Have you heard of Santa Muerte? San la Muerte? or perhaps Rey Pascual?

Faith traditions in the Americas are as diverse and expressive as the many cultures they emerge from, but one particular set of traditions has captured the eye and ire of official orthodoxies in government, law enforcement and the Christian church, the passionate veneration of Most Holy Death.

Dr. R. Andrew Chesnut, Bishop Walter Sullivan Chair in Catholic Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, in collaboration with David Metcalfe, and Liminal Analytics, presents a multi-faceted exploration of the sanctification of death in the popular faith traditions of the Americas.

Join us as we examine the complex faith traditions that develop around the sanctification of one of humanity’s oldest fears, and continue a conversation that began at Viva La Muerte!, a  lecture and panel discussion, hosted by the Morbid Anatomy Library at The Observatory in Brooklyn, New York.

slide_321301_3013984_free.jpgR. Andrew Chesnut, Ph.D., holds the Bishop Walter F. Sullivan Chair in Catholic Studies and is Professor of Religious Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. He is currently conducting research on the new religious economy of Latin America and the cult of Santa Muerte (Saint Death).

A specialist in Latin American religion, he is the author of “Competitive Spirits: Latin America’s New Religious Economy” (Oxford University Press, 2003), “Devoted to Death: Santa Muerte, the Skeleton Saint” (Oxford University Press, December 2012), and of “Born Again in Brazil: The Pentecostal Boom and the Pathogens of Poverty” (Rutgers University Press, 1997)..  He also blogs for the Huffington Post.

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David Metcalfe is a researcher, writer and multimedia specialist focusing on the interstices of art, culture, and consciousness. In 2011 he established the Liminal Analytics: Applied Research Collaborative to focus on testing and deploying a unique combination of applied scholarship, market intelligence, digital media and social network development in order to build strategic multidisciplinary lines of communication.

He is a contributing editor for a number of popular web magazines dealing with alternative culture and is currently working on a long-term transmedia project with Dr. R. Andrew Chesnut, Chair of Catholic Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, to document the growth and global market presence of devotional traditions associated with Santa Muerte, and the sanctification of death, in the Americas.


9 thoughts on “* Who is la Santa Muerte?

  1. The idea of venerating death is very, very sad. Much better it is to venerate life, especially the eternal salvation of spiritual life that awaits those who live righteous lives by treating each other with love, respect, and compassion.


  2. You fear death and run away from it, block it out from view and try to forget about it. In other cultures different than yours they don’t do that. They accept death as a stage of life and that influences the way they live. Instead of judging a culture or viewpoint you don’t understand, try to be more accepting and even attempt to perceive their viewpoint, it may even make your life better.


  3. What sunlion is missing is the fact, that we are talking about death physically, NOT spiritually . Which makes his comment dumb. Bible says let he who is without fault cast the first stone, I assume you are pure light sunlion? Oh no theres much fault in you, as all of us. And underneath the veil of flesh we were while living is a skeleton, fear not whats already part of your body, Spiritual life and physical are two different things that many christians do not understand, death has many faces, you can put old habits to death, bad behaviour to death, bad decisions to death, death is a part of life .Living righteous DOES NOT mean believing in the bible or going to church every sunday,rather it is how you treat others, respect others,and their beliefs, I have studied religion for a long time, I was born a Catholic,became a born again christian,that was a mistake cus they called catholics satanist, You see even Christians who believe in the Same god can not get along,and you want to talk about righteous living. RESPECT others beliefs,if they treat you proper ,well then it does not matter what their faith is,remember sunlion the greatest commandment of all Love and love your enemy,christians are the first to bark and start calling names when i new church of other faith goes up near them,Is their God not strong enough and their prayers to handle it himself ? You must defend God ? I think not, live in peace with your faith and leave others alone.


  4. Jesus is Lord. He is to be venerated, worshipped and glorified. The scripture speaks of death in this way.

    1 Corinthians 15:26 (ESV)
    The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

    Hebrews 2:14-15 (ESV)
    Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.

    Revelation 20:14-15 (ESV)
    Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

    Death is the enemy, Christ Jesus will ultimately destroy death. It will not be venerated. It will be destroyed!!!


  5. I have book about tarot from Angeles Arrien and I really love the book.The Tarot card which I counted from date of my birthday ,my card of life is death.First I was scared-this is card of my life?But actually I think that there is something very sexy and live giving about it.We can really like ourself with our death,its part of our life.


  6. So… I started venerating the Santa Muerte and nothing has gone right since. I have hemorrhoids on my backside, and I have horrible nightmares every single night of this grim reaper standing over me. I’m not sure which is worse – having not slept in almost a month or the fact that my hindquarters feel like they’re in Hell. Perhaps, if I keep praying to her, she can just relieve the pain from my butt and put all of me in Hell instead of just my tootsie.


  7. Please note that Santa Muerte is not the same as San La Muerte, venerated by some people (few people) in Paraguay as the saint of bandits, mobsters and murderers. Santa Muerte is, as Dr. Kingsbury has noted, an icon of female empowerment. In Paraguay, where some sources will tell you the tradition started, devotion to San La Muerte is to assist bandits and the stories are of becoming impervious to being killed and of succeeding in nefarious ventures.


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