I recently came across a blog entry written by another magician written in response to a practitioner of the Cult of Santa Muerte. Unfortunately, he mistook the “Saint” part as being part of Santeria. I suppose it's easy to do; I've read reports by journalists reporting on her where they scoff at “those Catholics and their Saints” in which the same issue occurs, but for different reasons. Most notably, the magician responding wasn't an asshole.
“Saint Death” (Santa Muerte) is not a Catholic saint, nor a part of Santeria. She's an indigenous Folk Saint. Along with Jesus Malverde, she's got one of the fastest growing cults in North America and Central America primarily because they both respond to requests made by individuals regardless of their social status or the status of their soul.
You'll find both of them in botanicas all across America, and these days it sounds like some botanicas sell nothing but Santa Muerte related items. I've yet to come across one doing so, but I recall Jason Miller stumbling on to one.
There are a number of small paperback “spellbooks” to her, in particular, being sold in many botanicas in both English and Spanish. They're all pretty interesting in my opinion, even the ones that I suspect were written largely for the author to make a quick buck.
Incidentally, both Santa Muerte and Jesus Malverde have both become “Narco Cultura” icons. The whole “Narco Cultura” shtick seems to be the Mexican equivalent of gangster rap, and having a dead latino Robin Hood or a skeletal woman looks totally hardcore, so you'll see folks wearing t-shirts with Santa Muerte or Jesus Malverde or jewelry all across the West Coast and maybe even in the East Coast.
Icons of both Santa Muerte, along with the other aforementioned Folk Saint, can be found all across the back roads of Ca, largely due to the use of the disenfranchised by the drug trade. Cops call the disenfranchised folks I'm referring “Mopes,” and they're normally individuals who had initially come to Ca to find work in our fields picking fruit and veggies. As the Federal Government has amped up its fight on illegal immigration, they found themselves out of a job and were either threatened into helping drug traffickers with “super-meth labs” or simply had no where else to turn. The icons themselves often have prayers in them like this one:
“You that dwell in heaven near God, hear the sufferings of this humble sinner. Oh Miraculous Malverde, Oh Malverde my Savior, grant me this favor and fill my heart with joy. Grant me good health, Lord, give me peace, give me comfort, and I will rejoice.”
I imagine that the prayers to Santa Muerte are roughly the same, and they lay across the backroads of California, Oregon, Washington and beyond, whispering of silent and secret prayers written by those who have had most of their hope smashed right out of their lives. It was those very same “mopes” that brought both Folk Saints into the US, following a path from the Golden Triangle of Mexico to Mexico City, then in through Tijuana, through Washington and Oregon and up into the Midwest and on to the East Coast.
The inability of traditional religion to help those without hope has lead to new cults emerging all across the Americas, complete with spirits willing to listen to or hear anyone who is willing to smoke a cigarette in their name and pray. I consider this a truly astonishing fact.
So astonishing, I may sit down and write some more about it when I have more time.