Soy Enriqueta Vargas Ortiz, Madre del Pantera, Fundador del Templo de la Santa Muerte Mas Grande del Mundo

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En los ultimos dias Enriqueta Vargas Ortiz del Templo de Tultitlan, Estado de Mexico, ha hecho unas declaraciones importantes sobre su papel de lideresa del cutlo de la Santa Muerte en Mexico. La “Madrina” Vargas dice:

A MIS NUEVOS AMIGOS: YO SOY ENRIQUETA VARGAS ORTIZ, MADRE DEL “PANTERA” FUNDADOR DEL TEMPLO DE LA SANTA MUERTE MAS GRANDE DEL MUNDO, NO ESTOY POR LUCRO, NO SOY BRUJA, NO HAGO TRABAJOS NEGROS. MUCHOS DE USTEDES ME HAN PREGUNTADO QUE SI HAGO ESTO, QUE SI HAGO LO OTRO, ETC. LES AYUDO SI ASI LO REQUIEREN ORANDO Y PIDIENDO A MI SANTA MUERTE PARA QUE LOS AYUDE, LES ACONSEJO COMO PEDIRLE O QUE PUEDEN HACER PARA HACERSE UNA LIMPIA O ARMONIZARSE. SIN EMBARGO MUCHOS DE USTEDES HAN SIDO GROSEROS Y OFENSIVOS CONMIGO, YO HE SIDO PRUDENTE Y PACIENTE, NO SE SI QUIEREN QUE YO PIERDA LA PACIENCIA O SON ASI PORQUE ES LA EDUCACION QUE LES HAN DADO. DISCULPENME SI NO ESTOY EN EL MOMENTO EN QUE USTEDES REQUIEREN QUE ESTE. YO SOY AMA DE CASA, ATIENDO A LOS DEVOTOS QUE ACUDEN AL TEMPLO, ATIENDO A LOS CIENTOS DE FIELES QUE ME LLAMAN POR TELEFONO, VOY A LOS PROGRAMAS DE RADIO EN LOS QUE ESTOY CON CASA GRIMORIO Y OTROS PROYECTOS MAS QUE SE ESTAN REALIZANDO, ESTOY PENDIENTE DE LOS TRABAJOS QUE SE ESTAN REALIZANDO EN EL TEMPLO CON LOS NICHOS, CON LOS BAÑOS, ETC. CONTESTO CUANTO MENSAJE TENGO AQUI EN EL FACE, EN EL WHATSAPP O CORREO, VOY AL PENAL A DAR ORACION Y A OTROS LUGARES DONDE ME LO REQUIEREN. PERO NO SE VALE QUE ME EXIJAN POR ALGO QUE NO ESTOY COBRANDO UN SOLO QUINTO Y TAMBIEN COMPRENDAN QUE SON MUCHOS LOS QUE NECESITAN AYUDA REAL Y NO “CAPRICHOS”. ASI QUE LES DIGO DE UNA VEZ: HOY VOY HACER 2 LECTURAS DE CARTAS POR LAS CUALES NO ESTOY COBRANDO, PERO NO MAS PREGUNTAS NI NECEDADES OK! LOS MILAGROS PARA QUE LES VAYA BIEN EN EL TRABAJO O PARA QUE VUELVA UN AMOR, LOS DEBEMOS REALIZAR NOSOTROS Y NO TIENEN IMPORTANCIA ANTE UNA ENFERMEDAD GRAVE O EL DOLOR DE PERDER A UN SER QUERIDO, O QUE ESTA PRIVADO DE SU LIBERTAD O DESAPARECIDO, ¡¡¡ESO SI ES IMPORTANTE!!! AAAHH!!! Y NO ME PIDAN NI UNA LECTURA MAS, PORQUE ESTOY CANSADA Y UN POCO MAL DE SALUD, LO HAGO POR CUMPLIR CON MI PALABRA Y HASTA AHI.

