Tag Archives | R. Andrew Chesnut

Love, Magic and Holy Death – A Conversation with Dr. R. Andrew Chesnut

Every month there seems to be another horror story in the media regarding the devotional traditions associated with Santa Muerte, the American folk Saint of Holy Death.  One of the most recent news story details the discovery of a weathered human skull and jaw bone, along with what police are saying are remains of a Santa Muerte altar, in a dumpster in Oxnard, California. Another item announces that true-crime author John Lee Brook has been commissioned to write a  “tell-all” book on Santa Muerte and her “occult” connections to the Mexican drug trade. The title of his last book,  Blood In Blood Out: The Violent Empire of the Aryan Brotherhood, probably gives a good idea for where the focus will be.  There is, however, another side to Santa Muerte, whose associations with love magic predate any ties She has developed to narco-trafficking and murder.

I recently had the opportunity to discuss this in more detail with Dr.… Read the rest

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Muerte, Mi Amor

In a culture, such as ours, that does everything it can to deny our inevitable mortality, when a folk Saint appears clothed in the visage of death it can cause a bit of a stir. Santa Muerte, for her devotees, is an all encompassing friend, a beneficient mother, giver of gifts that no other Saint would sanctify, and available to all who seek her favor. The Western media, however, only sees her as an archetypal image to promote fear mongering over the complex issues of immigration, drug trade and violence.

Last Friday I had the opportunity to speak with Dr. R. Andrew Chesnut, Endowed Chair in Catholicism at Virginia Commonwealth University*, whose recent book, Devoted to Death: Santa Muerte, the Skeleton Saint, is one of the only (if not THE only) in-depth resources on La Niña Blanca (The White Lady) available in English. The book is a fascinating look at one of the 21st centuries most nuanced devotional traditions, which Dr.… Read the rest

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