Sta Muerte Apparicione“There are no accidents or haphazard events in this world of U.S.-Mexico witchcraft (brujeria).” – Dr. Antonio N. Zavaleta

During my undergraduate studies I was fortunate to spend a few semesters with Dr. Joann Scurlock, a professional member of University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute and an expert on folk magic practices around the world. She taught two extended classes on magic, one on healing traditions, and the other on traditions of malevolent magic. Before both of them she gave a curious warning, although we’d be dealing with anthropological, sociological and historical source material the mindset of the ‘magical worldview’ carries something of a contagion. As she put it:

“It’s not a matter of whether you believe or disbelieve, nor is it relevant whether magic is real or not, anthropologists and psychologists who have studied these areas have shown that magic works in its own way, and the more you study it the more you can get drawn in to the magical worldview if you are not careful”

The psychological term for the most extreme examples of this is ‘voodoo death’ – the inexplicable (in strictly materialist terms) correlation between a magical action taken to harm someone and their death or illness shortly afterwards. Scurlock had the interesting insight that those raised within a culture that holds a magical worldview are better able to cope with the repercussions of delving into these areas. While they may seem more susceptible to influence, by naturalizing a magical worldview they also have available to them sure ways for combatting negative forces. This is why students or scholars straddling paradigms can face a peculiar form of paranoia that plays on their doubts and insecurities.

Magical practices are primed to manipulate specific symbolic cues; it is part of the magical worldview to work with correspondences in the natural world. Thus every ritual, prayer, incantation or curse is sculpted from powerful sets of images and words that evoke the emotive and psycho-spiritual atmosphere which is thought necessary to trigger correspondences farther along the cosmological chain of cause and effect. Any amount of in depth study in this area requires saturating yourself with what is at the very least incredibly potent psychological priming. As Dr. Ioan Couliano outlines in his work Eros & Magic in the Renaissance, even in terms of mechanism – the manipulation of symbolic bonds is the underlying support for both the magical worldview and the worldview of the successful marketer, sales professional, personal coach or propagandist.

Enter the Occult Expert

In 2013 a statue of Santa Muerte was discovered sitting in a cemetery in the tiny Texas town of San Benito. Attached to the statue was a small picture of a winged skeleton and a heart, the image appeared as if it were cut out of a magazine. What in Brooklyn would have prompted an Instagram post became a bit of a witch panic in San Benito when a local academic stepped in to opine on the diabolical implications of the statue’s presence.

Dr. Antonio N. Zavaleta, co-author of Curandero Conversations: El Niño Fidencio, Shamanism and Healing Traditions of the Borderlands, and professor of anthropology at the University of Texas at Brownsville, became an expert on the occult when the local news used him as an authoritative voice to explain the statue. Vetted through an appearance he made on a somewhat sensationalized National Geographic special focusing on Mexican folk magic traditions where he discussed the prevalence of black magic on the border, he brought this same focus to his investigation of the statue. (1)

After the local newspaper ran a series of flame fanning interviews with Zavaleta, the statue was destroyed. Examining the reports and the pictures of the statue lead Dr. Chesnut and I to question some of the claims he was making and the local newspaper ran a Q&A style debate between Dr. Chesnut and Dr. Zavaleta over the proper way to interpret the event.

The tenor of the exchange can be seen in this brief excerpt where the two scholars address the destruction of the statue:

News: Does the destruction of a Santa Muerte statue (especially in the manner committed in this instance) hold any significance as opposed to being incinerated? In other words, could this be the work of the owner destroying the statue in anger over its presumed use and publicity, or could this be the work of vandals offended by its imagery?

Dr. Chestnut: The destruction of the statue was most likely perpetrated by an individual or group who had seen the media coverage featuring a local anthropologist who asserted that the effigy had been placed in the cemetery as part of a black magic hex intended to kill someone. I seriously doubt that it was the owner of the statue who destroyed it, but without the presence of cameras in the cemetery we can’t be certain. I imagine the perpetrator(s) smashed the effigy instead of burning it because they were in a hurry. You would need to ask the anthropologist why he specifically recommended burning the image, but I would imagine he did because of the historical use of fire in Christianity as an agent of destructive purification. The Spanish Inquisition, for example, had “heretics” and “witches” burned at the stake on a regular basis.

