May 10, 2013

"It's not religion just because it's dressed up like religion; it's a blasphemy against religion."

Speaking in Mexico city, the president of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Culture, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, called the worship of Santa Muerte — Saint Death — the "degeneration of religion." ""Religion celebrates life, but here you have death."
The cult, which reveres death, has been growing rapidly in Mexico. It is represented by a cloaked female skeleton clutching a scythe. It is particularly popular in areas of Mexico that have suffered from extreme violence carried out by the country's drug cartels. The cult is believed to date back to colonial times.

It merges indigenous beliefs with the tradition of venerating saints introduced by Christian missionaries after the Spanish conquest of Mexico. Devotees pray to the saint at home-made altars and often offer votive candles, fruit and tequila in the hope Santa Muerte will grant their wishes....

Cardinal Ravasi said a country like Mexico, where more than 70,000 people are estimated to have been killed in drug-related violence over the past six years, had to send out a clear message to its young generation.

29 comments:

David said...

Welcome back Aztecs.

I would say that Christianity celebrates death, but not in this way. In fact Christianity took hold because there was not all that much to celebrate about life for many people.

traditionalguy said...

Death likes to be welcomed and worshiped. And the ObamaCare Panels are doing their best to make it look like a noble thing for overeducated religious con men to do.

CEO-MMP said...

Why not? One of our betters said just the other day that life is a part of death.

Pavin' the way baby, pavin' the way.


And people have always done this in one form or another. It's a very human thing to do.

gerry said...

In fact Christianity took hold because there was not all that much to celebrate about life for many people.

What depth of knowledge!

Shouting Thomas said...

Want to see a great movie about the Mexican drug wars? See El Infierno!

Mexico is a great place to be a musician, if you can avoid being killed. The narco gangsters pay musicians to write "narcocorridas," songs glorifying the gangster life. The best of the narcocorrida bands is Los Tigres Del Norte. These guys are the Rolling Stones of Latin America.

Drug legalization is desparately needed to take the profit out of the gangster game.

Why in the hell are we discussing amnesty and importing 30 million more Mexicans and their fucking mess to the U.S.? (Answer... cheap labor.)

Paddy O said...

It takes a Cardinal.

I, of course, agree with him, but it's very tricky waters to navigate as syncretism is very caught up in colonialism.

Syncretism is also very dependent on ignorance, which is another way the Church was able to keep people in line. It sought to spoon feed a theology of dependence and poverty celebration to the underclasses so as to keep a very firm control on society. The Church wanted syncretic notions of class and power structures so had to allow other syncretic saints.

Now that the Church is changing its ways (arguably) about being on the side of the rich, and finding nuances of response that don't deal in Marxist assumptions, it can begin to address the other syncretistic elements.

They're not necessary evils now that the underlying evils are increasingly addressed.

Mark O said...

Why import this mess? Political power.

Alan said...

Weird. Sounds like the Marvel Comics version of Death. Maybe this is just an early promotional effort for the next Avengers movie.

gerry said...

Breaking...

rhhardin said...

I grasp a scythe for hours a day.

Turn on the hat-mounted baby monitor to hear what's streaming on the computer, take a work break and cut another swath across the top of the lawn.

Mitchell the Bat said...

Where's Indiana Jones when you need him?

LarsPorsena said...

Huitzilopochtli is still alive and well.

southcentralpa said...

I can't judge the translation since I don't know Spanish and have access to the original comments, but substitute "Christianity" for "religion" in the headline and that's a very accurate statement. What is happening reminds me very much of Santeria.

Peter said...

Looks like Francis of Assisi has some 'splainin' to do:

"Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth,
who feeds us and rules us,
and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.

"Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of you;
through those who endure sickness and trial.

"Happy those who endure in peace,
for by you, Most High, they will be crowned.

"Be praised, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death,
from whose embrace no living person can escape ..."

-- "The Canticle of the Sun," attributed to Francis of Assisi

furious_a said...

