Mictecacihuatl, Santa Muerte

MICTECACIHUATL (meek-tay-cah-SEE-wah-tl) is the Lady of Death, and consort to Mictlantecuhtli the king (presiding over the underworld) in Aztec Mythology. The Aztecs dominated Mesoamerica in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, a period referred to as the late post-classic period in Mesoamerican chronology. I have provided a list of resources at the conclusion of this essay for further reading into Aztec Culture and Mythology.

Mictecacihuatl King and Queen of the underworld, Mictlan. Mictecaciahuatl is today's Santa Muerte, The Holy Death. Her role in the underworld was to watch over the bones of the dead. Mictlantecuhtli was a primary god to the Aztecs, ever-present in all rituals involving descent into the underworld. Clay statues have been found, at the opening of the Great Temple of Tenochtitlan. His consort, Lady Death was associated with Spiders, Owls, and Bats and together they resided in a temple of darkness, a place without windows or doors. There they stood, mirror opposites of their gods of life, Ometecuhtli and Omecihuatl. (Aztec Calendar, not to be confused with the Mayan Calendar) Michlantecuhtli, resided by day but held dominion over the night - represented by the dog. When you see a dog, on the calendar - this is Miclantecuhtli. Refer to the links I have provided to learn more about the dissemination of the Aztec Souls by the calendar. He acted as an allegory of the night with a direct relationship to the sun god, Tonatiuh. Michlantecuhtli was over-seer and provider of souls: those that died of natural causes, heroic deeds, and non-heroic. By the time the Aztecs were crossculturalized by Spain, he became the Tzitzimitl, the Lucifer.

Aztec Mythology tells that after Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca created the world, Mictlantecuhtli and Mictecacihuatl, were placed in the underworld. Life, balanced with death. Mictecacihuatl's role is important, in that the bones of the past world are used to create the humans of the present and future world. Guarding the bones is her task, but the bones to create future humans need to be stolen. As the bones are stolen, she is carried with them - which is why she presides over all festivals of the dead. She resides in the underworld, but travels to the land of the living to oversee the caring of the bones. In some of the Spanish legends, she died in childbirth and matured in the underworld, which is why she is the Living Death.

Introduction to Santa Muerte More people are becoming aware, as the media sensationalism reaches their homes, and the 'Cult of Santa Muerte' is also gaining foot in occult circles. It is being referred to as the Santa Muerte Death Cult, often being dismissed as the latest fad. Even Hollywood is riding the wave, with various films on the subject of the cult, usually in the horror, or psychological thriller genre. The devotees to Santa Muerte, are the new modern day Satanists, being vilified by the Church, and a lack of understanding by Christian culture. Santa Muerte is being placed on the left hand path, as it is believed that devotees are obsessed with death. While the Church believes that Jesus conquered death, and ushers the faithful to life ever-lasting, Santa Muerte is misunderstood to represent death eternal. One only needs to speak to a devotee to understand the allure of the Bride of Death, who is lovingly called: My Sweet Lady, The White Woman, The Skinny One, and My Little Girl.

The devotion to Santa Muerte can be traced back to Mexico, 1965. Prior to that, it was sparse devotion and depended greatly on the origins of families residing in Mexico. There is documentation from the late 40's but few and far between. It seems a cultural phenomenon that out of no where a handful of devotees turned into thousands, if not millions by this time in the present. Since the ripples in the pond expand outward from Mexico, devotion to Santa Muerte can be found in South America, North America, and even parts of Europe. Mixing elements of folk practice and Catholicism, the cultus of Sante Muerte is rich in cultural symbolism and practice. Like anything strange and unusual, it is sensationalized and vilified. It has often been reduced to a religion for thugs, drug dealers and prostitutes - which is the furthest thing from the truth. Santa Muerte does not discriminate, therefore she represents a symbol of hope to people of all walks of life. Devotees believe they are returning to the roots of their people, and back to nature before the Spanish Inquisition ripped it from them and leveled the temples of their ancestors. (Photo credit: Eleven Shadows)

Those that feel rejected by the Church, or can't meet up to the standards of Church doctrine, may find solace in Santa Muerte. Her icons have often been found at crime scenes, officials may see her presence as condoning criminal behavior. Since Santa Muerte will bestow her blessings on the faithful regardless of criminal past, it is being perpetrated as a religion of criminals. This is a gross misinterpretation.

