Powers in my life: Saint Death (Pagan Experience Project Feb week 3)

santamuertaLooking back over my blog I’m noticing a very heavy emphasis on the Hindu side of things, which might suggest that this is a dominant force in my religious life. It’s actually not, at least not on a day to day basis. There are some devotions and observances I maintain and I’ll eventually get to those but at most I regard myself as a student of this collection of traditions, not as a member or participant.

I’ll start by talking about the Power in my life with the most controversy. Interestingly enough, that Power is not Loki.

Santa Muerte entered my awareness in 2006 or 07, most likely via mailing lists and discussion groups related to the Norse goddess Hela and associated death figures. The similarity between Santa Muerte and Powers like Hela is pretty obvious but these connections are actually quite superficial. My dear Saint is not a goddess (and many other believers will tell you the same thing); she’s not even actually a saint in the traditional Catholic sense. She was never human (though some believers tell stories regarding her human existence as a scorned woman) and that disqualifies you out for traditional sainthood. Though she may have roots in certain ancient cultures and so could potentially be regarded as a surviving goddess figure, my personal work with her leads me to very different conclusions. Like many other believers, I regard Santisima as Death Herself.

Venerating death or propitiating death personified doesn’t make sense to a lot of people and this has led to some accusations of devil worship and so forth. In a Christian context, this makes sense. In Christian (and specifically Roman Catholic) theology, Jesus vanquished death through His resurrection. The faithful are promised everlasting life in a heavenly abode because of Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection. Venerating something that your savior has overthrown is therefore a theological mistake. That said, every person, Christian or not, still has to encounter that transition point before any afterlife is encountered. Death Herself still meets each and every one of us before any other Power is on the scene. Additionally, this particular theological argument only holds value if one’s beliefs are rooted in Christian doctrine. Mine are not, so I avoid this line of thinking pretty easily. Further, even people who might otherwise consider themselves good Christians venerate Santa Muerte. We can do this because we’re complex creatures and most of us are willing to stretch the internal logic of faith systems in order to get something we want – which is just what Santisima offers.

The Saint is widely regarded as a miracle worker of unusual strength and responsiveness. This is 41409156_lwhat made me a believer. Even though I’d been aware of her and her veneration for at least five years, I had never thought to approach her. At one point I had some pressing money needs. The Powers around me provide a lot of care and support, but I also know that they work at a different pace. I’m also quite practical with a lot of my magical practice; asking for help from various avenues is a good way to make sure that something is taken care of. I figured there was no harm in asking.

I bought a small white Saint figure, a couple candles, some candy, and a couple pieces of pan dulce. I said my prayers expressing my needs and – perhaps most importantly – I mentioned how helping me materially would allow me to help others in the same way. And it worked. I got the work I needed to earn the money that would sustain my material needs and let me continue the modest but regular charitable giving I do.

The spirit workers reading this will likely be asking, “So what’s the catch? How much is this help going to cost?” There’s a few different price points. First, your gratitude is going to be required; you should really thank the Saint for her assistance so prepare for that. Second, you’re probably going to be a believer once you actually encounter her power and her presence. You’ll want to talk to other people about her, you’ll want to see her visage, you’ll want to hear other stories of her miracles. This attention is also a price. Third, you might very well be asked to maintain a regular or semi-regular observation for her. This will include a lighting a candle or smoking some cigarettes; you’ll also probably need some fresh flowers from time to time, strong black coffee, candy, possibly some fruit, maybe a glass of water (though tequila or even vodka is more common), and definitely her pan dulce. She really likes her pastries.

Perhaps most significantly, the price you pay for her attention is your attention. She doesn’t easily leave your awareness. She’ll be embedded in your spiritual matrix and that connection might always remain quite strong, even if your outward expressions of attention aren’t very frequent.

You  might also need to learn to say the rosary. Fair warning.

My personal altar to Santisima. She's attached to these dried flowers otherwise they'd have been removed by now.

My personal altar to Santisima. She’s attached to these dried flowers otherwise they’d have been removed by now.

The white Saint is mine. The red was purchased for a friend and lives on the altar in the meantime for safekeeping.

The white Saint is mine. The red was purchased for a friend and lives on the altar in the meantime for safekeeping.

These dear little acrylic Muertitos came from Mexico via The Vodou Store (http://www.vodoustore.com/store/) I met the proprietors at PantheaCon and bought a few goodies, including a lovely prayer card. The La Flaca bottle in the background is also from them.

These dear little acrylic Muertitos came from Mexico via The Vodou Store (http://www.vodoustore.com/store/) I met the proprietors at PantheaCon and bought a few goodies, including a lovely prayer card. The La Flaca bottle in the background is also from them.

(I’ll write more on my beloved Saint as other PEP prompts come up; I have a lot to say about her. If you’re curious about her, I’d suggest watching/listening to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MzLSkij5RtU with the caveat that I’m only 1/3 of the way through it and it might totally suck after that point. I also rather like this podcast/interview: http://www.projectarchivist.com/?p=1934 If you like reading things, Devoted to Death by R A Chestnut is probably the best available book in English. If you can read Spanish you can find loads of small booklets, pamphlets, and now even magazines on the Saint. If you’re like me and can read Spanish well enough to pretend to know what it means, these little books are worth buying anyway because sometimes they have cool pictures.)

http://thepaganexperience.com

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4 thoughts on “Powers in my life: Saint Death (Pagan Experience Project Feb week 3)

  1. maryoftheassumptions says:

    Okay, here’s my thought: it is actually not at all bad doctrine to call Santisima a saint. Firstly, the title of saint is also awarded to the archangels, so there is precedent for nonhuman spirits who have been deemed benign having that title. Second, if Christ has in fact taken possession of Death and the realm of the dead, then it stands to reason that Death is answerable to Christ. (I am not saying anyone has to believe this; I am playing it out from within Christian doctrine.)

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    • Silence says:

      That’s interesting, I’ve never heard of the archangels being referred to as saints. It might be the “deemed benign” part that causes the problem or the archangels are entities so exceptional and unique that exceptions are made. I was also drawing from what Roman Catholic clergy have said regarding their beliefs and I imagine that they have particular parameters regarding saints that aren’t shared by other sects that venerate them.

      But on the subject of benign nonhuman beings, you might want to look into Saint Doctor Baby (Santo Niño Doctor). There’s so much attention on Santisima and associated Powers that the rise of other popular saints with less apparently objectionable natures aren’t getting much volume.

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