Dr. Zavaleta: There are no accidents or haphazard events in this world of U.S.-Mexico witchcraft (brujeria). Therefore the statue was placed in the cemetery deliberately and for a specific act of witchcraft. I doubt that its destruction could ever be a random act. First of all it was not committed by the person who put it there in the first place. That is out of the question. Secondly, no passerby destroyed it either. The most probable explanation for its destruction is by a person of religious faith who felt it so offensive that they had to take action. Within the context of the believer, the fact that the statue was not burned but broken up does not in any way negate the effect, in other words it’s still active. Just as it was created ritually it would have to be destroyed by fire ritually in order to nullify its intended effect.(2)

If we approach the issue using the standards of academic anthropology, Zavaleta has greatly overstepped the margins of measured analysis in trying to discover the statue’s purported purpose. As Christopher C. Fennell, Department of Anthropology at the University of Virginia, brings up in an article exploring the material evidence of folk practices:

Deetz (1996, pp. 251, 252) has cautioned strongly against a reliance on ethnic markers, because “no quantity of such objects can provide absolute proof” of the presence of a particular ethnic group without additional, corroborating evidence (see also Brown and Cooper, 1990, p. 18; Wilkie, 1997, p. 102). However, an additional concern should be raised as well: When the artifact is interpreted as an expression of divination, conjuration, or folk religion practices, the initially laudatory effort to link it to African Americans may impose unintentional stereotypes on that group as the only group one would expect to have practiced such “magic” in colonial and antebellum America. We should seek more than corroborative evidence in support of one interpretation. We should also ask whether the item could have been comparably meaningful to the other ethnic groups that may have inhabited the area.”(3)

Although Fennell is writing in terms of interpreting archaeological evidence that may stem from African American folk practices, the issue that he illuminates is an important interpretive metric for contemporary investigations as well. In the case of the Santa Muerte statue in San Benito, without further evidence and investigation, it is impossible to link the event to the practice of traditional brujeria as opposed any number of more mundane explanations – such as someone reading a web page, spending $50 on to get a Santa Muerte statue, and doing a haphazard ‘spell’ or ritual in the hopes of gaining Saint Death’s assistance.

The Presence of Witchcraft

Zavaleta’s ‘doubt that its destruction could ever be a random act,’ shows the very real dangers of carelessly playing on the edge of a magical worldview. Such a statement does not recognize that as an academic given authority by the media his insistence on the statue’s ties to witchcraft in the local news would in itself have a causal connection with the destruction. Having placed the event within the context of a hidden war between ‘religious faith’ and an indistinct notion of ‘witchcraft’, in the tense religious environment of southern Texas no less, he in essence cast a spell on the community.

Erwin van der Meer has made an extensive study of the presence of witchcraft beliefs in the African context, and his insights into the dangers of supporting and courting such beliefs are apt to this situation:

“…as interesting as some of the exotic beliefs may appear to an outside, reality is not that exciting. The fear of malevolent spirits and witchcraft that is instilled has dire psychological consequences. When ‘witchcraft’ becomes an interpretive framework to explain most illness, disaster and death in the community it leads to witch-hunting and the scapegoating of innocent people. The accused ‘witches’ become victims of displaced anger and are blamed and punished for the community’s ills instead of investigating and addressing the true causes. The real causes may be poor hygiene, lack of proper healthcare or unequal distribution of wealth. The resulting pervasive fear of being bewitched and of being accused of witchcraft is psychologically oppressive and often leads to outbursts of violence.”(4)

Under Zavaleta’s mediated authority whatever was going on with the cemetery in San Benito (and the lack of any ritual elements near the statue or at the gate of the cemetery shows it was probably not witchcraft of the sort that is implied by his statements (5) ) has been reframed to fit the enchanted worldview that he appears to hold – this worldview in turn becomes alive in the minds of susceptible members of the population drawn in with by his mediated expertise. Certainly those Charismatic, Pentecostal, Catholic and Evangelical Christians who hold to an idea of spiritual warfare could see this as an authoritative statement from an academic scholar giving credence to their prior held ideas of diabolic and demonic influence in the world.

