In today's episode, we discuss Santa Muerte, the folk saint and personification of death in Mexico. We discuss different ways of viewing death, her association with the LGBT community, and the way her worship exemplifies the Catholic church's stigma against folk religion.
“Syncretic Santa Muerte: Holy Death and Religious Bricolage” by Kate Kingsbury and R. Andrew Chestnut
“Death as a Woman: Santa Muerte and Religious Othering in Mexico” by Manon Hedenborg White
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Our cover art is by Helena Cailleaux. You can find her and more of her work on Instagram @helena.cailleaux.illustratrice. Our theme song was composed and performed by Icarus Tyree. To hear more of their music, check out icarust.bandcamp.com.
Lizzie: Hello and welcome to Mytholadies, the podcast where we talk about women from mythology and folklore all over the world. We're your hosts.
Zoe: I'm Zoe.
Lizzie: And I'm Lizzie. And how are you today, Zoe?
Zoe: I'm good. I have left school. I have left school for a while.
Lizzie: You dropped out.
Zoe: Yes. [laughs] No, it's over. So I moved out back home and back in my bedroom recording which means the audio might not be as great which I'm a little nervous about but it will be okay.
Lizzie: It's probably fine.
Zoe: It'll be fine. Yeah. We can make do. How are you, Lizzie?
Lizzie: I'm great. Um, my friend Luca, sponsor of this pod- well, patron of this podcast, sent me a package—
Zoe: Our number one supporter, Luca.
Lizzie: Exactly. With a bunch of American snacks. Which was really fun. It also included you know, those target trail mixes?
Lizzie: Oh, Target has really good trail mixes.
Zoe: I did not I did not know this about Target.
Lizzie: Yeah, they have really great trail mixes and I, they sent me like Chex Mix. Super excited about the Chex Mix.
Zoe: Oh, I do like Chex Mix.
Lizzie: Chex Mix is awesome.
Zoe: Big fan. Gosh, when I'm in Europe, and I like am not eating, don't have American snacks. It's gonna be a rough time for me.
Lizzie: I am able to find some American snacks. You can find like Pringles in the grocery store. You can find like Pop Tarts sometimes. But like some things I just have not seen.
Zoe: Are they more expensive?
Lizzie: Yeah. Yeah, they are.
Zoe: I'll have to eat fruit or something.
Lizzie: Just gonna splurge on Pop Tarts. [laughs]
Zoe: We'll see where I'm at mentally at that point in time.
Lizzie: I actually got Cathy and her boyfriend who are both European to try to Pop Tarts for the first time. And they were fascinated. I think they liked them.
Zoe: Gosh, I remember one time, I was talking with one of some of our friends who were who are European. And they were talking about one of them was visiting her family in the US. And she was like, yeah, I'm having a cinnamon roll. They have like this whole box of frozen cinnamon rolls like that they keep in the freezer, and then you can like heat it up in the oven. And the other friend was like America's insane. I was like, That's just normal.
Lizzie: What's wrong with that? [laughs]
Zoe: Like, like, we just have frozen things that you can heat up like, boxes of frozen things like I don't know, that's just the American way. I don't know. It's it's, I was just very much I just think really an eye-opening moment for me about like, the different cultural differences between like, America and like Central Europe of like, Oh, that's not that's not normal, I guess in the rest of the world to have that sort of thing. That's like completely normal. Like, oh, yeah, that was that was a wild experience. But anyways, this is a podcast about mythology and folklore.
Lizzie: It is, and also a reminder that we have a ko-fi page where you can donate to us in either a monthly or one-time donation. And we would really appreciate it because we currently do this podcast for nothing. And we... if you appreciate us and you can expend it, we would love that. And you also have access to our currently one bonus episode. And please and thank you.
Zoe: And there's going to be more coming. So.
Lizzie: Yes, very soon.
Zoe: Get your money in early. Yeah.
Lizzie: Yes. And so today is going to be the first episode of June, right? Which is Pride Month.