In Mexico, Santa Muerte has been linked to Satanism by the Catholic Church in an attempt to thwart followers. Catholics and Protestants have joined forces in warning people of the 'Black Magic' and trickery of the devil. The Church is often horrified by the skeletons, reapers and evolution of Our Lady of Guadelupe. Folk practice does involve mysticism and magic, but so do most world religions but the language is systematically 'holy'. What the church calls Miracles, folk practice calls Magic. All religion is mystical and all religion has some form of magic and trickery. Whether those elements are good or evil, light or dark; depends on personal interpretation and practical application.

The organization of information regarding Santa Muerte, her rituals, prayers, and dedications is chaotic. There is no centralized location a person may obtain information. There are a multitude of websites, ebooks, print material and referrals to mailing addresses but nearly all of them finger point to the 'scammers' while scamming themselves. Like any new 'religion' it preys on the weak and their pocket books. None-the-less, I've managed to collect some worthy articles, books, prayers, a collective of symbolism, and practical application. It takes time and dedication, as you have to weed out the nonsense, and having a translating program is down-right handy. I put together this essay for any person who wishes to learn about Santa Muerte, regardless if they choose to devote to her. Devotion is not required to achieve wisdom, and wisdom is achieved through self-education, examination and application. Devotion to Santa Muerta, a practical guide

This is the sigil of Santa Muerte, it's used in a number of ways but mostly as a protective agent. Throughout Mexico you will find it etched above doorways, on cars, inside the home, on her shrine, and on jewelry. It may be etched on the bottom of Santa Muerte statues, or drawn on the back of hung portraits of her icon.

Her symbols are the world, hour-glass (or time piece), owl, scales, scythe, light (glow of her head), and the colors of her dress.

Each color, has specific significance: White = purity Bone = peace and harmony Amber = sanity Gold = economics Red = emotion Green = justice Blue = wisdom Black = protection Purple = change She is neutral, meaning she is neither light or dark - white or black. She is often associated with various practices such as Palo Mayombe, Santeria, and Vodou but the Mexican people do not see her as a representing spirit, but rather death itself. She is of ancient Mexicana origin, mixed with European elements of Catholicism. The proper term is MESTIZO. Those seeking her protection will offer her flowers, food, tobacco, money, prayers, and their faith.

Santa Muerte Shrines/Altars When setting up an altar for her, it must be made of a natural base such as wood, clay, or stone and the table cloth must be cotton. The remaining embellishments are based on what you seek from her protection. The day of set up should be completely dedicated to her, and there are specific prayers to be said, and offerings to be made. There are specific days to set up the altar, depending on the need of the family. There are prayers that last anywhere from 3-9 days depending.

Items to be placed on the altar (in addition to her symbols): Image of Santa Muerte Water = life Incense (copal) = spirit White flowers (fresh) = earth connection Liquor (Tequila, wine, beer of Mexico) = ancestral roots Tobacco = pleasure Bread = sacred offering Apple = nourishment Money = prosperity Fragrance = energy vibration (to you) Personal offerings = deeper connection to you

La Santa Muerte, La Nina Blanca, La' Flaca La Huesuda

She is the 'Holy Bride' of death.

The imagery of 'death' is typically symbolized by a dressed skeleton, to remind people of their own mortality (Memento Mori,) or a bride of death.

Understanding her icon

Upon searching, you might discover images which show the bottom of the statue. The reason for this, is that the statue itself, acts as a offering place. Similar to hollowed out mojo dolls. Sometimes the bottom may have an amulet, oil, or seeds affixed to it. At other times, the entire statue is hollowed out, and inside is a mixture of items, which are later sealed in wax. The statues are also used for shrines themselves, sometimes hollowed out and items placed inside. This illustration demonstrates the 'charms' placed on the bottom of the icon. Items such as pictures, seeds, talismans, hair, skin, nails and red thread are common. The red thread, is meant to symbolize the delicate balance between life and death. Personal affects forge a connection between the living and Holy Death. Some items which may be found inside are milagro, images, oils, rice, seeds, a crucifix, and some add personal elements such as hair, nails, skin etc. One items with particular significance is red thread. The thread is meant to symbolize the thread of life, and how delicate the balance between life and death truly is. In an instance, a person may be transferred from the realm of the living, to the realm of the dead and 'living' is given the utmost importance. Rice, is a staple food and offered in sacrifice. Seeds, represent the prosperity which may be fostered to grow. Milagro, are offered in ex voto.