Recent marches held by charismatic Christians to reclaim the streets of San Benito from the powers of darkness show that this is not just idle speculation. Following the discovery of a second statue in 2015, this time in the middle of a highway passing through San Benito, along with a return of Dr. Zavaleta’s opinioning in the local media, church groups organized a march to exorcise the town. (6) Waving spiritual warfare banners and blowing ram’s horn shofars (a traditional Judaic instrument that certain Charismatic Christians associate with the power of Moses and Joshua’s assault on the ‘demonic stronghold’ of Jericho) they demonstrated very poignantly the effect that rash statements can have when presented within the uncritical environment of contemporary media.

Conquering Strongholds

The march is what is known in the domain of contemporary charismatic spiritual warfare as a ‘front line assault’ and demonstrates the fact that tensions are rising in San Benito. While some may be amused by the image of Christians parading through the streets blowing ram horns and waving banners, recent accounts of violence against alleged ‘witches’ in Brazil and Peru perpetrated by extremists acting under the guise of Evangelical purity, and the continued military actions in Northern Mexico against shrines dedicated to Santa Muerte, hint at the very real danger that exists from irresponsible statements by media empowered scholars.

Spiritual warfare within the charismatic evangelical domain takes a more engaged form than the ritual exorcisms practiced by denominations with more ritualized liturgies such as the Catholic, Orthodox Anglican and Episcopalian traditions. Marches like the one that took place in San Benito are a tactic that developed out of the ‘deliverance’ ministry tradition which began to take root in the 1970’s through the work of non-denominational evangelists such as Frank and Ida Mae Hammond, H.A. Maxwell Whyte, Derek Prince and Ralph Basham. These in turn built on the experiences of 19th and early 20th century missionaries whose experience dealing with indigenous belief systems brought them face to face with cultures who still maintained a relationship with traditional forms of supernaturalism. By bringing exorcism and supernaturalism to the forefront of the charismatic spiritual experience they helped lay the seeds for the work of figures such as Dr. C. Peter Wagner, a former scholar of missions at the Fuller Theological Seminary, and leading figure in the New Apostolic Reformation movement. Under Wagner’s guidance throughout the 1980’s and 90’s spiritual warfare became a center point to mission work, and with Fuller’s focus on combining Evangelical faith practices with insights from psychology, neurobiology and the social sciences the idea of ‘strategic level spiritual warfare’ developed as a means to bring the ‘Kingdom of God’ to earth. (7)

A. Scott Moreau, Associate Academic Dean of Wheaton College Graduate School & Professor of Intercultural Studies, provides a brief outline of the practice in an essay titled, Gaining Perspective on Territorial Spirits:

“In a nutshell, what Wagner and others are calling “strategic-level spiritual warfare” is praying against these territorial spirits, seeking to “map” their strategies over given locations by discerning their names and what they use to keep people in bondage and then to bind them in turn so that evangelism may go unhindered. The idea of “spiritual mapping” is one in which people research an area and try to identify the spirit(s) who are in charge over it so that “smart-bomb” praying may loosen the hold of territorial spirits over the people in a territory who may then come to Christ more freely.

In building a theological foundation, they argue that Satan is not omnipotent or omniscient, which are attributes of God alone. Thus, Satan can only wield his power by delegating it to spirit helpers who work out his schemes in local contexts. These spirit helpers are also limited, and need help in turn. The Bible gives no information as to how many layers this may extend. These spirit helpers must be organized in some fashion, or else chaos would dominate Satan’s efforts to rule the world.”(7)

Obviously with her growing popularity Santa Muerte stands as the most immediate image that can be tied to a ‘territorial spirit’ associated with ruling over the southwestern United States and Mexico. Up to this point the Virgin of Guadalupe has been the image that spiritual warfare practitioners have connected with a demonic power that Dr. C. Peter Wagner identifies as the ‘Queen of Heaven’. (9) The Queen of Heaven is said to be the underlying spiritual power behind Diana of Ephesus mentioned in the book of Acts and sometimes associated with the ‘Whore of Babylon’ mentioned in the Revelation of John the Divine. Within the milieu of charismatic spiritual warfare this spirit is thought to take whatever guise is necessary to seduce people away from the divine truth.

