Special Issue "Death in the New World: The Rise of Santa Muerte"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 February 2016).

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. R. Andrew Chesnut
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Religious Studies, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA 23284, USA
Interests: Santa Muerte; religion in Latin America; Charismatic Christianity
Mr. David Metcalfe
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Independent Scholar, 109 Witcher Rd., Carlton, GA 30627, USA
Interests: folk religion; popular spirituality; consciousness studies

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The cult of Santa Muerte, or Saint Death, is becoming one of the fastest growing spiritual traditions in the world. In this Special Issue of Religions, scholars take a multi-disciplinary look at the tradition and explore the ways in which Santa Muerte’s popularity challenges societal views of spirituality. Despite her long history as an occult, liminal figure in the Americas, and her explosive growth over the past decade, scholarly research on Santa Muerte has been marginal. With this Special Issue we hope to bring more light into the shadows of contemporary US and Latin American cultures where Saint Death holds sway.

Prof. Dr. R. Andrew Chesnut
David Metcalfe
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Santa Muerte
  • Saint Death
  • Death Studies
  • Folk Saint
  • Folk Catholicism
  • Popular Spirituality
  • Narco-Saint
  • Mexico
  • Latin America
  • Grim Reaper

Published Papers (3 papers)

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Research

Article
“Santísima Muerte, Vístete de Negro, Santísima Muerte, Vístete de Blanco”: La Santa Muerte’s Illegal Marginalizations
Religions 2017, 8(3), 36; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel8030036 - 04 Mar 2017
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 5866
Abstract
La Santísima Muerte, the death saint patron of the marginalized and dispossessed in Mexico, the United States, and beyond, is especially favored by devotees who identify with her duality between dark and light, and good and evil. Most of Santa Muerte’s devotees understand [...] Read more.
La Santísima Muerte, the death saint patron of the marginalized and dispossessed in Mexico, the United States, and beyond, is especially favored by devotees who identify with her duality between dark and light, and good and evil. Most of Santa Muerte’s devotees understand that good and evil coexist in her, and they often simultaneously appeal to both. At the same time, illegality and marginalization, which are generally associated with the saint’s “dark” or “evil” sides, take on multiple, diverse forms, encompassing criminalized activity such as narcotrafficking, religious transgressions that reflect unorthodox spiritual practices such as witchcraft, and most contentiously of all, the very conditions of poverty and racialization in Mexico. Nevertheless, cultural representations of Santa Muerte often resist such diversity and persist in opposing her dark and light sides. Films such as Eva Aridjis’s La Santa Muerte and Pável Valenzuela Arámburo’s La Santísima Muerte aim to represent all Santa Muerte in all of her multiplicity and to correct stereotypical representations of the death saint in general. But perhaps inadvertently, Aridjis’s film reinforces the contrast, rather than the intersections, between “light” and “dark”. However, in La Santísima Muerte, Valenzuela Arámburo deliberately embraces the saint’s contradictory duality to provide a different perspective on illegality and criminality, simultaneously accepting such illegality as a dark menace in the vein of Santa Muerte’s typical detractors, and rearticulating it as a necessary aspect of the saint’s holy works. Valenzuela Arámburo’s film not only emphasizes that the very same devotees invoke Santa Muerte for her powers of “good” as well as for those of “evil”, it demonstrates that these devotees incorporate the saint’s dark side as they see fit not as a consequence of their marginalized status, but as a means to resist it. Thus, while both films underscore that marginalized populations are just as nuanced and contradictory as their patroness of death is, Valenzuela Arámburo’s film grounds itself in Santa Muerte’s duality in order to demonstrate how her seemingly contradictory aspects construct and shape each other. As such, the film combats the representation of marginalization and criminality in Mexico and beyond, highlighting the extent to which her devotees appeal to both her dark and light sides precisely because they are simultaneously victims of marginalization and agents of resistance. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Death in the New World: The Rise of Santa Muerte)
Article
The Scythe and the Pentagram: Santa Muerte from Folk Catholicism to Occultism
Religions 2017, 8(1), 1; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel8010001 - 22 Dec 2016
Viewed by 4490
Abstract
Santa Muerte is establishing a presence among practitioners of contemporary occultism in Europe and North America. The occult milieu is highly different from the Mexican cult of Santa Muerte, having a strong heritage of secrecy and tradition as social capital and being mostly [...] Read more.
Santa Muerte is establishing a presence among practitioners of contemporary occultism in Europe and North America. The occult milieu is highly different from the Mexican cult of Santa Muerte, having a strong heritage of secrecy and tradition as social capital and being mostly middle-class in orientation. Nonetheless, this Catholic folk saint with a mostly pragmatic, popular, and grassroots cult is becoming increasingly popular among occultists. Based on a survey of three recent books on Santa Muerte geared towards an Anglophone, occult audience, it is therefore the aim of this article to understand how and why the Skeleton Saint is attracting adherents in the occult milieu, by analyzing the underlying causes of this growing trend, as well as the conditions shaping it. It is the overall argument of this article that the beginning reception of Santa Muerte in occultism is a result of perceived needs and demands specific to the occult milieu rather than characteristics inherent in the symbol itself, and that an analysis of the ways in which she is spreading outside of her original sociocultural context must be guided by an understanding of the novel one she is integrated in. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Death in the New World: The Rise of Santa Muerte)
Article
Santa Muerte as Emerging Dangerous Religion?
Religions 2016, 7(6), 65; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel7060065 - 03 Jun 2016
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 3897
Abstract
Santa Muerte is one of the fastest growing folk saint movements in Mexico. She has a core following in Mexico among dispossessed populations, but also devotees from a broader swath of the Mexican population. This article analyzes the development of Santa Muerte veneration [...] Read more.
Santa Muerte is one of the fastest growing folk saint movements in Mexico. She has a core following in Mexico among dispossessed populations, but also devotees from a broader swath of the Mexican population. This article analyzes the development of Santa Muerte veneration in Mexico since 2000. I argue that, from a structural analysis perspective, Santa Muerte veneration is on the threshold of designation and treatment as dangerous religion, although its eventual status remains contingent. The movement’s status will be determined by three interacting factors: (1) a core membership of outsider and dispossessed populations; (2) symbolic and social organization in a form that challenges the legitimacy and authority of the institutions of church and state; and (3) institutional control measures that contest the legitimacy of its symbolic presentation and organizational practices. I suggest several alternative developmental scenarios based on these factors. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Death in the New World: The Rise of Santa Muerte)
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