Saturday, February 3, 2018

Press Release: Santa Muerte Worship Spreads Across Canada like Wildfire

The cult worship of a female grim reaper known as Santa Muerte is spreading like a raging wildfire across Canada.

In recent years, Santa Muerte, Spanish for Saint Death, has exploded in popularity, both in Mexico and the United States. But now, worship of the Skeleton Saint, the personification of death, is spreading into Canada.

In his newly released horror novel Freaky Franky, Prince Edward Island dark fiction author William Blackwell examines both sides of Santa Muerte worship—the gruesome and macabre murders committed in her name, and the benevolence she bestows upon those who revere her positively. Although a work of fiction, Blackwell said Freaky Franky was painstakingly researched and many scenes were inspired by real-life events.

Freaky Franky is much more than an examination of the horrifying consequences of worshiping Santa Muerte with evil intentions,” Blackwell said. “It offers a message of salvation, redemption and hope for people who are willing to change for the better.”

“From Chile to Canada, Santa Muerte has no rival in terms of the rapidity and scope of its expansion,” said Andrew Chesnut, a professor of religious studies and author of Devoted to Death: Santa Muerte, the Skeleton Saint.

The statues used in Santa Muerte worship depict a tunic-draped skeleton, often holding a scythe and a globe, a sort of female grim reaper. Devotees burn symbolic candles, offer gifts to their saint, and pray for prosperity, healing, love and protection.

In many news reports, Santa Muerte worship is depicted as evil, since criminals and gang members pray to her for safe passage of drugs and death to their enemies. The FBI has documented numerous murders related to the worship of Santa Muerte. In some cases, victims were decapitated and used as sacrificial offerings to the mysterious folk saint. The Catholic Church considers it evil, blasphemous and satanic.

But, according to Toronto resident Tom, who asked that we use his first name to protect his professional life, nothing could be further from the truth. “I was going through a very bad patch in my life. I was depressed, suicidal and jobless. A friend turned me on to Santa Muerte and my life turned for the better almost immediately. Now, I’ve found love, have a great job and I’m at peace.”

Tom said worship of Santa Muerte helps you come to terms with your death so you can live your life to the fullest. “She’s pretty far from evil, I’ll tell you that much. So many murders have been committed in the name of Christianity and Islam, yet Santa Muerte gets the bad rap. It isn’t fair.”

Tom said because many Canadian Santa Muerte devotees are concerned about their personal and professional reputations, they’re reluctant to let the Skeleton Saint out of their closets. They worship in private and refuse to discuss their worship publicly or join public internet-based groups that venerate the Skeleton Saint.

Montreal-based Vice Media recently interviewed Cindy, a Toronto health care worker, who asked that her last name not be used to protect her professional reputation. Although skeptical at first, Cindy turned to Santa Muerte in her time of need. "I was in a really dark place for a while," she said. "I lost my job and couldn't find anything else. I was depressed—I didn't know what to do. I was desperate for the momentum to turn my life around."

Although Cindy knows of public shrines to Santa Muerte in Montreal, she worships in the privacy of her own home using a statue of the Skeleton Saint and votive candles, Vice reported.

A Facebook search produced a number of Santa Muerte groups and pages. One page called Santa Muerte Canada at last count had 112 likes and 113 followers. On it, people post images and prayers to their beloved saint. One post depicts a female skeleton with her iconic scythe. Above the post, a message: “Holy death sweet mother, don't walk away… don't step aside. Come with me everywhere and never leave me alone. Since you protect me as well as true mother, make me bless you in the name of God, father, and my mother, my holy death. Amen.”

Another group, Santa Muerte Grupo, at last count had 51,888 members and 151,325 likes. Members often post images of Santa Muerte that quickly generate hundreds, if not thousands, of likes and comments, most of them simply “amen.” One image depicts a skeleton with angel wings holding an hourglass. Its message: “Today I come to you to do that miracle that you need so much. If you believe in me, comment amen.”

In another group called Santa Muerte, an image of the Skeleton Saint proclaims: “Santa Muerte of my heart, do not forsake me and give me your protection.” Santa Muerte at last count, had 70,010 members.

From marginalized members of society such as the poor and disenfranchised, to lawyers, doctors and police, the growth of Santa Muerte is on fire. It is said to have as many as fifteen million followers worldwide. It is believed to be the fastest growing cult—or religion—in the world.

Enriqueta Romero is credited with taking Santa Muerte mainstream in Mexico around the turn of the 21st century. “She shouldn’t be feared,” Romero said. “She is not vengeful, she will not hasten your death. She is part of life and she protects those no one else will.” Often referred to as a high priestess, Romero has a shrine to Santa Muerte at her home in Tepito, Mexico, where worshipers come from around the globe to give offerings to their saint. Offerings include tequila, cannabis cigarettes, votive candles, incense, sodas, chocolates, fruit, flowers, tacos, pastries, and amulets. Often devotees arrive on their knees to worship at the Santa Muerte shrine.

Romero defends her Skeleton Saint. “Everyone thinks the Santa Muerte is for narcos (drug traffickers). But it can be whatever you want and for whoever wants to have faith in her.”

Freaky Franky author William Blackwell also defends the mysterious Skeleton Saint taking the world by storm. “Life is never black and white,” he said. “There are always shades of gray. It’s obvious the worship of Santa Muerte is not all bad; she has followers from all walks of life—looking for prosperity, protection, healing and love.”

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