When kept within the bounds of the Christian faith the intentions behind these spiritual warfare practices are simply to use focused prayer and symbolic actions to reclaim communities from violence, poverty, corruption and moral lassitude. (10) However, due to the weaponized rhetoric that has developed in this arena some, such as those exacting violence in South America, take extremist positions that go far beyond merely praying against what they consider a Satanic presence in the community. Not everyone takes to heart Paul of Tarsus’ admonishment in 2 Corinthians 10:4 – “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds.” (11) Considering the already tense situation on the U.S./Mexico border, naïve statements about witchcraft can have far reaching and unintended effects.


The media’s ability to enchant an audience has a more prosaic name than ‘spell’. Walter Lippmann, a media theorist writing in the early 20th century, called it a ‘pseudo-environment’ and points out that the media can authorize, “…the insertion between man and his environment of a pseudo-environment. To that pseudo-environment his behavior is a response. But because it is behavior, the consequences, if they are acts, operate not in the pseudo-environment where the behavior is stimulated, but in the real environment where action eventuates.”(12) In other words, a worldview adopted through the influence of the media is as real as the actions taken by those who believe in it. In the case of San Benito’s cemetery statue, Zavaleta, as the media vetted ‘occult expert’, ensured that the pseudo-environment evoked was a darksome, dangerous and night veiled ‘world of U.S.-Mexico witchcraft.’

When dealing with folk traditions such as Santa Muerte this idea of ‘pseudo-environment’ is important to keep in mind. In effect all such traditions are themselves ‘pseudo-environments’ created through anecdotal accounts of believers, advice given by spiritual workers, the authority of accounts published in books, and through shared ritual observances recommended on reputed past efficacy or through the expertise of local cult leaders. This is especially true in the contemporary setting of a global culture saturated with digital media.

Anyone researching Santa Muerte will quickly find that there is no single tradition that underlies her devotions. There is a strong central set of symbolic and iconographic associations – the scythe, the grim reaper figure, the owl, the globe, and so forth – which have been adopted in innumerable ways by those seeking help from a spiritual entity who is seen as holding power over life and death.

For many her devotions grow out of adapting observances from the veneration of saints, but this is changing quickly as her presence grows beyond the bounds of folk Catholicism. Outside of shared symbolic associations and the actions taken by those who have faith in her power there is no institutionalized tradition or orthodoxy that presents a strict dogma as to who she is, what she can do or what the ethical bounds of her actions are. This further complicates any assurance when presented with encounters with her iconography such as the events in San Benito, where the evidence consists in little more than a statue placed in a public venue.

Identifying the Saint

The lack of institutionalization in Saint Death’s devotional tradition(s) is cause for frequent questions, at least in the U.S., regarding how to work with Santa Muerte, and the implied assumption that there is a ‘right way’ and a ‘wrong way’. Those who are familiar with the dogmatic strictures found in mainline Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and other institutionalized religions are unable to recognize the fluidity found in practically oriented spiritual traditions which rely on symbolic associations and anecdotal references to interpret their spiritual activities rather than a strict orthodox interpretation of doctrine or dogma. Underlying this fluidity is the main focus in popular spirituality on efficient action – unless a spiritual seeker is dedicated enough to seek out a shrine holder or experienced spiritual worker to learn their particular tradition, the ‘right way’ to work with and develop a relationship with Santa Muerte is the way that provides practical effects.

Doctrine and dogma often find their most heated expression in the concerns of institutions seeking to solidify their identity, at times existing more within the realm of institutional politics and social organization than the realm of spiritual practice. One can see this in the Catholic church’s detailed investigation of miracles – beyond the question of ‘did it happen’ and if it did was it holy or infernal, there is the question of ‘how does it fit within the Catholic identity’ and more important ‘what is the narrative that can be created around it to solidify the Catholic identity.”

The socio-political aims of exorcism in certain charismatic Christian movements, such as the New Apostolic Reformation, is another illustration of this – here exorcism and possession form the basis for confronting an existing order (be it traditional religions encountered by missionaries or societal problems such as substance abuse, violence, etc.) and restructuring it within a particular Christian context.(13) Certainly there are deeper theological implications that can be explored, but in a straightforward sense without a centralized institutional base the interplay between spiritual efficacy and the symbolic structures underpinning spiritual practices are much more amorphous.

