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Santisima Muerte

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A Santisima Muerte altar.
A Santisima Muerte altar.

Santisima Muerte, also known as Santa Muerte or Holy Death is a prominent spirit venerated in Mexican folk-Catholicism. She is believed to be a modern form of the ancient Aztec death-goddess, and is sometimes said by contemporary practitioners to be the sister of the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe. She may be called upon by hoodoo rootworkers who have been influenced by Latino spiritual workers, especially those from Mexico, where she is very popular among Spiritists or Espiritismos. While she has always had a strong following, in recent years her worship has received public attention. Being the Lady of Death, there is no spirit more fair and accepting than she so she has become patron of a variety of people from taxi drivers and prostitutes, to those trying to avoid the law, like drug-dealers, and those who enforce the law, like police officers. Many devotees of this folk saint recommend that she be called on in conjunction with a Catholic church saint for safety's sake; Saint Cyprian, also known as San Cipriano, is a popular choice to accompany Santisima Muerte and calm her wild energies.

Holy Death is a demanding spirit who takes some experience and skill to approach, but if she chooses to work with a certain Spirit worker or conjure doctor, she can be called upon to assist in a variety of situations. She is petitioned on behalf of wives who need a strong to help keep their husbands faithful, even to the point of death to bring back wayward husbands. In such cases, the rootworker's magical spells, prayers, and petitions to Santisima Muerte may resemble those directed to the Intranquil Spirit, a ghostly spirit who wanders between Heaven and Hell and who forces straying lovers to return home "as humble as a sheep." Conjure doctors who work with Santisima Muerte may also call upon her for fierce protection against enemies, the destruction of the wicked, fertility blessings, prosperity or gambling luck, and to aid those in prison and those whose work may run afoul of the law.

Santisima Muerte is generally depicted as a female skeleton wearing a robe that is belted with a rope. She may be shown holding balance beam scales and a globe of the world, to signify her fairness in bringing death to all, or she may be outfitted with a scythe, an image borrowed from the iconography of the Grim Reader, her male European counterpart. Her traditional animal ally, sometimes shown on her statues, is the Owl, a bird who brings silent death to its prey, and she may also be sown standing upon a skull or a mound of skulls.

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