Viva La Muerte! Santa Muerte, Folk Saint and Holy Personification of Death, Healer and Protector

Viva La Muerte! Santa Muerte, Folk Saint and Holy Personification of Death, Healer and Protector

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Some people become devotees on their own initiative, actively seeking out Santa Muerte upon the recommendation of friends or family members. Others receive an unexpected call or visit from the Skinny Lady ( la Flaquita , one of her many nicknames) in which she offers to solve their problems. Such was my own path to the skeleton saint, a surprise visit in the spring of 2009. For several years I had been doing research on the Virgin of Guadalupe, Mexico’s patron saint. I had decided to study her as I was finishing my second book. As a specialist in the religions of Latin America, I wanted to tackle a monumental topic for my next book project. As empress of all the Americas and queen of Mexico, the mestiza Virgin towers over the region’s religious landscape. Of  course fellow researchers and devotees had already written numerous books and articles on her, but I was sure there was still much to say about the world’s most important advocation of the Virgin Mary. But as the semesters passed, first at the University of Houston and then at Virginia Commonwealth University, my enthusiasm for the project waned. The passion that had driven my previous research and writing just wasn’t there, and I wasn’t sure why.

Mexico’s Folk Saint Santa Muerte, associated with healing, protection, and a path to the afterlife.

Mexico’s Folk Saint Santa Muerte, associated with healing, protection, and a path to the afterlife. (©Toni François)

Folk Saint Shrines Razed

It was in this context of research malaise in the spring of 2009 that the Bony Lady ( la Huesuda , another common nickname) appeared on my laptop and summoned me to contemplate her. More specifically, it was the news of a military assault against her on the U.S.-Mexican border that ultimately led me to replace Guadalupe with a figure who at first glance seemed to be her antithesis, a sort of anti-Virgin. In late March the Mexican army razed some forty Santa Muerte shrines on the Mexican border with California and Texas, mostly on the outskirts of Tijuana and Nuevo Laredo. Army bulldozers had leveled the very same roadside altars that we had passed numerous times on our long road trips from Houston to Morelia, state capital of Michoacán and my wife’s hometown. I started making the eighteen-hour drive in 2006 and noticed that on each subsequent trip the number of makeshift roadside altars on the main highway linking Nuevo Laredo and Monterrey had multiplied. The crude concrete shrines, often obscured by the SUVs and pickups of the devotees, were our signpost on the return trip, letting us know that the Texas border was just a half an hour or so away. What on earth had Saint Death done, I wondered, to deserve such an aggressive desecration of her holy sites at the hands of the Mexican army?

A shrine dedicated to Santa Muerte

A shrine dedicated to Santa Muerte (©Toni François)

As images of her shrines reduced to rubble flickered across my computer screen, I had an epiphany. My flagging passion for research on Guadalupe would be replaced by a quest to understand why the Mexican government had declared Santa Muerte a virtual enemy of the state. More broadly, I would seek to discover why in less than a decade devotion to her had grown so much that her popularity now eclipses every other saint in Mexico except Saint Jude, patron of lost causes and devotion to her is the fasting growing new religious movement in the Americas. Never one to balk at an epiphany, I turned my back on the Virgin and decided to stare Saint Death straight in the face.

Saint Jude the Apostle procession.

Saint Jude the Apostle procession. ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

Some readers will have come across the White Girl ( la Niña Blanca , another popular sobriquet) on trips to Mexico, while others will have encountered her in TV series, such as Breaking Bad or American Horror Story , or as votive candles in supermarkets in Los Angeles, Houston, New York, and other cities with large Mexican immigrant communities. But most, I suspect, are meeting the Godmother ( la Madrina, also a common moniker) for the first time. I ask those already familiar with her to bear with me as I briefly introduce her to who have not encountered Saint Death before.

Offerings are placed at the feet of Santa Muerte

Offerings are placed at the feet of Santa Muerte (©Toni François)

Holy Spirits of the Dead

As her name would indicate, Santa Muerte is a Mexican folk saint who personifies death. Whether as a plaster statue or on a votive candle, gold medallion, or prayer card she is most often depicted as a female Grim Reaper, wielding the same scythe and wearing a shroud similar to her European male counterpart. Unlike official saints, who have been canonized by the Catholic Church, folk saints are spirits of the dead considered holy for their miracle-working powers. In Mexico and Latin America in general such folk saints as Niño Fidencio, Jesús Malverde, Maximón, and San La Muerte (the Argentine counterpart of Santa Muerte) command widespread devotion and are often sought out more than Catholic saints.


Halloween is Beltane (Baal the sun god of ancient Egypt symbolized as 666) the worship of the dead. The worship of the dead is another form of Idolatry forbidden by God in 12 different verses. See: What Does the Bible Say About Ancestral Worship? -
Bible verses about Ancestral Worship. ... or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. ... Now therefore thus says the Lord.

For example Deuteronomy 18:9-13: “When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God,

2 Chronicles 33:6: And he burned his sons as an offering in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, and used fortune-telling and omens and sorcery, and dealt with mediums and with necromancers (those who worship the dead). He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger.

The Catholic Church is a Pagan religion based on witchcraft which came from Babel.

They make saints i.e. gods out of men. The Bible warns us in the Ten Commandments, "Thou shalt not have any other gods before me. But they worship the Queen of Heaven falsely disguising her as the Mother of Jesus. She is the Goddess with many names, the fertility goddess Isis, etc. Her prototype was the queen of Babel wife of Nimrod mother of the Titans or Nephilim.

The False Prophet who will work miracles for the Antichrist will be a future Pope.

Our freedoms in America were based on Christian principles and belief in the Bible. When Democrats allow Mexicans and Muslim Pagans into our country they vote for Liberals out of greed for free benefits under socialism which increases our debt and dictatorship which will lead to our destruction and loss of God given freedoms. The Democrats support every kind of evil God condemns.

Death is the god of atheism, agnosticism, and the occult (New Age Religion, Spiritism). Evolution worships death as the creator through survival of the fittest. The Bible says death is the enemy and it came into the world as punishment for sin. Death is evil from following Satan's lies.

The Virgin of Guadalupe and other apparitions are associated with UFO phenomenon, which is the manifestation of evil spirits and Fallen Angels. They are invading the earth to set up the kingdom of Antichrist. He will be a reincarnation of Nimrod the Nephilim and claim to be part alien evolved on another planet. These virgin appearances gave secret messages which will be revealed by the Vatican when the time is right, revealing the Antichrist is the messiah. This is a lie! These virgin appearances are apparitions of the goddess Gaia who has many names given to her after men were scattered from Babel. See my books.

So much nonsense here, but the most offensive were the lies about America & about Liberals.
Our freedoms in America were based on Secular principles, not Christian principles. A little education goes a long way - America has its freedoms because it was founded as a secular nation, and those who would take away those freedoms are the same liars who try to rewrite the past and claim America is a Christian nation. The Dominionists, the Quiverfull movement, these are treasonous Anti-America movements that seek to destroy this great country in the name of their primitive and evil god.

Liberals seek to save this country, to keep it great despite the damage already done by enemies of America such as yourself, and the traitors that make up the Neoconservative movement that has ruled for the past 40 to 50 years. Hopefully all loyal Americans have woken up to the danger and will vote for those who actually want to improve things, and not keep letting the same party dominate the Senate and keep dragging the country down toward the destruction you so fervently pray for.

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