Zoe: Yes. Pride Month, baby.
Lizzie: And we are going to do women with LGBT themes for this month. So, Zoe, you did today's episode. And who... who did you do research on?
Zoe: Yeah, so as Lizzie and I were talking about earlier, it's kind of hard to find like explicitly LGBT figures in mythology, especially for female figures because like the ideas of sexuality in like mythology and with like godly figures is just like such a weird thing to sort of project onto them in my opinion, especially because mythology's old and ideas about sexuality and gender have like changed so much that it feels weird to like put modern identities on them.
Zoe: So today, my figure is not necessarily someone who has any specific sexuality or orientation but is a figure who is considered an icon and important to the LGBT community specifically in Mexico. And so today I'm talking about Santa Muerte.
Lizzie: Oh, okay.
Zoe: So do you know anything about her?
Lizzie: No, her name sounds familiar, but I don't recall.
Zoe: I mentioned her briefly in our very first themed episode, women of the underworld. And you'll understand why in a bit. But basically, she's a folk saint found in both Mexican Catholicism and Neopaganism. And she is a sort of a personification of death and depicted as a skeletal female figure wearing a long robe and generally holding a scythe, which represents the moment of death when she cuts the thread of life, and a globe representing her power over all the earth. She can also be depicted holding scales for justice, an hourglass for time, and an owl representing wisdom and her presence in the dark and an oil lamp representing how she lights the way. And she's associated with healing protection and safe passage to the afterlife and also considered to be a guardian of Mexico's LGBT community. So.
Lizzie: Oh, okay.
Zoe: That's why we're talking about her today.
Lizzie: My thought with that so far is that death is sort of this kind of like, subversive thing. And so is being LGBT.
Zoe: Yeah. Oh, yeah, that's definitely a big part. So she's a folk saint. And we talked a bit about folk saints in the episode about La Difunta Correa. But just a quick review, there's people, so folk saints are real people or mythical figures that have not been officially canonized and declared saints by the Catholic Church, but they're generally popularly worshipped among the people, in particular working class people in general, which is cool. Like THE people.
Lizzie: Rather than by the church, like, institutions.
Zoe: The church, yeah, institutions. Exactly. Yeah. They exist all over the world, but they're especially popular in Latin America, in like Central and South America, as La Difunta Correa is popular in Argentina, as we talked about, and scholars such as Kate Kingsbury and Andrew Chestnut, Andrew Chestnut is like THE scholar on Santa Muerte.
Lizzie: His name is so awesome.
Zoe: I know. I think it's so fun. They say, quote, “Because ‘folk saints, unlike Catholic ones, lived out their lives on Latin American soil” they are ‘familiar faces among the often less relatable pantheon of official saints. Due to a mythology that is built upon cultural propinquity, they are far easier to turn to and propitiate as their realities seem intertwined with those of their devotees’...In Latin America, the faithful often prefer ‘lo nuestro (“what is ours,” meaning saints belonging to a given community and its culture); a desire for freedom of devotion, without the mediation, restrictions, and costs of clergy.’” So that's a long quote that talks about basically why folk saints are particularly popular in Latin America, and also their, you know, popularity in general. They, people will feel closer to people that have similar life experiences and are from the same place as you. So many Catholic saints are from Europe. So it makes sense that if you grew up in Mexico, you don't feel particularly close to that. And you would want to feel closer to the people who grew up around you.
Lizzie: And folk saints are a way to, like a figure that you really are meant to feel close to.
Zoe: Yeah. And also Kingsbury and Chestnut point out that since folk saints are not canonized, people feel less ashamed of their sins and transgressions when praying to them and feel more like it's easier to communicate and connect with them. So because they're not like, canonized, they're seem like less distant and holy. And we're like people you can talk to, you know, and whatever level that means to you in a religious way, which is really interesting, and I think pretty cool. And they're also often considered more amoral than canonized saints, and they can be solicited for negative things as well as positive things so like, you can pray to a folk saint for something bad to happen to someone else if you want that. Whereas like, generally, you don't do that. That's generally frowned upon for like, a canonized Saint people probably still do that, but you're not supposed to. Yeah, and folk saints are often people who died tragic, untimely deaths, however, and sad somewhere in this case, she is the embodiment of death herself. So very cool. Also, her name could be translated as like "Saint Death," as like, "Saint named Death." It could also be translated as "Holy Death" like santa to meaning holy, which I think is an interesting option.