We have a similar cult in this country. The chief sacraments are abortion and euthanasia, and the ritual common to both is human sacrifice.

In the case of infant sacrifice, some high priests nowadays believe that harvesting fetal tissue will lead to prolonged life, in much the same way that Aztec priests believed that consuming the pozole made from the remains of sacrificial victims would extend theirs.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

It merges indigenous beliefs with the tradition of venerating saints introduced by Christian missionaries after the Spanish conquest of Mexico.

Cool. I did my thesis on this topic. The syncretism of indigenous Aztec and Mayan religious beliefs and symbols with Spanish Catholicism as evidenced in current Catholic practices in rural areas of Aztec occupied Mexico and the Yucatan. That was back in college in the 1970's. Nothing is new here, just taking a somewhat darker turn.

furious_a said...

The syncretism of indigenous Aztec and Mayan religious beliefs and symbols with Spanish Catholicism

...like shudder the Eucharist.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Huitzilopochtli is still alive and well.

Ah...but it is his mother, Coatlicue who is the real source of this belief.

When we lived in Mexico City, it was totally common to see a wall in the Cathedral dedicated to offerings. Prayer offerings to fix or help a physical problem. Little silver feet. Eyes. Hearts. All pegged to a wall or board above the votive candles. I don't recall other types of offerings in the Cathedral, but you would often see roadside altars or shrines with wooden versions of the feet etc as well as food, flowers and liquor bottles (probably empty since otherwise they would be stolen). Totally common.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

...like shudder the Eucharist.

Yep. It was amazing how many things meshed with existing beliefs and made it easier for the Conquistadors and their Priests to 'take over' the religion. They didn't really convert the Indians as much as they both absorbed each other into a new version of both religions.

edutcher said...

This is why Cortez did not quibble with details when it came to religion.

Paul said...

I agree with the Church in this case.

Bender said...

Of course, the Conquistadors and "their" Priests didn't take over their religion. But the Virgen de Guadalupe did prevail, leading six million Aztecs to convert from a culture of death, with the human sacrifice of 250,000 a year, to a culture of life. The cult of Santa Muerte is an attempt to turn back the clock.

Geoff Matthews said...

We need to find a way to integrate death into life.

rhhardin said...

Today's scythe progress (so far) pic.

The foreground grass is not cut, the grass at dog and behind has had a morning trim.

The trick with scything, if you don't like carting grass off into the woods, is cut just a little off the tops often, rather than major cutting when the lawn obviously needs cutting. Then the cuttings fall into the lawn and disappear mostly.

When the grass tops are even, it looks cut.

The trick for cutting tops is an insanely sharp scythe. Otherwise the grass grabs the edge and pulls the blade down to the ground, resulting in a deeper trim than you want.

Scythe with 3 foot blade, partly visible in the lawn after returning outside after saving an Armstrong and Getty clip heard while trimming.

LarsPorsena said...

Blogger Dust Bunny Queen said...

...like shudder the Eucharist.

Yep. It was amazing how many things meshed with existing beliefs and made it easier for the Conquistadors and their Priests to 'take over' the religion. They didn't really convert the Indians as much as they both absorbed each other into a new version of both religions.
________________________________

Not that much different than the early Christians and the pagans of the Mediterranean basin.

Jeff Teal said...

Or the Catholics and Irish or Norse or anybody else. Catholic priests dang sure shouldn't complain about Saints being made from local deities since they've been doing it for about 1700 years.

Jeff said...

Is he saying that someone made up a religion? Really?

dbp said...

This Santa Muerte certainly sounds blasphemous, but it has a refreshing lack of honor killings, fatwas and jihad.

So, its got that going for it.

Banshee said...

Actually, all you need to know about the nastiness of the Santa Muerte cult can be learned by going to your local flea market and checking out the Mexican T-shirt vendors. If your Spanish is good enough, you will find a wide variety of Santa Muerte prayers basically begging for the death of enemies, money, the death of the police, money, drugs, money.... Not nice one bit.