And other items have very personal meanings, offered in devotion to Saint Death. The personal items, make a personal connection to Santa Muerte, and bring her closer to the living.

Holding a globe, to represent her worldly power. Often, the scales, are present to represent the 'just' judgment of holy death, the scythe, as a reaper of the dead. In some versions, she holds a crystal ball to represent her reach into the world of the living. She is often reduced to a vengeance goddess, but she's much more than that. Her syncretic imagery today, is allegorical in nature. Depending on the icon each symbol can be examined for its occult volume. There is no limit to her symbolism, or the items offered to her in devotion. There are many instances when Santa Muerte can be utilized. She sees no boundaries, nor discriminates against the people who devote to her. Many sources caution the devotee, that joining her cultus comes with a price. A lot of this stuff is nonsense, rhetoric and propaganda. What better way to coerce 'followers' than to usher them in with fear? In some regard it is useful, in that 'devotion' will be more genuine if there are some perceived consequences for wavering faith.

Mictlantecuhtli has taken a second seat to his consort. While he is ever present in the dealings of souls, it is Lady Death that has become the new Holy Mother of the people. In modern usage, she is not a deity...a goddess but anthropomorphasized death. itself. The deeper the devotion, the closer the connection to the land of the living. Origin theories and associations "Santerians equate the Santa Muerte with a goddess in their own pantheon of deities this is Oya the goddess of winds and thunder whom also happens to be a guardian of the cemetery gates. She is believed to work with the dead and receive the souls of those dead. She is different from the Santa Muerte because Oya is an elemental force that includes attributes of the cemetery and death. The Santa Muerte is the spirit of death itself the feminine essence of death itself and her origins are Mexican whereas Oya's origins are African. Oya has initiation ceremonies for those that would be priests/ess of her mysteries, with the Santa Muerte being death itself you are an initiate by being born because life is inseperable from death. Animal sacrificial rites are performed for Oya and contemporary Santa Muerte is not apropriated with blood sacrifices as she was when she was Mictecacihuatl. In perhispanic Mexico the Mexica made human sacrifices and animal sacrifices for their deities".
Quote source: http://www.brujonegrobrujeria.com/page/page/2215114.htm

This is somewhat accurate, in that devotees to Santa Muerte do not sacrifice whole animals, but there is blood offering for specific desires. In the case of requesting vengeance, most often only a drop of blood is needed, but blood has been present in some of the rituals I've found. Now, whether or not this is taken to an 'extreme' by *some* devotees is a subject of debate. The fact that Santa Muerte icons have been discovered at various crime scenes in Mexico, is associating Santa Muerte's need for blood to deliver results in certain rituals. It may just be happenstance, that criminal elements devote to Holy Death - and in large number, which is why Santa Muerte is being charged with being the 'goddess of Crime'. It's a cultural element, so naturally criminals will be among the populace but devotion to her is not exclusive to criminals, nor does her devotion incite violence and crime. In most cases, blood sacrifice is not required and items such as tobacco, maryjuana, food, money, and personal affects are offered to her shrines.

The Shaman from Veracruz One legend (of unknown origin) tells that the origins of the Cultus of Holy Death is from Veracruz, traced to a Century XIX shaman who was visited by Death in his sleep and asked him to disseminate the cult among Mexicans.

Santa Muerte and her companions Other icons which compliment Santa Muerte in her shrines are Guacho Gil, and Zapata; heroes of Mexico.

Guacho Gil, a mythological cowboy who was hung in a tree by his enemies, but transcended to a spiritual element in religion, acting as intecessor between man and God.

Zapata, was a hero of the Mexican Revolution. Zapata, was a man of the people. Many seemingly good men during the revolution were corrupted by money and politics. Zapata just wanted land for his people, so they didn't starve and the freedom to farm it - without the interference from greedy politicians. Mexico was in a state of horrible poverty. The rich and middle class were prospering, but the lower-class peasant farmer was suffering, and made up the bulk of the population. In order for things to change, the government had to change. Zapata was not a central figure in the revolution, but most remembered for his passion, and being a tough good guy. His image gave the people hope, and still does today. Among the many icons on Santa Muerte altars, is an icon of Zapata.