Zoe: So unlike many cultures, and many parts of Mexico, death is viewed less as the final end of life. Actually, I really could say like, unlike many cultures, but also like many other cultures—
Lizzie: Yeah! [both laugh]
Zoe: In many parts of Mexico, this is not uncommon. It's just different than it really is. Institutionalized views of death. Particularly in like Christianity, for example. I mean, sort of, not really, I feel like it's kind of complicated. But anyway, death is viewed less as the final end of life, but more of a liminal space where life can begin once again. And Mexico is a place with relatively high murder rates and death. So there's just a general view of death being the only thing guaranteed in life there for worship of a saint who embodies death makes sense. And these beliefs are reflected all the way back to pre-colonial times with Aztec mythology, the gods of death in Aztec, Mictlantecuhtli and Mictēcacihuātl, who we talked about in our women of the underworld episode were not just associated with death and the underworld, but also fertility and sort of like birth and stuff, which is really interesting. So they were not, like life and death were not seen as mutually exclusive things they were seen as, like things that sort of existed simultaneously, like they had to exist together and death can like lead to more life and stuff, or it's just like the end of one part of life.
Zoe: And also it can be seen in Mixtec mythology with the death goddess Lady Nine Grass. She's depicted as a skeleton like Santa Muerte, but she's also shown to be like life-giving, like she'll bestow life as well as like, be a, like a psychopomp, someone who takes you into the underworld. And fun fact, this is sort of not super related. But actually, no, it is related. These gods presided over a period of memory and funerary worship that generally occurred around the end of August. And the Spanish colonizers and their efforts to suppress indigenous religion moved it to the beginning of November, in order to synchronize it with the Catholic holiday of the Day of the Dead.
Zoe: And I also feel like the idea, like the way that the Day of the Dead is celebrated, sort of shows this idea of like life not being the end, because it's sort of a way of like celebrating with your ancestors, like their lives and like, sort of being with them again, in that moment, if my understanding is correct. So it also sort of shows that view. So that's sort of like the ideas of death that were like coming to, when we're talking about Santa Muerte. And yeah, so the historical origins are debated. No one really knows for sure where she came from. That's okay. One belief is that she originated in Spain with the Hispanic saint San Pascual, who spread Christianity throughout Central America. There are other beliefs in this general school of thought that include the idea that Spanish colonizers introduced the idea of a Holy Death which she embodies. However, most people believe that her worship is a continuation of an indigenous spiritual practices dating back from the pre-colonial Aztec empire, as I sort of talked about already with the Aztec gods of the underworld. And it's argued that her worship is a result of syncretism between indigenous religions and Spanish Catholicism, as we've seen happen many times throughout this podcast, through forced conversion, and in particular, Kingsbury and Chestnut argue that she is a syncretism between indigenous death deities and the Christian concept of the Grim Reaper, which became a popular personification of death in Europe, during the Black Death, which was actually a period of time—
Lizzie: Is the Grim Reaper Christian?
Zoe: I mean, it's like a figure that was in Christian society, you know, like, society was so heavily like Christian majority and ruled by the church in like, certain ways and like the, until, like the Renaissance, and even like, far after the Renaissance, I feel like in Europe, for the most part, that it was just, you know, a cultural idea that existed within a Christian frame of Christian idea, like a Christian worldview.
Lizzie: Okay, but there's not like Grim Reapers Bible or anything.
Zoe: No, no.
Lizzie: Okay. No, I get it. It's more like cultural.