Comandante Pantera

DEVOTOS DE LA SANTA MUERTE: NO ME GUSTA QUE ME UTILICEN PARA ESTAFARLOS A USTEDES. HE DEJADO DE ACEPTAR CIENTOS DE SOLICITUDES DE AMISTAD PORQUE MUCHOS CHICOS SALEN “CON MUY POQUITA ROPA” O A VECES NADA, OTROS SOLO LO HACEN PARA ATACAR MI CULTO Y OTROS MAS SON GENTES DE ALGUNOS “INOMBRABLES” (NO DIGO NOMBRES PORQUE NO LES VOY A DAR PUBLICIDAD NI SIQUIERA MALA) QUE ME ATACAN POR ORDENES DE ESTOS Y AHORA VEO QUE HAY ALGUNOS QUE SOLICITAN MI AMISTAD PARA SACARLES DINERO ¿FULANA DE TAL PORQUE UTILIZAS MI NOMBRE PARA OBTENER UN BENEFICIO ECONOMICO? ¿DE DONDE SALES QUE SABES HACER TRABAJOS DE AMARRE O BRUJERIA O ETC? ¡CARAJO! VOY A TENER QUE PONER EN LAS MANOS DE MI SANTA MUERTE A TODOS LOS PASADOS DE VIVOS, ES MAS, DESDE AHORITA LES DIGO ¡¡¡QUE MI SANTA MUERTE LES CIERRE TODOS SUS CAMINOS A PARTIR DE ESTE MOMENTO Y NO HAYA BRUJO, CHAMAN O SANTERO QUE SE LOS ABRA, HASTA QUE APRENDAN A SER CORRECTOS CON LA GENTE!!! AAAHH Y ESO VA TAMBIEN PARA OTRAS MUJERCITAS QUE SE PASARON DE VIVAS Y SE QUIEREN SEGUIR PASANDO DE LISTAS

Marriage and la Madrina – Images from a wedding at El Templo de la Santa Muerte de Tultitlán

El Templo de la Santa Muerte de Tultitlan is quickly becoming one of the most stable and well developed devotional centers associated with Saint Death. The temple’s proprietress, Enriqueta Vargas, recently traveled to New York City to meet with Queens shrine holder Arley Vazquez, marking one of the first cross country meetings of high profile devotees. Even more powerfully, Enriqueta’s son, Jonathan Legaria Vargas, who was murdered in 2008 has become the first person sanctified as an intercessor in his own right within the tradition (Click Here to read more on Jonathan’s sanctification.)  More than anywhere else El Templo de la Santa Muerte shows signs of Saint Death’s devotions separating distinctly from it’s foundations within folk Catholicism.

Although not unique to Vargas’ congregation, the practice of holding marriage ceremonies at the temple is another sign of these developments. The following slide show contains images of a recent ceremony courtesy of Enriqueta’s FaceBook page:

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Neighbors Allege Triple Murder Victims Were Sacrificed to Santa Muerte

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A grisly triple murder in which the victims were found hacked to death with machetes in a shack with two large Santa Muerte altars has the Mexican press speculating that this another case of human sacrifice to the skeletal folk saint. Many of the details are sketchy at this point, but what is known is that two men and one woman were found butchered in pools of blood in one of the the poorest barrios of Coatzacoalcos, a gritty industrial city in the lush state of Veracruz. Law enforcement agents from municipal, state and federal agencies swarmed on the humble dwelling and removed the bodies within hours.

Since police refused to talk to the press, reporters on the scene interviwed neighbors, some of whom alleged the victims were a family of “express-kidnappers” who preyed on Central American migrants passing through town. That the notorious train “the beast” rolls down tracks just yards away from the shack lends some plausibility to the allegation. Other neighbors claimed the victims were narcos who had been killed and sacrificed to Santa Muere in a payback operation. At this time it’s unknown if the victims actually lived in dwelling in which they were found dead, and whether they were killed there or at another location.

