Roy Exum: My Sister And La Santa Muerte

Thursday, December 27, 2012 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

Nobody in the world can make me laugh like my sister Ellen. Trust me, she’s up to something all the time and every year she sends bundles of Christmas presents, each with the funniest letters of explanation you have ever read. Not only is she is the most creative person in the world, but she revels in the absurd, the funny, and the unusual.

Several days before our most revered holiday, my dazzling sister came into town for mother’s birthday and drove a huge chariot full of gifts for each of us. For just one to open Ellen’s presents takes over an hour because each gift brings side-splitting laughter, wonder and glee. But this year she insisted I open one gift early simply because she wanted to watch my face as I discovered “The Candle of Death!”

Oh, the Santa Muerte candle is not to be taken lightly, my friend. A couple of years ago my sister got hung up on Mexican Milagros – these little medallions that represent every affliction – medical and otherwise – known to man. Every year she gives each person in our family a fist of them, each tied to a colorful string of ribbon, and the idea is to drape them on this shrine of a statue we call “Charlie.”

That way “Charlie” is supposed to worry about our ailments and problems, freeing our minds to pursue more wholesome and meaningful avenues. Each Milagro is customized by my sister for each person. For instance, I have two that have an arm on them, since I have no elbow, and our “Saint Charlie” does all the fretting. Fretting ain’t nothing but worrying something bad might happen. Don’t you see -- Let “Charlie” do it!

Well, sometime this year Ellen was harvesting Milagros for all of us when she came across – here we go – La Santa Muerte, “The Angel of Death.” It seems the peasants in Mexico have had darn near enough with the drug cartels and the senseless killing of thousands. “La policia” aren’t real quick about responding to automatic gunfire and some in fact are “chotas,” which means crooked cops.

So the people, most all who have small shrines in their haciendas, have added a new candle – La Santa Muerte. You light one of those and you mean business!  Death is a very powerful thing. Now the candle comes in three colors. A white one is for peaceful death, one without pain and suffering which is used for the elderly or for the terrible death of a newborn. A red candle is for love, or – yes -- those who die at the hands of a jealous lover.

But – oh no – Ellen handed me a black one and you’d have thought she gave me a loaded .44 magnum handgun. Black represents evil. You light it for protection from witchcraft, protection from evil spirits, and – get this -- for enemy work. When “la policia” can’t protect you, haul out the black La Santa Muerte, light it, and recite the prayer, which is printed on the back of the jar that holds the candle.

Caution: this is a most powerful prayer and not for tender eyes. It isn’t too late to turn back, I warn you, but if you must know the prayer, here’s what it says:

“Oh! Conquering Jesus Christ, that in the cross was defeated, like You would tame a ferocious animal, tame the soul of (name of who you want to revenge). Tame as a lamb and tame as the rosemary flower (name) who shall come to kneel before me and obey my every command. Holy death, I plead of your immortal power that God has given you towards mortals, place us in a celestial sphere where we'll enjoy days without nights for all eternity. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, hear my plea for Your protection, grant all our wishes until the last day, hour and moment that your Divine Majesty orders us to appear before you. Amen.”

Whoa, are you kidding me! When you pray that God will deliver so-and-so “on his knees,” that is scary juju indeed! Of course, Ellen can rattle off some names like the Iate Ayatollah Khomeini, Osama bin Laden, Hitler, and a mass murderer with glee but promises, “If anybody evil crosses you, light the candle and they’ll show up on their knees!”

Of course, the Roman Catholic Church of Mexico has vehemently decried the use of the Santa Muerte, saying it is no more than a cult and in no way symbolizes the teaching nor the passions of Jesus Christ. Just the same, you can order any color of candle you want on the Internet (check out The Spiritual Market website.)

Some say the black candle may create poisonous carbon dioxide fumes intended for its receiver so, just to be safe, use it only outside. But, beyond all, follow the instructions of any firearms instructor – don’t put your finger on the trigger unless you intend to shoot. Translated: don’t dare strike the match until you are sure you want some scoundrel to squirm on his knees. That’s what I’m thinking.

Let me tell you something else. There is actually a picture of La Santa Muerte in an ancient Catholic Church in Rome (Basilica di San Pietro in Vincol) and experts believe there may be more to the current craze than one might suspect. Beware and tread gently, my friend, if you are tempted to mess around with La Santa Muerte!

Some drug runners in Mexico have La Santa Muerte crudely tattooed on their beings, hopeful she  the saint of those who are evil and have been rejected by the church. “Because Santa Muerte is the angel of death and because death doesn't discriminate, she therefore accepts all those who have been rejected by the Church,” said an Internet source named Doc. “People such as criminals, drug dealers, prostitutes, and homosexuals believe that Santa Muerte comes through for them and believe that she is their special patron.”

But the people who use La Santa Muerte – who looks like a shrouded skeletal female holding a large scythe and clothed in a black cloak with a hood – say that’s a bunch of bunk. The Angel of Death also goes by the name of La Santisima Muerte, if you want to order any candles or Armuletos, but quite honestly, I don’t want to get that far into it.

I’m just saying I have had a gun-carry permit for quite a while and now I’ve got a black La Santa Muerte candle. Forget about the gun -- all I have to do with my new candle is strike a match and say the prayer. Bad people better be real careful around me. Believe me, my sister Ellen has once again delivered the Christmas prize.

Close-up of a Santa Muerte.
Close-up of a Santa Muerte.

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