Zoe: Yeah, it's more of a cultural thing that existed within like Christian cultural worldview. And it actually, he actually became a popular symbol and personification of death and art during the Black Death, which was happening around when Spanish colonizers first started heading over to modern day Central America. And so the idea they have is that they brought those like images with them and there was this, you know, sort of syncretic like, process. Also there, in Spain, there exists a female counterpart of the Grim Reaper known as La Parca. And so it was basically believed that the indigenous people sort of interpreted her as sort of like a saint to worship, or they pretended to worship a similar figure in order to disguise the practice of their indigenous religions. Or they and, and also, like in general, just syncretized figures together as sort of happens in this process. Yeah.
Lizzie: It very much does.
Zoe: But no matter what the ultimate reason was, what we know for sure is that there are several skeletal saints in Central and South America, including Rey Pascual in Guatemala, San la Muerta in Paraguay and of course, Santa Muerte, who's interesting because she's the only female one. And the worship of the saints was often not really prayed, like in favor, favored by Spanish colonizers, they were often punished for worshipping the saints. Because both because I think mainly because it showed a continuation of indigenous religious practices, which was not what they wanted. Also, like, you're not actually supposed to worship saints in Catholicism, which we are going to talk about a bit later.
Zoe: Because, yeah, because that's they're not God, you know?
Lizzie: Oh, okay. Like you're supposed to revere them but not worship them. Worship is for God and like Christ?
Zoe: Yeah. Yes. Yes.
Lizzie: Got it.
Zoe: But after the independence movements of Latin America, her worship was more confined to the shadows until the mid 20th century. But now in the 21st century, her worship is considered one of the fastest growing religious movements in North America. So how is she worshipped? Well, some early forms of worship saw the use of something known as the death cart, which is a lovely name. And it's basically a contraption filled with rocks and a figure representing death was placed on top and then a member of the worshiping community would pull the cart in an act of penitence.
Lizzie: Wow, that sounds painful.
Zoe: Yes. [laughs] Correct.
Lizzie: I guess that's the point of penitence? Okay. [laughs]
Zoe: Yes. That is the point of penitence, suffering. It's all about the suffering, Lizzie. And this originated in Spanish Catholic worship as part of like a reenactment of the Passion of Christ. But later the figure on the cart was not Christ, where it used to be Jesus being pulled around, but a syncretization of the Christian figures Saint Sebastian and indigenous death gods. They could be known as Doña Sebastiana, which is like a female form of Saint Sebastian and also some way up they, as we said, she is worshipped at public chapels and shrines as well as at personal private altars and one's home. Offerings to her generally include alcohol, usually beer or tequila, chocolate, candy, flowers, cigarettes and glasses or bottles of water, because she said to be constantly thirsty. And she is considered to be a saint of the outcasts, those who exist at the margins of society. And so that includes people such as migrants, inmates, lawyers, and of course, the LGBT community.
Zoe: Yeah, well, so like sort of people who exist at the edges of different societies. So like lawyers, sort of, I think the idea is lawyers exist between like the guilty and the innocent, you know, the criminal world and the innocent world there. She's also like, worshipped by police officers sometimes too, which is very interesting. And like prison guards for probably similar reasons. And those who worship her as well as like her official church, and Mexico will perform religious gay weddings, which is great.
Lizzie: Aw! That's so nice.
Zoe: Yeah. And she's a protector of women and children. And this is pretty significant in Mexico, because Mexico is a country with pretty high rates of femicide, unfortunately. And so her protection obviously is really important there, and people will petition her with matters relating to love asking for hearts to be mended or broken. And that sort of involves some syncretism with Spanish love magic, potentially, the worship can include red candles, which are calling for her protection as a woman or for her power and love, and black candles, which generally occurs when asking her for protection from harm or inflicting harm. And as is the case with like, syncretic religion, she has been further syncretized with other religions, like, for example Santeria, which is like a Cuban religion has sort of, there's some Santeria influence on some of her worship. She is, in some beliefs she has influence over The seven Powers, which are based on the Seven Powers of Santeria, which in turn comes from the most powerful Orishas. So she can help petitioners in seven different areas: love, money, health, peace and cleansing, justice, wisdom and success, and protection from black magic.
