her role as a protector and her very important role in the celebration of dia de los muertos.

A festival dear to the heart and soul of every Mexican who loves their ancestors and venerates their old ancestors and the deities they once worshiped.

It is said that the ancient gods are not dead simply forgotten but that they await to be awakened by the fire of the faithful, I believe this is true for Mictecacihuatl. The Lady of the Dead did not suffer the same fate as the Virgin of Guadalupe who was originally a Mexican goddess known as Tonantzin (Goddess of the Moon & softer aspect of Coatlicue) did not suffer the wrath of missionaries who tried to Christianize Tonantzin by declaring that she was the Virgin Mary in their indigenous image come to lead the pagans to Christ. Mictecacihutal retained her true appearance, although her image has changed through syncretism as in her current form, Santa Muerte.

Santa Muerte and her different forms

It is believed that the veneration of Santa Muerte in her current form really took hold in Hidalgo Mexico around 1965, in her modern form, Santa Muerte is a syncretic image retaining her powers and attributes as Mictecacihuatl the lady of the dead; a protector of souls and children. Today she carries an almost sinister reaper image, borrowed from European necromantic traditions that influenced Mexico. Additionally, she carries images or icons that designate or identify her as Mictecacihuatl, such as the owl which is often depicted in statues of Santa Muerte. The owl is one of the animals associated with Mictlantecahtli, the Lord of the dead, of whom Mictecacihuatl was the mistress, a very strong image to this day in Mexican culture. Some statues depict Santa Muerte as a reaper with the scythe holding a balance and a crystal ball, others she only carries the balance and a crystal ball. Another interesting note, she is sometimes depicted in art as holding a globe representing her power in other representations: she holds a skull, then of course there is the hourglass.

rosary men

The Santa Muerte rosaries

Another name people use for her is "La Catrina", which is her classic image in the Dia de los Muertos art of José Guadalupe Posada, who depicts her as a high-society skeleton woman.

That is why some of her death stories feature syncretic themes such as a link between the Devil and Death; both are syncretic forms of old Mexican deities: the Devil is the black Tezcatlipoca and Death is Mictecacihuatl the Lady of the dead.

The magic of the goddess of death

As in Antiquity, Mexico made sacrifices to the Lord and Lady of the Dead to receive a peaceful death, this tradition has been passed down from generation to generation and has transformed into a myriad of requests. The basic request remains always that of a peaceful death, but Santa Muerte can be solicited for almost all human needs. There are rituals for prosperity, success in business, justice (trials), protection against evil, protection against enemies, spiritual purification/healing, attracting a lover, the return of a lost love, domination, even curses against enemies, the reversal of curses to name just a few. There are herbal baths made in her name for spiritual purification, spiritual healing, good fortune, baths to open one's paths to success. Amulets are made in her name for various needs and oils are also made in her name. Santa Muerte has a complete system of magic, which is rare as many traditions attribute special requests to different saints that Santa Muerte can grant to all. There are very few popular saints who have this power; the sacred lady is one of these rare deities.

bead bracelet man skull

Bead bracelet man Dark night by Santa Muerte

It seems that there is an effort to identify Santa Muerte as being primarily venerated by drug traffickers, smugglers, prostitutes, and gangsters. This image is largely promoted by Catholic officials in Mexico who want to give her a bad image, although it is true that these people venerate her; these people do not form the majority. Remember that the faithful come in all shapes and sizes and from all walks of life.

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