There have been quite a few alleged cases of human sacrifice to Saint Death over the years, but few have been thoroughly investigated and proved.This chilling case from 2012 remains the best documented and most obvious one from Mexico and Guatemala, where almost all have occurred, click here for story.The great majority of Santa Muerte devotees view human sacrifice as an abomination of their faith, but a tiny minority of mostly hardened criminals believe the skeleton saint, like her putative Aztec ancestors, demands blood sacrifice.

Additional information, including graphic images can be found here and here.

Santa Muerte and Godfather Endoque Saved Me From Armed Robbers

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One of Santa Muerte’s most important roles is that of protectress. And in a Mexico plagued by so much crime and violence, the demand for supernatural protection is greater than ever. Every day hundreds of thousand of devotees invoke the Powerful Lady’s protective powers to shield them from the myriad dangers of the streets of Mexico. Devotee Jeronimo Santiago recounts his own recent experience of an armed robbery on a Mexico City bus:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Faith,

I’d like to share with you something that happened to me today. On my way to the doctor, four guys got on the bus and started robbing all the passengers at gunpoint. When one of the assailants came over to me, I thought about my White Girl and Godfather Jonathan Legaria Vargas “el Pantera” and said “may your will be done, and not my own.” At that moment one of the assailants came closer to me and stared at me with fear and fright and then backed away without robbing me.They continued robbing everyone else on the bus while they kept turning around to look at me, knowing for a fact that the Godfather Jonatkan Legaria Vargas and my Girl (Santa Muerte) were present at my side. Thank you, Godfather, for always being at my side.Today I came to the temple to give thanks for the protection granted to me by my Girl and Godfather Endoque. I was fortunate to be able to talk with Godmother Enriqueta Vargas, who I thank so much for her words and attention.

El Padrino Jonathan Legaria Vargas, Mi Niña y el Milagro, by Jeronimo Santiago

Queridos Hermanos d Fé, Quiero compartirles un Hecho Q m sucedio el dia d Hoy. En el Trayecto d mi casa hacia el medico se subieron Asaltar 4 individuos el Autobus c/ Armas d fuego donde venia su Servidor despojando d sus pertenencias a cada uno d los pasajeros. Al llegar el Asaltante ami lugar ‘pense en mi Niña Blanca y en El Padrino Jonathan Legaria Vargas ‘el pantera’,diciendo: Q se haga su voluntad y no la mia’ En ese momento el Asaltante se acerco ami y c/ Asombro y Temor fijo su mirada al costado izquierdo d mi rostro retrociendo y sin pedirme nada. Continuo asaltando ala demas gente pero siempre volteando a verme. Dando Yo por hecho Q ami lado se hizo presente ‘ El Padrino Jonathan Legaria Vargas y Mi Niña. ”Gracias Padrino X estar Siempre ami lado. Hoy mismo asisti al Templo agradeciendo la proteccion Q m dieron Mi Niña y El Padrino Endoque. Teniendo la fortuna d igual manera d ver y platicar muy agusto c/ la Madrina Enriqueta Vargas la cual le Agradesco mucho sus Palabras y su Atencion.

Who decides when the Reapress comes?


Recently Dr. Andrew Chesnut asked an intriguing question in regards to the efficacy of Santa Muerte:

“Who, if anyone, decides the hour that Santa Muerte, the Reapress comes for our souls?”

Robin Artisson, a writer on the subjects of folklore, supernaturalism, spiritual ecology, and pre-modern British Witchcraft, responded with his thoughts on her tradition. As a Professional Counselor, and a devotee of Santa Muerte for the past three years, Artisson’s insights into her tradition provide a beautiful counterpoint to the mediated facade of ‘narco-saint’ that has become so prevalent in the news:

La Madrina - Santa MuerteThe easy answer (and I’m sure the answer most would give) would be “god”, but since I don’t hold to the monotheistic worldview, I can’t say that. I would say that She decides, or, alternatively, that she responds to what deeper forces determine. There’s a very complicated system of cause-and-effect, a powerful causal web comprised of many layers of force, relationships and circumstances that stand behind any event. This includes our births, and our deaths.