Lizzie: Oh, okay,
Zoe: And in worship, many devotees regard her as a motherly or sisterly figure, a family figure close to them. And so in that way, she's kind of similar to Mexico's patron saint the Virgin of Guadalupe. And her worship is often conducted alongside practices of Candomblé or Santería and other African diasporic religions. In particular, the religion Palo Mayombe, which often works alongside death and relics of death, such as bones. So it makes sense that there's that sort of syncretism there. And she's also a relatively popular in like New Age religious practices and occultism. And, yeah, it's, you know, yeah, so she most likely resulted, like, grew into existence, based on like, syncretic ideas. And now she's like further syncretizing into different worship ceremonies and beliefs, which is cool. Also, she's associated with Oya, the Orisha of the cemetery. So that’s fun.
Lizzie: Oh, okay. Cool. Yeah, yeah, no, that makes sense.
Zoe: So, although Santa Muerte has been become a incredibly popular religious figure for a lot of people, she is not without controversy.
Zoe: So one of the reasons why she is controversial is because she's been like connected to the drug trade. Some prominent like leaders in the drug trade have like, worshipped her, have had like shrines to her in prison or, or something. And so people are like, oh, she's associated with like drug dealers and like violence between like, cartels and stuff, which like she is associated with, like the, they worship her but like, she's not only associated with that there are lots of people not associated with, like, the drug trade and cartels that also worship her. So like.
Lizzie: She can't help that.
Zoe: Yeah, you know, but, so, she is pretty controversial among the Catholic Church.
Lizzie: Because of that?
Zoe: Partially because of that partially, because of other reasons, which I will get into in a second. But the Catholic Church of like the, you know, the state head of the Catholic Church in Mexico has kind of like condemned her worship as like blasphemous and bad. They don't like her. And so Manon Hedenborg White argues in her essay “Death as a Woman: Santa Muerte and Religious ‘Othering’ in Mexico” that the Catholic Church's condemnation of Santa Muerte is another example of organized religion's stigma against popular religion. So, folk religion is generally viewed as irrational and superstitious, while practitioners of the like religions, like the state or institutionalized religions that often perform similar practices. And organized religions are viewed as like, rational, ordered. And this sort of demonstrates the power struggle within religious and spiritual spaces over what constitutes like real religiosity. Like, there's sort of this basically the idea of like, what constitutes a real religion, what constitutes like a cult, or just like, you know, folk worship and stuff, which to me is really interesting, because it's like, a lot of the time as sort of White argues in her like essay, the person who, the body that is deciding what counts as a religious body is the dominant religious body, right?
Zoe: Like, they're the ones who are saying that this is a true religion, and this is like, heretical or wrong, or like a cult or whatever. And these institutions are not without agendas, and their agenda can often be to stay in power and promote their religion as the one true correct religion, which is often the case.
Lizzie: Yeah, and they can call anything heretical.
Zoe: Yeah, especially with the case with like, Christianity is big, like different sects of Christianity are very big about being like we are the one true religion, you know. And so, basically, Manon Hedenborg White argues that the fight between the state Catholic Church and the popular worship of Santa Muerte is part of a greater fight over what religions are allowed to be seen as established and legitimate, with the long established religions often marginalizing religions that they don't agree with or just don't want to. They don't want to see like more new religious movement, which is really interesting. And in particular, many of the prominent practitioners of the faith people, who find like sort of comfort and solace in the worship of Santa Muerte, are people who are sort of often ostracized and marginalized by the Catholic Church. So these are people of color women and of course, LGBT people and also sex workers too. And like the Catholic Church has really strict rules on who can take on authoritative roles in the church. You have to be a man, you have to be a cis man because they don't recognize transgender identities as valid, you have to be celibate. So you can't like be married. The idea of having gay priests is like kind of weird, the church, I think the church has been like, it's allowed, but like, you have to be celibate. But I think that there's still like, people who are like, that's, well, you shouldn't be gay, or like, it doesn't really matter if you're like, not acting on your urges or whatever, you know, it's still not like 100% accepting, you know, and also, the Catholic Church has been a strong enforcer of white supremacy in the past and has not always been accepting of men of color and leadership roles over though like that is allowed, like, technically now.