Cultivating an Image

A good example of this kind of interpretive freedom is the powerful influence that the early 20th century publisher De Laurence, Scott and Co. had on spiritual practices in the Caribbean, Africa and the United States.(14) Although presenting plagiarized material and cheaply made spiritual curios within a context that today looks like straight snake-oil, De Laurence was able to cultivate an image of mysterious authority that affected the very core of practical spirituality in many disparate regions.

Much of this influence was based on the dramatic interpretation of the items offered in the De Laurence catalogue by charismatic spiritual leaders. The mystery mongering contained in the advertisements, the careful aesthetic design of the products and books, and the stories spread regarding their efficacy provided a basis for practitioners to invoke their own spiritual potential. Whether or not a particular item was actually ‘magical’ is unimportant if the person using it can create a ‘magical’ effect.

Dr. Frances Henry writing on Orisha practice in Trinidad suggests that in the individualistic realm of folk spirituality, “any person can become a leader by opening a shrine, furnishing it with the proper implements and convincing a group of followers that he/she has been called by the Orisha to a position of leadership.”(15) Traditions can then develop as one charismatic practitioner teaches others or develops a small following, but the organic focus on immediate effect often precludes any full development of an institutionalized substructure for the practices. In De Laurence’s case the situation was also helped when authorities in Jamaica made it illegal to import or own his books – thus legitimizing the idea that what he was providing was serious enough to shake the powers that be.

The Many Faces of Santa Muerte

This element of interpretive freedom still exists for Santa Muerte, where, rather than a single tradition, broadly speaking, we can identify a number of different interpretations of her persona that have developed as her iconography has been adopted by a diverse set of interested parties. In a similar fashion to De Laurence, the wide array of items and books related to Santa Muerte and their global availability through online sales sites such as, Ebay and various spiritual supply merchants provide devotees and curious spiritual seekers with a myriad of potential aspects to choose from when encountering her – and, as with the Jamaican government’s ban on De Laurence material, the attention she has gained through the media and concerned religious commentators has provided her with the mystique and authority that comes from controversy.

Rather than a single face, among her many personas we have the Santa Muerte found in…

…the practices of curanderismo and brujeria (which in themselves are subject to the individual predilections of the individual practitioners.)

…the various public shrines (which are again subject to the beliefs fostered by the individual shrine holders, differentiated from the Santa Muerte of curanderismo and brujeria due to the social element included in rituals related to the public presence of the shrines.)

…reports from judiciary and law enforcement authorities.

…reports from orthodox religious authorities.

…mainstream media reports based on a cursory and often contradictory accumulation of information from various sources.

…books of popular spirituality and practical magic.

…neo-pagan adaptations of her iconography.

…occultist adaptations of her iconography.

…New Age adaptations of her iconography.

…the narco-cultura.

…adaptations of her iconography within Santeria, Vodoun, Palo Mayombe, Palo Monte, and various other spiritual traditions that work with a multitude of spirits.

…academic reports which place her within the context of specialized topics related to particular disciplines, such as anthropology, sociology, religious studies, and current trends in scholarship within those disciplines.

While there is certainly crossover and interplay within these loosely defined divisions, each of them present a different, sometimes drastically different, image of who Santa Muerte is, what she does, and what her importance is on a larger scale. Those encountering her via web resources are also faced with the ambiguous authority of anonymous commentators, for and against her, each claiming to understand the tradition and offering opinions as to what is true or false in that regard.

This situation is not unique to Santa Muerte, but in the context of her surprising rise in popularity over the past decade these complex issues become more prevalent, incisive and obvious. Since the wider global public was largely unaware of her existence prior to 2001 it is much easier to see the processes that attend her assimilation within various pre-existent traditions and worldviews. In turn we can gain some insight into these processes as they happen in other venues.

The World of U.S. and Mexican Witchcraft

Here it becomes readily apparent that Zavaleta’s succinct statements about ‘the world of U.S. and Mexican witchcraft’ and Santa Muerte’s presence within such a world are difficult to maintain in light of the diversity of groups laying claim to a relationship with her. There is no centralized unity or orthodoxy that can be pointed to when looking for this ‘world’ – a world that exists within a shared, general belief in spiritual power and takes innumerable forms based on individual preferences is quite different than the holistic environment implied by Zavaleta.

