Column: La Santa Muerte, the Growing Veneration of Holy Death in Paganism

In many ways, practitioners of modern Pagan religions can be seen as renegades. They are often well-educated about, and in many cases raised within, one of the mainstream faiths and have found that faith to be unfulfilling, uninspiring, or otherwise wanting. Rather than giving up, they have sought their own path and found practices that speak to their own needs within their own contexts. Modern Pagans are those who have seen what mainstream society dictates and have rejected that prescription to follow their own path. However, renegades exist within even the mainstream religions.

Column: Death in the Family

“Our dead are never dead to us until we have forgotten them.”-  G. Eliot

I’ve always felt that the dead have a complicated life in Latin America. Although the Day of the Dead enters modernity through Mexico, the conversations and intimacy with death are profoundly embedded in and throughout Latino/Hispanic culture. Nobel Laureate Octavio Paz once commented ““The word death is not pronounced in New York, in Paris, in London, because it burns the lips. The Mexican, in contrast, is familiar with death, jokes about it, caresses it, sleeps with it, celebrates it, it is one of his favorite toys and his most steadfast love.”

Devotion to Santa Muerte is not probable cause

Last week, two individuals charged with firearm and drug trafficking charges had their convictions overturned on appeal thanks to authorities using their devotion to the Mexican folk-saint Santa Muerte to “taint” proceedings. In the decision handed down by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, the court blasted using the expert testimony of U.S. Marshall Robert Almonte, who government prosecutors described as a “cultural iconography hobbyist.”

“Missing from the district court’s discussion of Almonte’s qualifications is any discussion of how his Santa Muerte testimony could legitimately connect Medina’s prayer to drug trafficking. There is no evidence that Santa Muerte iconography is ‘associational,’ nor was there any allegation that the ‘main purpose’ of Santa Muerte veneration ‘was to traffic in’ narcotics. Cf. id.