Lizzie: I mean, they have like literally colonized this place.
Zoe: Yeah. But as opposed to the Catholic Church, which has all these like super strict rules over who can, who can be a leader in worship, Santa Muerte has no rules over who can worship her, like anyone can worship her, anyone can do it. And she takes in everyone and offers salvation to everyone. And that's why like, people argue she's so popular among women, among LGBT people, like, you know, poor people, sex workers, there's like a huge, she's hugely popular specifically among trans female sex workers, which is really awesome. I love that for her. And I love that for them. And also, like, it's just, she doesn't have this really strict hierarchy of like doing things. You know, in the Catholic Church. There's this really strict hierarchy of like priests and cardinals, and bishops and stuff, and there's like, no higher, it's all very strict worship in their own way. Yeah.
Zoe: And LGBT people and like, sex workers. And like women can often relate to Santa Muerte due to her experience of being demonized by the Church, which is like literally what's happening, like she's been officially condemned by the church and like LGBT people can relate to literally being condemned by the church.
Lizzie: They're just making us more relatable to the people.
Zoe: Yeah. Why they're like, yeah, this is our gal like this is this is our figure, the woman that we want to—
Lizzie: Yeah like, we understand you, yeah.
Zoe: —worship. And she also serves as a protector against homophobia and transphobia, which I love. That's awesome. She's so cool.
Lizzie: That's amazing.
Zoe: And another thing that people have argued is that, like, the Catholic Church has long had a really solid like roots in Central and South America, like, the vast majority of people in Central and South America, if they're religious, are Catholic, and Mexico is a very, like, predominantly Catholic country. And some people have argued that like, Santa Muerte as like such a popular and fast growing movement, like super fast growing, it threatens the power of the Catholic Church, in these countries that they've already always felt like they had a pretty solid like standing in.
Zoe: When the church is already like losing power in general, because less and less people are like religious or identifying with a specific religion.
Lizzie: So her worship poses a threat to the organized Christian church. And its... everything that it represents. And so therefore it's heretical.
Zoe: Yeah, I mean, it's also like worshipping. Well, but like, you know, it's worshipping death, which is, like, scary and weird for the church. I think, you know, the church would be like that satanic like, you know, that's bad. We don't like that. You know, and—
Lizzie: I think it makes a lot of sense to worship death. I mean, that's why you see it a lot of places. Not in Christianity.
Zoe: Yeah, I mean, like, as I said, death being like, the only thing that's certain about life, you know, is like, yeah, that makes sense to worship—
Lizzie: You're certain to die, you're certain to know people who will die. Like you're certain to experience grief in your life. It makes sense. Like, death is an important part of life. Like, it's sad, or it can be sad, but I mean, I think being close to death, and like worshipping death, it isn't necessarily like grim, it can be like really sort of transformative, it can be like healing.
Zoe: Yeah. I mean, the thing that's so interesting to me about like the these ideas of death that are very different from like, the Christian idea of death, or like the overall societal idea of death that we see very prominently in our society, or like, you know, American society where we're both from America, is that like, death is scary, and a final thing, and you either have to, like not think about it or like, be really afraid of it. But like, that was never that used to not really be the case. People were not necessarily afraid of death. This is like a new thing over like the past, like a couple thousand years. Or like maybe like, you know, like this is a new thing and we don't have to view death the way that we view it. You know, and it would probably be really great and nice if we didn't view death, the way that we view it as something horrifying and scary that's coming for all of us, you know.
Lizzie: And that's like, the absolute end of things. And then everything is just done. Like there's no moving on after death.
