I recently wrote a slightly tongue-in-cheek post for Friendly Atheist about Gianfranco Ravasi’s objection to Santa Muerte, a Mexican cultural icon who mildly imitates the Virgin of Guadalupe and blends Catholic ritual with local culture and tradition. Needless to say, the Vatican is not very happy.
I like Santa Muerte. I like discovering other cultures, learning about their beliefs, and seeing how they present and interpret the world around them – often it’s quite beautiful. Check out these great images of Santa Muerte and the festival of Dia de los Muertos. I love how it takes the familiar Catholic iconography and makes it more colourful.
(Plus I love skulls. You should see my house at Hallowe’en.)
The cats are quite possibly my favourite part.
Readers should note that I lack the background knowledge to pick out what is authentically, culturally Mexican and what’s been appropriated. I just posted the images that most spoke to me, the ones that my skull-bracelet-wearing, Hot-Topic-shopping self thought were really cool.
I was, however, fascinated to learn a bit more about the cultural underpinnings from Carmelita Spats, a commenter on my Friendly Atheist post, who writes:
Santa Muerte has been giving the RCC a headache in my country for a while. The reason why she is so popular with marginalized groups is because Guadalupe “forgives” whereas Santa Muerte “kicks butt”. The guy who headed the Basilica of Guadalupe for 40 years, Msgr. Guillermo Schulemberg, publicly admitted that Guadalupe was a fraud. Honestly, I would rather superstitions go away but I “get” it. Although Catholicism and Santa Muerte are both death cults, there is a big difference. The Santa Muerte veneration is done to protect you in the “here and now” and not as a preparation for an afterlife. It is about survival and vengeance. Santa Muerte “takes” your enemy instead of “taking” you. Thus, you are left to live another day.
Very interesting. Very cool.
I’m excited to track down R. Andrew Chestnut’s book on Santa Muerte, called Devoted to Death: Santa Muerte, the Skeleton Saint. Wish me luck in the quest!