The potency of folk spirituality is strongly tied to its perceived practically. In practice, concepts related to structured historical roots are often attempts a solidifying authority for the tradition, and may contribute more to understanding the purpose of the practice than to understanding the actual history of a tradition. For instance one can see the focus on Santa Muerte’s purported Aztec ties grows in proportion to her traditions solidification outside of folk Catholicism.

What was initially (if it was even there at all in her older, less public forms) a magically efficacious insinuation of ancient authority becomes a tie to nationalist tendencies and a justification for her potency when her symbolic value moves from traditions rooted in the Catholic church to the broader global arena. Whether or not she is the reborn avatar of an Aztec death goddess (and, as research continues, her colonial Spanish roots become more and more apparent) has no relation to whether or not she can get you out of jail, heal you, help you pay your bills, or save your loved ones from illness or harm. Practically speaking such an association is only worth as much as it gives a basis for faith in Santa Muerte’s power outside of the folk Catholic milieu and provides a deeper sense of meaning to her iconography.

The borderlands of northern Mexico and the southern U.S. have been ravaged by the drug war, and with increasing focus on legalizing marijuana in the United States the situation is sure to intensify as the economic realities from such a drastic change take hold. The world of witches that Zavaleta’s statements evoke is a realm of legend and hearsay – but it veils a very real and violent world where some involved in the most insidious and malevolent actions seek whatever spiritual aid they can get in their endeavors. In turn these spiritual methods can give added meaning to their actions and become a mythological justification and empowerment for transgressive behavior.

Emotional Catch Valves

Traditionally witchcraft scares take place during times of social turmoil, they can act as emotional catch valves for the pressures that arise when people find no easy answers for endemic social problems that leave them suffering under the weight of poverty, corruption and violence. With Santa Muerte’s role as the patroness of the dispossessed her presence in the Americas is guaranteed to increase as economic pressures escalate with changes in the patterns of drug trafficking taking away a significant source of revenue for many who have few options for survival and for others who are more than willing to kill to make a dollar.

The drug mules and narco-traffickers who have appeared in the U.S. media as poster-children for Santa Muerte’s alleged criminal tradition are on the lowest rung of the ladder – the power players are not as easily discovered, but one can be assured that when money is at stake they won’t just slip silently into the shadows without recouping some of their losses. Looking at the current revenue streams available in the narco-culture – kidnapping, extortion, prostitution, gun running, human trafficking and trafficking harder drugs will have to make up for the loss in revenue on marijuana.

The Rise of Saint Death

If we turn again to the concept of spiritual mapping the potential interpretations that can come from the rise in Saint Death’s popularity during a time of economic upheaval are chilling. For some it might seem as if the Satanic force behind innocuous figures such as the Virgin of Guadalupe has finally dropped its mask – the visage of Saint Death showing clearly what was there all along. For those secure in their secularism such considerations may seem silly, but for those immersed in the fundamentalist right wing apocalyptic rhetoric that flows faster than water in Texas these days, such an idea could be cause for drastic action.

In truth, the understanding gained through applying the concept of spiritual mapping to the situation is not far off the mark. Saint Death stands as a sign that for many in the Americas death itself has become a symbol that speaks of salvation and supernatural aid is sought in place of failing social systems. After the Occupy rallies, the marches against police violence and racism, the growing wealth gap, the continued violence across Mexico, and innumerable other cracks in the veneer of a stable society only the most blinded cynic can see in this nothing more than irrational religious fervor and not recognize that something very serious is boiling beneath the surface.

Scholars have a responsibility to the public discourse that calls them to a stringent level of tact when dealing with areas that have the potential to be socially volatile, especially in a strained cultural environment such as Texas. (16) The complex nature of witchcraft accusations, and the social virulence of such concepts, requires a special level of discretion for anthropologists, sociologists and other specialties that approach these areas in their research.