Zoe: You know, like, I think that we would probably, that would be better for a lot of people's mental health if like, death just wasn't viewed that way. And so, and the thing that what made me say it's like complicating Christianity is like, you know, technically in Christianity, you get everlasting life after death, you know, but also, I think the reason why it's fear, death is feared in Christianity is because death is when you're, you're judged, right? Over like how well you lived your life, you know?
Lizzie: Yeah, everything, everything leads up to that moment.
Zoe: Yeah. And that's why it's still scary, even though like, technically you, you can still live, you're still living on after death. But it's not like, hey, you died come on up, like, let's chill or whatever. It's like, no, now's the time where you really like, get into it, you know?
Lizzie: Yeah. Now you can either, like suffer forever, or be happy forever.
Zoe: Yeah. Yeah.
Lizzie: And it feels like it's very, very easy to go to hell based on the Christian worldview.
Zoe: Yeah. I mean, yeah. And like, I think that's one of the reasons why it's like the Catholic Church views her as like, kind of scary, and like, it's really ominous that a lot of people worship her because they're like, people are worshipping death. And that's creepy and scary. But it's like, well, the people who are worshipping her are not viewing death as creepy and scary, you know, they're not viewing death as like this really big, ominous thing, and therefore, it's like, not scary for them. You know? And that's why I think that, you know, it's just these two conflicting worldviews that exist. But the Catholic Church is like only ours can exist. And Kingsbury and Chestnut actually argue that like Santa Muerte sort of is a new religious movement that brings indigenous ideas around death, sort of back to the forefront.
Lizzie: And that's definitely a threat to Christianity.
Zoe: Yeah, absolutely a threat to Christianity. And it's like, well, if you're a Christian, you can say I personally don't believe this. I believe this thing about death, like sure, that's your prerogative people are allowed to believe whatever. But when you start to say, you are not allowed to believe this idea, then you start to basically reenact the same colonizing ideas that were enforced upon indigenous people, like a couple hundred years ago, you know, like, you're just reenacting the same thing. And that's why I think the idea of like, you know, who gets to decide what religion is legitimate and what religion is just like, people being weird, is so interesting, because there's no way to decide that.
Lizzie: Which can be very violent.
Zoe: Yeah. Like, the way that it's being decided right now is basically like, a very specific religious institutions, probably primarily the church being like, no, that's bad. And therefore, like, we're gonna, like, you know, say it's like weird and creepy and satanic, when it's not really any of that. It's just people finding new ways to connect with their, the world around them, and spirituality, and often their ancestry as well. But since the church has so much sway and power, they're able to be like that religion is wrong, we don't want it anymore, get rid of it. Which like, doesn't allow for, like, freedom of belief. But that's sort of also like kind of what the church is about, you know, because it's like, we are the one free religion and it doesn't really allow for people to try out other things. Because it's like, well, you can try it, but like, just know that you're wrong. You know.
Lizzie: And you'll go to hell. And there's only there's only one God, it's our God.
Zoe: And that's why it's like, so hard. Yeah. But yeah, so that's why I thought Santa Muerte is really interesting. Like, she's around right now.
Lizzie: She really like poses a threat to- yeah.
Zoe: Yeah, yeah, she's posing a threat right now. Like, if you go to botanicas in like America, you can often find like, icons or like shrine, or like statues of Santa Muerte alongside like, you know, traditional saints like San Miguel or Mary herself. And so that's really cool. You know, like, this religious movement is happening. And I think that's really awesome. And I think that, I don't know, I mean, I think the idea of having a religion is like, not inherently a bad thing, I think but I think you like the idea of saying other people's religions are like, bad is is wrong and that's my hot take of the evening.
Lizzie: If you if you also are part of a majority religion, who and you are looking down upon minority religions, that's like, I mean, that's oppressive. It's, it's rude and prejudiced.
Zoe: Yeah, it's like you don't I feel like either you don't realize, like, I think sometimes often as individuals who don't realize like the power that's coming from, you know?
Lizzie: Yeah, the context of everything that you're saying.
