THE FOLLOWING IS A PERSONAL ACCOUNT FROM SANTA MUERTE DEVOTEE HANK VINE:
It was early spring, 2016 – I was homeless, unemployed and drifting around the U.S.
Down and out and staying with a stranger – in an hour of fear, uncertainty, exhaustion and probably a touch of paranoia I found myself on my knees, humbled as never before.
It all started on my way back from Juarez after my father’s death – in a state of visionary excess I had run into her shrines shining on the borderlands, cinder block chapels crammed with offerings and incense. At that moment of weakness and revelation I challenged Santa Muerte to “prove to me this is all real,” and to “humble me and bring me to my knees.” Now that cry had been answered and here I was broken of pride, homeless, jobless, drifting and unsure of where I was going – she helped me fully understand that she was not a hollow New Age DIY deity and whatever delusions I might have were of my own making.
While working through this crisis of faith and finding myself without home or employment Mexico became an obsession for me and I was haunted by the thought of a Mexican family. A gringo’s gringo from East Texas and here I was dreaming of a life that would have seemed completely alien to me just a few years prior.
True prayer is a silent, wordless, upheaval of the soul/core of a man. I knew Flaca was as real as breath in my lungs, and I asked Her to lead me to a smart, humble, strong woman, un mujer mexicana. A woman capable of slaughtering her own livestock, processing the carcass, using a machete to cut her firewood and cook a meal for her family over an open fire in a kitchen with a dirt floor. A woman that could bring back the strength and dedication I’d seen growing up in rural Texas. A woman who could teach me and travel the hard roads of life with me – a true partner, a true love.
3 Years Later – 01/13/3019
My wife and I rise early to the giggles of our son who turned 8 months old the day before. Diaper change, a fresh bottle, change of clothes, the simple routine of being a parent.
The area of flesh to which I offered to Flaca for the countless blessings she’s given me these past 3 years will cover an older tattoo that represents a stage in my life that had long since passed – it might surprise you in reading this when I say that Santa Muerte now covers runic inscriptions that I’d got during a period in my life when I was active in white nationalist groups. It’s a stage which I left behind long ago and one which I am not proud of, yet without it I would not have been prepared for the journey that brought me to this moment.
This journey to visit my brother of faith and receive my Madre Sagrada’s image on my flesh is a microcosm of the life journey that has brought me to Mexico.
Faith and devotion to Santa Muerte has taken on more and more of a public image over the last few decades, but to find her essence is a rare thing indeed. It is sitting in a plastic chair choking down the desire to shout “Fuck that hurts!!!” as a fellow devotee marks your flesh in honor of Flaca!
I sat there trying not to squirm as the needle hit bone and sent shock waves thru me like a taser – the memory came back of standing at an open grave as we said our goodbyes to Madrina Vargas, and Chivo slapped me on the back of the head saying simply:
“Be strong brother, no cry.. Mom always smiled, we will smile thru our pain as she did.”
Temples are beautiful, groups can give a sense of identity and belonging, but the few who are chosen know that power is found in hidden places, where devotees are equals and where la familia knows the truth of answered prayers and humble devotion.
To quote my fellow Texan, the musician Zebulon Whatley:
“Do unto others as sisters and brothers and surely goodness will prevail..”
Or as I’ve come to understand things:
Without fear, without tears, and with faith…Where two can eat, a third can be fed.
Loving Godmother, Holy Saint – Santa Muerte devotee Hank Vine on the death of la Madrina Enriqueta Vargas Ortiz, leader of Santa Muerte Internacional – https://skeletonsaint.com/2018/12/20/loving-godmother-holy-saint-santa-muerte-devotee-hank-vine-on-the-death-of-la-madrina-enriqueta-vargas-ortiz-leader-of-santa-muerte-internacional/
Something as old as the ground she is rooted in – Hank Vine on life and Saint Death in Mexico City – https://davidmetcalfe.wordpress.com/2018/05/11/something-as-old-as-the-ground-she-is-rooted-in-hank-vine-on-life-and-saint-death-in-mexico-city/
10 Anos Enalteciendo a Nuestra Santa Muerte – Reflections on the 2017 Anniversary Celebration for Santa Muerte Internacional – https://skeletonsaint.com/2017/12/30/10-anos-enalteciendo-a-nuestra-santa-muerte-reflections-on-the-2017-anniversary-celebration-for-santa-muerte-internacional-from-hank-vine/
Born in Texas, Complete in Mexico: The Testimony of Warren Robert Hank Vine–https://skeletonsaint.com/2017/09/05/born-in-texas-complete-in-mexico-the-testimony-of-warren-robert-hank-vine/
Photography of Faith: Santa Muerte in Sulphur Springs, Texas – https://skeletonsaint.com/2016/06/07/photography-of-faith-santa-muerte-in-sulphur-springs-texas/