I have a hard time imagining that any being “controls” this mighty web of things, but I can imagine powerful other-than-human entities being very aware of this web, and intelligently responding to events within it, in line with some sense of compassion or wisdom on their part.

In this way, I can theorize that perhaps the dark, nameless and vast matrix of causal reality itself may bring about our deaths, and that Santa Muerte is a compassionate responder to souls in the grip of that experience. I can go further; I can say that I *feel* that she is somehow even more involved in some way- that she herself has some relationship to that vast and dark causal system of power. But this begins to move her rapidly into a realm of hyper-apotheosis, and one must be careful with that, before I end up just being a “Santa Muerte Monotheist.” I won’t exchange one over-simplification for another, no matter how devoted I am to someone.

I mean, let’s face it- she’s a miracle worker, not just a compassionate first responder to souls in the crisis of death. So, she has some kind of deeper influence over the weaving of events in everyday life. I must say, I suspect these things are well outside of the range of mortal understanding, or at least sufficiently far outside to be rarely discovered.

Her power to create tangible and needed outcomes in everyday life actually leads me to join the camp of people who believe her to be a Pre-Columbian native Goddess of the Underworld. Almost universally, underworld cults in every culture (which includes the Ancestor-cult) are the “go-to” places for badly needed things, and the place that everyone has recourse to because everyone has Ancestors or dead family who can still maintain some benevolence for them in life. This includes outsiders to society, criminals, and whatnot. The Underworld cults, or chthonic cults of Ancestors, are generally paralleled with the more forbidden works of sorcerers that may or may not be socially acceptable. There’s a natural magic to this idea of relating to the dead. The dead are vast in number, and believed to be capable of affecting the world in many ways, for good or ill. In times of desperation, sacrifices to the darkest, deepest powers are called for.

If Santa Muerte is, indeed, the Queen of the Underworld, the Queen of those who are in the darkness beyond this world, this would give her enormous power to shape worldly events.

In the same manner that the mainstream “God” is thought to be served by angels or saints that can do his bidding, any powerful spiritual entity will have some kind of influence over lesser beings that can just as well act as their messengers or workers. The Queen of the dead would have a legion of the dead that she could send forth for any purpose.

And since time immemorial, it is precisely these mysteries- of death, the ground that receives the dead, and the underworld- that people have held in deepest regard, in deepest dread and respect. And they didn’t just respect these things out of a sense of mortality (though that was one aspect of it, I’m sure.) They respected or dreaded these things because they were real, close, sensual, intimate, and effective. These things are entwined in everyday life, in everyday events. Death is always close.

For more information on Robin Artisson’s work, please visit him at – www.robinartisson.com

If you are on FaceBook, and want to join in on the discussion yourself, please Click Here to head over to the Devoted to Death group.

Reflections on the First Academic Conference on Santa Muerte

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Despite the fact that over 90% of Santa Muerte devotees live in Mexico and the U.S., the first ever academic conference http://www.centroestudiosmexicanos.nl/2014.html  dedicated exclusively to the skeleton saint was held in Europe, at the University of Groningen, in the Netherlands, on 11/21/14. Europeans have taken a particular interest in the growth of devotion to Saint Death partly because of the historical link to their own Grim Reaper or Reapress (la Parca) in the case of Spain.  Reflecting the increasing  globalization of the Americas’ fastest growing new religious movement,  the scholars presenting on Santa Muerte hailed from many different countries, including Mexico, the U.S., Germany, Denmark,  Spain and the UK.

