|A Saint Death Figure For Sale In a Store|
Before saying much else there are some very, very important things to note about the cult of Saint Death:
This is not officially accepted or tolerated by Catholicism. (Originally I said "in no way Catholic" but some one pointed out that that statement is "tendentious.") The Catholic Church of Mexico has officially condemned the cult as satanism, and teaches that even the least committed adherence is unacceptable. (Out of pure curiosity, I consulted a Catholic deacon, and confirmed it on the internet.) This is very confusing since the part that is trying to emerge as an official religion actually has rites which are based on the Catholic liturgy; one group actually calls itself "catholic." Even more confusing is that many members of the real Catholic Church ignorantly keep Saint Death icons thinking that it is a legitimate saint. These last two reasons specifically brought the Catholic Church in Mexico to condemn the cult; it doesn't have strong enough presence in the U.S. yet to have brought any official statement from U.S. bishops.
It is definitely not Protestant or any other Christian group. Most protestants in Mexico will be very quick to condemn this kind of superstition. For the reasons mentioned above, many think that it's one of Catholicisms many faults. But here's a dark little secret: my mother-in-law believes that her father, my wife's grandfather, who is a staunch convert to Protestantism (which is supposed to mean opposition to all of Mexico's superstitions) is hiding a little figure of Saint Death in his bedroom, hoping it will help him discover the gold from the Mexican Revolution he's certain is buried in his land. I'm sure his pastor doesn't know about that one ...
(See Looking for a pot of Gold? Perhaps a heart of Gold? Grandpa Pedro, Part 2)
|Saint Death, With Fake U.S. Bills and Canadian Coins|
(Compare:The Curse of the Eye, and The Morning Edition - Exotic Mexico)
It's not associated with the original Day of the Dead Celebration. As with Catholicism, followers of Saint Death have integrated traditional elements of Day of the Dead into their rites, and even have a special celebration on Nov. 1, which is the first Day of the Dead. But from what I understand, the Day of the Dead celebration is in honour of the souls of friends and relatives who have passed away, and does not celebrate "death" as a element in itself. I think that the Day of the Dead can be celebrated in accordance with Catholic beliefs, but I still have to check both the Catholic and Protestant view of this celebration. In any case, most people who celebrate don't make any connection to "Saint Death," unless they are already followers. ( Click here to read more about the Day of the Dead)
Most people who worship or adore Saint Death do so in secret. For this reason, I've seen very few people with their little figures. I have seen some in buses or taxis. As noted above, the open following of Saint Death is becoming more common.
|A "Natural Store" Selling a Bazaar (but common) Combination of Items|
This is one of those Mexican things closely tied to superstition, and verging on being its own brand of spiritualism; it probably hits rock-bottom on the list of Mexican cultural features I would actually want to participate in. Although it would be pretty hard to convince me to put one of those evil-eye bracelets on my child as well, I could see myself buying one of the bracelets just as a specimen to show people (not to use); on the other hand, I don't think I could find a place in all my curiosity for a Saint Death figure, even as a specimen. It is, however, a very interesting and unique cultural phenomenon.
What I've written here is based primarily my personal experience, and is, for that reason, quite incomplete. For more in-depth and better researched information, see Arturo Vasquez's posts in his blog "Reditus":
For information about "San La Muerte" in Argentina, read: