Santisima Muerte: History, Meaning, and Worship
Santisima Muerte, also known as Santa Muerte, is the widely beloved saint of death. Revered in Mexico, Santa Muerte is portrayed as a female skeletal figure, reminiscent of the grim reaper. She wears a hooded cloak and carries a scythe. While not officially acknowledged as a saint by the Catholic Church, this saint of the underworld has amassed an increasingly large following.
The History of Santisima Muerte
Known as ‘the white lady’, ‘la hueseda’ and ‘holy death’, the origin of this religious icon dates back to ancient Aztec rituals that personified death in the form of skeletal figures. Believed to be a derivative of Mictecacihuatl, the ancient Aztec goddess of Death, these figures were prayed to and worshiped to ensure a safe and peaceful journey into the afterlife.
While never completely eradicated, the worship of saints of death largely decreased as Catholicism took hold in Latin American countries. There is evidence that loyal followers maintained their devotion to Santisima Muerte in the centuries that followed, passing her lore down verbally from generation to generation.
Worship of Santa Muerte began to emerge again more consistently in Mexico in the 1950s and 1960s where statues of the saint can be found in front of homes and businesses alike. The poor, working-class people began growing disillusioned by the Catholic Church and the saints linked to Catholicism. They found comfort in the simplicity and humility of Santa Muerte and looked to her for protection from evil and a calm passage from life to death.
Santisima Muerte's Appearance
Depicted as a skeleton draped in a flowing cloak, Santisima Muerte has numerous objects associated with her. She is often shown carrying a globe in one hand and a scythe in the other. The scythe represents the negative energy that this icon is said to cut away. It is also associated with the grim reaper, a widely acknowledged symbol of death. The globe she carries symbolizes the power she yields over the Earth and her willingness to help all people, regardless of nationality or ethnicity.
Often seen at Satisima Muerte’s feet are depictions of a scale, an owl, and an hourglass. The scale signifies the scales of justice, alluding to the fairness and balance she conveys to her worshipers. The great owl has eyes that can see in the blackest of nights, allowing it to scan the darkness for enemies. The hourglass reminds us that our time on Earth is finite and should be cherished.
The gown that Santa Muerte wears is portrayed in various colors, representing different objectives. Her white tunic, the most popular, symbolizes purification and spiritual cleansing of negative energy. When seen in red, Santa Muerte embodies passionate love and strength in relationships. When dressed in black, the saint of death wards off black magic and spells meant to do harm to others. Festooned in yellow, she aids the sick and those afflicted with addiction. Green embodies justice, helping those burdened with legal issues.
The Worshipping of Santisima Muerte
This powerful saint is often worshiped at an altar created in her honor. Candles of red, black, and white typically adorn the altar, invoking Santa Muerte and her protection. This altar should be located in a calm place, free from distractions and skeptics. Clear, clean water should always be prominently displayed on your altar, as a symbol of life and purity. Offerings of bread and wine or liquor are also strongly encouraged to provide sustenance for this idol.
The energy of Santa Muerte is most vibrant at night, and prayers made to her after sunset will be the most powerful. On a Tuesday or Thursday night during a full moon, light your altar candles, place your Santisma Muerte prayer card on the altar and recite the following prayer:
Most Holy Death, I ask that through this image you will cover me with the cloak of your protection, that you always take care of me and guide me through all snares and dangers. Give me your blessing so that I never lack the things I need. Give me strength, health, prosperity, and protection.
Jewelry such as amulets, necklaces, and bracelets fashioned in Santisima Muerte’s image are also potent talismans. Wear them to grant prosperity, help in legal matters, protect you from harm and succeed in business affairs.