Prayers and Devotions Santa Muerte is often called upon for vengeance. She presides over judgement, represented by the scales, and justice. This is taken from the 2007 film, Not Forgotten:

Charge to Santa Muerte La Santa Muerte, La Nina Blanca, La' Flaca La Huesuda Oh Death, glorious death,

I implore you, face to face. Don't let me be without your protection Holy vessel, to holy vessel. Walk with me, protect me. Vanquish my enemies. Conquer those, who are conquering me. Like Jesus conquered on the cross. I offer you my blood, oh holy death. My blood is your blood. It courses like fire through my veins. No sin, no transgression against me shall ever be forgotten. Holy death is with me in holy communion. Oh death, beautiful death. Spanish version: Oh Muerte, muerte gloriosa, os suplico, cara a cara. No me dejes sin tu protección buque Santo, al recipiente sagrado. Camina conmigo, me protege. Vencer a mis enemigos. Conquistar aquellos que me están conquistando. Al igual que Jesús conquistó en la cruz Te ofrezco mi sangre, ¡oh santa muerte. Mi sangre es su sangre. Se cursos como el fuego por mis venas. No hay pecado, hay transgresión contra mí nunca será olvidado. la muerte de Santo está conmigo en la sagrada comunión. ¡Oh muerte, la muerte hermosa. Extensive outline of prayers, rituals, devotions: (In Spanish) http://www.santamuerte.galeon.com/cvitae721608.html Common requests are for love, money, stability, peace of mind and judgement.

Conclusion The phenomena in Mexico, is that the people are becoming more humble and taking part in their community - even if only periodically, for Santa Muerte. The common people, the people that can't wrap their heads around a doctrine that promises them everything, but doesn't appear to deliver, are seeing results in Santa Muerte, so naturally its growing. The church will consider them the outcasts, the 'underworld people' creating a doctrine of 'convenience', but believes the people will come back to the church. Whether they do, or don't - matters little, Santa Muerte gives them what they need right now.

In the end, they form one human chain, linking every person in the crowd to the shrine of Santa Muerte. They can visualize their troubles, and what they wish Santa Muerte to deliver them to. This phenomena is spreading, growing and providing hope to thousands. What troubles local authorities, is that the criminals will not see fault in what they do - because Santa Muerte does not discriminate. She rejects no one, provided your devotion to her is true. So, this gives criminals the 'safety net' they need, to continue their activities, rather than curb them in fear of the damnation offered by the Church.

" A statue of folk saint Santa Muerte, or Death Saint, sits on a package of marijuana as a police officer and a soldier stand behind it Wednesday during the presentation of suspects and seized items to the press in Tijuana, Mexico. According to the army, seven suspects were arrested Tuesday during a joint operation in which they seized 847 kilograms (1,867 pounds) of marijuana, guns, cars and machines to falsify official credentials." Source: AP

Recommended Books:

Video:

Resources:
The Cult of Santa Muerte, By Tony M. Kail 2012 Calendar: Mayan or Aztec?, By Dree Lyons Aztec Religion: Aztec Student Research guide (C) 1997-2005 Thomas H. Frederikson. Prehistoric Mesoamerica: by Richard E.W. Adams, Revised edition copyright 1991 by the University of Oklahoma press ISBN 0-8061-2304-4 First edition copyright 1977 by Little, Brown and company, Inc Boston.

News articles:
Mexican police suspect that heads burned in ritual, Alexandra Olson, Associated Press, Sep, 2, 2008 Mexican 'Saint Death' cult members protest at destruction of shrines, Guardian UK, Feb, 2009 Mexican Death Cult, Softens their Saints, The Age, August 2007 A New God in Town, TIME, October 2007 Associated Press, Mexican Drug War, March, 2010

Websites:
paganspace.net, topics: Catholic Witchcraft: http://www.paganspace.net/forum/topics/catholic-witchcraft-and? commentId=1342861%3AComment%3A6868825 Santa Muerte: http://www.paganspace.net/forum/topics/mictecacihuatl-santa-muerte? id=1342861%3ATopic%3A9176489&page=1#comments (Includes sub-links to other topics regarding Santa Muerte) Scribd:

Ex-Voto: http://www.scribd.com/doc/44394595/The-EX-voto Wikipedia: Tenochitlan: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tenochtitlan Aztec Mythology: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aztec_mythology

Youtube Clips: La Santa Muerte Documentary, Part 1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=99dXl8oZbls&feature=player_embedded La Santa Muerte Documentary, Part 2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y3MuMEz4Z-c&feature=player_embedded Santa Muerte and her Remedies: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_iaK4KzPb0&feature=player_embedded

SIN Jones The Poison Apple www.the-poison-apple.com November, 2010

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