Several months ago, I engaged in a 9 week Working with Santa Muerte. The obvious question any sane Setian would ask is why did I undertake the nine weeks of devotion to Holy Saint Death? There answer to that question is complex. First, I felt and acknowledged the “gravitational pull Runa” that lead me to start researching Saint Death. I have come to trust that pull and engaged it through what I refer to as the Explorer Perspective or that approach to Initiation that encourages and thrives within the strange and tangential directions we are often presented with. Second, I can see a long pattern of working with Death goddesses in my Initiation. The dark feminine, the dark aspects of my anima we could say, has been an objective (or projected) part of my spiritual life for a long time and it felt like it was time to reinvest in that aspect of my Psyche. However, this approach was a difficult way for me to engage with that aspect of my Psyche since much of the language and many of the activities associated with a devotion to Santa Muerte are Right Hand Path practices. The Working also helped to remind me and encourage me to Play. I was also simply curious as to what the outcome would be. Holy Saint Death also provided me with an invigorated approach to practical magic. I love the visceral and aesthetic nature of hoodoo but I never really had a need to really practice it. Santa Muerte combines the folk magic aspect of practices like hoodoo with a heartfelt veneration at the core of it. In other words, there was a consistent momentum or ongoing reason for the practice. The veneration aspect was the most difficult aspect for my Setian sensibilities to accept but it was an important part of the Working and one that I am glad I embraced and continue to embrace. However, I should mention that at no time was I venerating something other than a part of myself. I don’t posit an ontological entity called “Santa Muerte” but I do acknowledge that She is more than my ego-complex.
We create our gods. We didn’t create death (the natural result of being born) but we can create Death (a magical and metaphorical representation of archetypical symbols pertaining to death). I was creating Death and bringing Her into my life moment by moment and I continue to do this every day. It was odd repeating the rosary to Santa Muerte, asking her over and over and over for Her influence, Her blessings, and Her protection. We Setians don’t generally talk about relying on anyone or anything. That lead to my first insight. The truth is, though, we rely on many people/things all the time. For example, I rely (bind together in confidence) the ability of the operator of the train to run things safely. The same goes for my doctor, HR representative, and dozens of other strangers that have some influence or impact on my life. On a grander scale, I rely on the faceless farmer who grows the produce I eat. I rely on the police to keep harm away from me even if they don’t know (or care) who I am as an individual. The same goes for my condo board, the politicians that have influence over me through the various decisions they make every day. Granted there are many examples of bullshit connected to this larger scale but overall, I am in a position where I rely on a lot of people or institutions, even if I’m not fully aware of them all. I’m not as independent as I might have thought before but I’m ok with that. I can’t rule and run everything in my city (let alone the universe!) I found that I grew to appreciate and be grateful for the work that others do for me either as an individual, a citizen, a friend, a Priest. That was my second insight.
Ultimately everything and everyone will cease to exist (at least in a material way). Everything. So why not acknowledge the fact that every second of everyday could be my last on this earth? Why not look at death and say “I call upon Santa Muerte, Holy Queen of Death, who commands all influence and authority. Please grant me your power and your protection. Blessing and keeping me now and always”? Small “d” death is often ignored by our society or it is hidden behind un-confirmable and convenient beliefs about heaven or immortality. Approaching death as Death can be seen as a coping strategy for the existential threat of death. Sure. However, the individuals dedicated to the Bone Queen don’t dwell on the afterlife (I assume that is covered by the Catholic conditioning in places like Mexico) but they may say something like “Santa Muerte, protect me, provide me with a happy life and a good death.” Really, what more is there for one to desire in this incarnation on this planet? Happiness and dying well really puts much of our life into a new perspective.
Another interesting experience working with Santa Muerte is understanding that Death connects us to all other life (all existence really) without losing our sense of Self (in fact I would say it increases our sense of individuality). All life will feel the cold kiss of the Skinny Lady. Buddha indicated that we all experience suffering and in that suffering we can empathize with the plight of others. This is true. However, Death is even more evident and even more universal. Santa Muerte is noted as being amoral. Death does not hold class, ethnic background, gender, or any other discriminator as either good or bad. Life is. Death is. That’s the human condition.
Hail Holy Queen of Death!