Zoe: Like, I think the Pope knows the power that he has, but like if you're just an individual person being like, well, I mean, I respect you as an individual, I just think it's weird and wrong. Like, that's not something you're just saying that has like a whole bunch of like power behind it as like a member of the dominant religion, religious force that actually determines a lot of how society functions to this day.
Lizzie: Yeah, and you and you think it's about you as an individual, but there's lots of historical context and cultural context that's leading to you thinking that.
Zoe: Yeah, it's like, can you separate Christianity from its history? And the answer is... eh.
Lizzie: Not so much.
Zoe: I don't know, man. And that's the source of my religious struggles. Glad we got to that on the podcast, finally. [laughs]
Lizzie: Yeah, and because religion can be like a very, very personal thing to every individual. And, yeah, I mean, it's great that people can find solace in Santa Muerte and, and it's, I think it's really nice that she looks out for the outcasts of society. That's very important.
Zoe: Which is what Jesus did.
Lizzie: Yeah, exactly.
Zoe: Which, yeah, no, not everyone in church positions of power remember. Anyway.
Lizzie: It is, it is really interesting that people in the really, really high positions in like, the Catholic Church, and whatever, like they are the opposite of Jesus, they are upholding so much power and oppressing so many people. And that's that's a lot—I mean, Jesus was all about living really simply, right? Yeah, he wasn't he was about, like, telling people how they're supposed to be, or I guess no, maybe that's not true, but.
Zoe: Yeah, I mean, there's so many different part, like, not so many, but there's just at least a few bits in like the Gospels, when Jesus is like, someone goes up to Jesus, and he's like, and they're like, you're so cool. How do I like follow you and like, do what you're saying, like you're preaching? And he's like, Well, first, you have to give up everything you own, like all your possessions, and everyone's like, I can't do that. He's like, well.
Zoe: Sucks to suck, I guess. And that's just interesting. I just think it's interesting.
Lizzie: I mean, these people are really just like enforcing structural power and like hierarchies, which like necessarily has people at the other side, like being oppressed, being like subjugated. Like, there's no way around that if you're in this position of power, you also have power over people whose lives you can make worse.
Zoe: And that's just important to understand in general.
Lizzie: Yeah, I mean, a lot of people don't understand the power that they have.
Zoe: In a good way and in a bad way.
Lizzie: Yeah. Yeah, definitely
Zoe: Good power, bad power. You know what I mean?
Lizzie: Yeah, I do. But I mean, it also makes sense that the Catholic Church would hate this saint that like stands up for LGBT people. Like, that, I mean, I don't think that all like that all Christians or like, not at all, like parts of Christianity are necessarily like, homophobic or anything like.
Zoe: No, like, there are sects of Christianity that are more friendly to LGBT people than other sects of Christianity.
Lizzie: Yeah, like, I'm not gonna say that about the entire religion or anything. I mean, obviously, but like these people in like, lots of like, they're really, really high positions of power and the people who are like, connected to like, conservative ideals, like they would hate that there is people worshipping this woman who is pro-LGBT people.
Lizzie: Even though that kind of goes against Christianity, I feel like.
Zoe: Yeah, you would think, right?
Lizzie: Yeah. You're supposed to love people and accept people.
Zoe: [sighs] But, yeah. That's the end of my notes.
Lizzie: Yeah, but she sounds really cool. I think it's cool that she's a skeleton.
Zoe: Oh, that's true. That's very cool. Big fans.
Lizzie: And so was La Siguanaba, kind of. Sometimes. She was a skeleton. Horse. Horse skull.
Zoe: Sometimes she was a skeleton. You're right.
Lizzie: She had a skull for a head. Which is pretty rad iconography. Like that's awesome. Anyway. Okay, so thank you so much, Zoe, for today's episode. Thank you for listening. Please subscribe, listen to our other episodes, donate to us on our ko-fi page, and etc. Thank you for listening.
Zoe: Yeah, thank you so much. Bye.
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