Zavaleta’s incautious statements to the local media in San Benito have already helped to spur public demonstrations from concerned church organizations. Here we have a poignant object lesson in the consequences of dabbling in the nightside of nature and stepping carelessly over the enchanted border. We can only hope that future research into Santa Muerte’s tradition can bring a more communicative and open perspective to these issues.


(1) – Zavaleta’s commentary appears to be colored by his studies of curanderismo, which as a folk healing tradition requires that witchcraft exist in order to function. If there is no witchcraft, than curanderos who spiritually heal the harm done by witches have no purpose.

(2) – Q&A – Occult experts weigh in on Saint Death’s ‘desecration’

(3) – Fennell, Christopher, Conjuring Boundaries: Inferring Past Identities from Religious Artifacts; International Journal of Historical Archaeology, Vol. 4, No. 4, 2000

(4) – Van der Meer, Erwin, Evaluating African Initiation schools as an illustration of Education for life; paper presented to the ARLT foundation, The Hague, Netherlands, Feb. 2015

(5) – See amateur folklorist Edward Holman’s self-published book, La Santisima Muerte: A Mexican Folk Saint, for an examination of graveyard rituals associated with Santa Muerte collected during interviews with curanderos that work with Saint Death.

(6) – Professor: Santa Muerte statue on roadway was intended for someone: and Religious community blesses road where Santa Muerte statue was found

(7) – Metcalfe, David, Exorcism article in Ghosts, Spirits, and Psychics The Paranormal from Alchemy to Zombie; ABC-CLIO, 2015

(8) – Moreau, A Scott, Gaining Perspective on Territorial Spirits

(9) – Wagner, C. Peter, Confronting the Queen of Heaven; Wagner Institute for Practical Ministry, 1998

(10) – In the 90’s similar actions were organized in Austria to express heart felt repentance for the complicity of many mainline Christian denominations in the Holocaust. A march was also organized which followed the pilgrimage routes to Jerusalem in an effort to offer a corporate apology on behalf of Christians to Muslim and Jewish communities for the violence perpetrated under the authority of the Catholic church during the Crusades.

(11) – “I have found by personal experience that one of the most difficult lessons for the average Christian to learn is that out weapons for spiritual warfare are spiritual weapons. It sounds simple, and it is in theory. But it is difficult in practice because even those of us who are biblical Christians still live much too much of our lives in the flesh…We are so used to trying to solve social and economic problems through politics, or legal problems through the courts, or personal disagreements through arguing about them, or international relationships through war, that to hear that God has a higher and more effective way through spiritual weapons is regarded as wishful thinking even by many born-again Christians. This attitude needs to change.” – C. Peter Wagner, Spiritual Warfare in Territorial Spirits: Insights on Stratetic-Level Spiritual Warfare from Nineteen Christian Leaders; Sovereign World Limited, 1991 p7

(12) – Lippmann, Walter, Public Opinion; Macmillan Company, 1922

(13) – “”As a concept, Spiritual Mapping originated – somewhat earlier than the movement – in US Evangelicalism in the second half of the 1980’s. The Evangelical missionary urge to win the world for the Christian faith, the desired fulfilment of the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19, led to the integration of theological and sociological models to enhance the effectiveness of missionary work…sociological methods dealt with only one side of relaity, and thus its adherents wanted to develop a ‘map’ of the other side, i.e. the supernatural dimension.” R. Holvast – Spiritual Mapping: The Turbulent Career of a Contested American Missionary Paradigm, 1989-2005

(14) – for more on De Laurence see Davies, Owen, Grimoires: A History of Magic Books and Metcalfe, David, The Mysterious Influence of One Human Mind

(15) – Henry, Frances, He Had the Power: Pa Neezer, the Orisha King of Trinidad; Lexicon Trinidad, Ltd., 2008

(16) – See related publications from the U.S. Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute for a military intelligence assessment of the current situation:

3 thoughts on “Magic Works in Its Own Way – San Benito’s Santa Muerte Statues in perspective

  1. Inciteful and in-depth. A refreshing change of pace….Personally the complete lack of dogma and doctrine [despite many attempts] coupled with the aforementioned fluidity of La Nina Blanca is the cherry on the cake….The Faithful KNOW she is with them. The fact we can worship with honesty and sincerity [ rather than pomp and dogma] leaves us free from deceit and gatekeepers.


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