A stroll through an outdoor book fair lining Mexico City’s Paseo de la Reforma boulevard a few months ago gave me the inspiration for the third novel in the Emilia Cruz mystery series. Most of the vendor stalls offered beautiful art books but what caught my eye was a cheaply printed pamphlet adorned with a drawing of a muerte skeleton figure wearing a long robe and holding a set of scales and a globe.
The dark side is alive and well . . .
Mexico’s Santa Muerte
Santa Muerte has become a cult figure in Mexico and is increasingly hailed as the patron saint of drug gangs, cartels, and violence. The saint is always a muerte, or skeleton figure, in a long robe with a hood. Sometimes Santa Muerte has a halo or a crown and carries either scales or a long scythe akin to the Grim Reaper. There are also images that meld Santa Muerte with the Virgin of Guadalupe. Murders associated with the cult of Santa Muerte made headlines last month when three people were killed in a ritual dedicated to the saint in northern Mexico.
The little pamphlet that I found was a collection of prayers to the Saint of Death, including a prayer to bring in money, a curse against jealous people and a prayer to dominate a husband, an invocation for a man not to look at any other woman, and a prayer to make a man forget another woman. In the next book, Emilia will read the wrong prayer, of course . .
Papua New Guinea’s Sanguma
A spiritualism known as sanguma in this remote Pacific nation is widespread and most homicides in the country are thought to be related to it. 85% of the population lives in rural communities where belief in black magic is especially strong and passed down through generations through storytelling. Illnesses, sudden death by natural causes and other unexpected developments are often thought to be the result of sanguma. As a result, to erase the black magic, villagers often kill someone accused of being a sorcerer. Check out this report from ISP for more.
Voodoo was acclaimed as a real religion in Haiti and revolves around in a distant and unknowable creator god, Bondyè. According to Wikipedia, Bondyè doesn’t intercede in human affairs but has a set of lesser dieties called Iwa who direct specific aspects of life. Adherents to voodoo “cultivate personal relationships” with the lwa through offerings, personal altars and devotional objects, and elaborate ceremonies of music and dance, which are the means for possession by an Iwa. Supposedly being possessed by a diety is something to be desired.
Hmm. Creepy stuff. Time to go to church and light a candle.