In accord with the overarching theme of my book, Devoted to Death http://www.amazon.com/Devoted-Death-Santa-Muerte-Skeleton/dp/0199764654  I spoke to the international audience of the multifaceted identity of Saint Death and of some of the latest trends, such as her growth beyond Mexico and Mexican immigrants in the U.S.. Given both media and now academic portrayal of Santa Muerte as a narco-saint, I tried to highlight her other roles, such as curandera (healer) and love sorceress.  And of course, I emphasized the point that it is the Bony Lady’s reputation as the fastest and most efficacious miracle-worker on the Mexican landscape that propels her unparalleled growth.

If there was an overarching theme at the conference, although unintentional, it was a polarization of perspectives. On the one hand, several colleagues, who haven’t done extensive field research, attempted to explain the rise of devotion to Santa Muerte as a function of larger socioeconomic and political forces, such as extreme narco-violence and the failed Mexican state. Focusing on “cultures of illegality” Mexican scholar Jose Carlos Aguiar was the presenter who most explicitly linked the Bony Lady to drug violence. Dr. Aguiar stressed her role as patroness of narcos, especially of the Zetas Cartel. The voices of actual devotees were completely silent in his presentation.

Also presenting a macro-level analysis was German scholar who comes to the subject from an urban studies angle. Though she hasn’t done fieldwork beyond taking stunning photos at Dona Queta’s famous shrine in Tepito, Anne Huffschmid also linked the Bony Lady to narco-violence, but cast her more as protectress of its victims as opposed to patroness of its perpetrators.  Both she and Dr. Laura Roush of the Colegio de Michoacan were the presenters who most explicitly linked the rise of St. Death to the climate of economic and political insecurity engendered by the failures of the Mexican state. Both academics counted among several who mentioned the case of the missing 43 Mexican college students and the lightning rod that it has become for anti-government protests nationwide.

At the opposite pole was Danish scholar Regnar Kristensen, who has been studying the saint of death during the past 12 years. Ignoring the larger Mexican body politic, Dr. Kristensen focused on the importance of the family unit as the basis for both devotion and growth. An anthropologist, Kristensen squarely locates Santa Muerte within Mexican folk Catholicism and sees much more continuity than novelty in her devotional practices. In fact, the only significant novelty that the Danish academic sees in veneration of her is intimacy. He argued that devotees bring her into their families where she is treated in a more intimate and tender manner than other saints, of both the Catholic and folk varieties. While he has done more extensive fieldwork than other scholars, it has been conducted exclusively in Mexico City, with a sharp focus on Dona Queta’s shrine and her extended network of devotees. Mexican anthropologist Aguiar, who is from Guadalajara, criticized Kristensen for his “narrow focus” on the Tepito shrine and Mexico City.

Overall, the conference was a mixed bag for me. On one hand, I was thrilled to be in the company of the small group of international scholars who have published journal articles and books chapters on the White Girl. On the other hand, I felt frustrated by the overarching tendency to divorce Santa Muerte from her religious context. Above all, devotion to Saint Death is a matter of religion in which followers, pray to, give thanks and venerate a supernatural figure whom they regard as an omniscient and almost omnipotent miracle-worker. Too many of the presenters, perhaps reflecting highly secularized Western Europe, adhered to the Marxist view of religion as an epiphenomenon of the sociopolitical phenomenon. In other words, they regarded the meteoric rise of this new religious movement as a function of the dysfunctional Mexican state and the ongoing narco-violence.

I myself in Devoted to Death situated the proliferation of cult within these macro contexts because there is an undeniable dialectic between religion and society in which they exert mutual influence on each other. What I categorically reject, however, is a reductionist approach that posits the rapid growth of the cult as a mere function of hyper-violence and socio-political insecurity. No doubt, devotion to Santa Muerte has proliferated during a time of great death and dying, at least 80,000 since 2006, but to view the Mexican killing fields as the main reason for her growth is myopic. If Santa Muerte has become the fastest growing new religious movement in the Americas it’s because of her reputation as the quickest and most efficacious miracle worker. Her 7 Powers votive candle, made of 7 different colors, best captures the appeal of the multitasking Mexican folk saint who can work miracles on multiple fronts.