ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Saints and Spirits: Santa Muerte

Updated on September 14, 2016
Edmund Standing profile image

Edmund Standing holds a BA in Theology & Religious Studies and an MA in Critical & Cultural Theory.

Santa Muerte devotional figurines
Santa Muerte devotional figurines | Source

In addition to venerating the Virgin Mary and the traditional saints of Roman Catholicism, large numbers of people in Latin America also devote themselves to a wide variety of folk saints (religious figures and icons arising within popular devotion and unofficially ‘canonised’ by the people). Often, these folk saints exist in a sphere outside that of the piety and moralism associated with ‘official’ Catholicism and its saints. They speak to the needs and desires of real people, and represent a more this-worldly, earthy type of religiosity. There is the cigarette-smoking and spirit-drinking Maximón (or San Simón); Juan Bautista Morillo, prayed to by gamblers; Sarita Colonia, patroness of prostitutes, transvestites, and gay people; and Gauchito Gil, an army deserter and outlaw who helped the needy.

Santa Muerte is a popular Mexican folk saint, whose devotees are increasingly found further afield. While there are lots of theories surrounding her origins and identity, it is safe to say she is the modern manifestation of a very old spirit. In her contemporary form, she appears as a folk saint of death and many of her devotees continue to practice Roman Catholicism. Indeed, Catholic iconography, liturgical elements, and elements of popular piety (such as the use of votive and vigil candles) have all been incorporated as elements of their devotion.

As an image of death, Santa Muerte has no fixed identity; no race or nationality, no socioeconomic status, and no specified sexuality. Devotees of Santa Muerte know her as an earthy, real character who, as with death itself, does not discriminate and comes to all. Unlike orthodox religion, which demands holiness and separateness, devotion to Santa Muerte demands only a love of La Huesuda and a willingness on the part of practitioner to engage in a friendship in which she helps them and they in turn show their appreciation by giving her gifts and offerings of things she likes, such as sweets, bread, tobacco, money, alcohol, flowers, and water. Eschewing the otherworldly, pious trappings of mainstream saints, Santa Muerte likes mariachi music, feathered boas, sequined gowns, flashy rings, chocolates, cigarettes, and whiskey.

All human beings share certain things in common and death is the ultimate leveler, in that it comes for us all and has no interest in background or social status. Just as death one day comes and takes us all, so devotees believe that Santa Muerte is a spirit who is open to all, and who will come to all who call on her. For this reason, increasing numbers of people of different nationalities, races, sexualities, and socio-economic backgrounds are being brought together by a figure who represents both death and a full immersion in life.

Some good sites and articles on Santa Muerte:

La Santa Muerte – Lots of prayers and other information

Santisima Muerte Chapel of Perpetual Pilgrimage

Most Holy Death

World Religions and Spirituality Project article

Brujo Negro Brujeria on Santa Muerte

Bronx Journal article

New York Times article

Washington Times article

Time Magazine photo slideshow

Faith in the Five Boroughs video report


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)