• Ignacio J. Ceja

Santa Muerte Devotional Series - La Huesuda

La Huesuda, the truth to this nickname is hidden in an idiom. And you thought you left idioms in grammar class?



In 2006, I discovered Santa Muerte on a business trip, or perhaps she discovered me? I was really excited about Santa Muerte, but it was very difficult to find information about her. I gave her a place on my altar and waited. The following year, I found two snippets from a documentary on YouTube, which I later learned was called “La Santa Muerte: Saint Death” directed by Eva Aridjis and narrated by Gael García Bernal. I watched those snippets repeatedly. I was desperate to watch this film. In the meantime, books and conversations filled in my learning. In 2016, I purchased a copy of the documentary from Aridjis, and have happily watched it many times...


Today, we’ve arrived at the third line of the devotion, which started here. The third line reads:


Ave La Huesuda, She who strengthens us.


In the first post, I talked about nicknames for Santísima Muerte. We know that some of her nicknames are used as monikers of affection by her followers. But the practice of using nicknames goes back to early tradition, which used pseudonyms to avoid casually summoning powerful forces by speaking their names in conversation. To the outsider, it may appear as though her followers are using an affectionate nickname to cozy up to Death with a capital D. In fact, we know Santa Muerte to be all-accepting. Certainly, Death doesn’t play favorites, as all will go to her. But, she does show a loving side to those who love her.


However, I also alluded to the fact that nicknames serve another purpose, and La Huesuda is a special name. It means The Bony Lady. At first glance, it would appear to reference her, well, bony appearance. You can’t get much bonier than a skeleton. But there is another side to the Bony Lady, and in order to find it, you have to look at a certain idiom. Idioms are phrases that have meaning in one language, but don’t really translate to another.


Here in the U.S., we affectionately say of another, “You’re the apple of my eye.” You can’t translate that word for word to another language and have the meaning come across properly. Even my grammar check program is having a problem with that one. Getting back to the idiom in question, in Mexico, when a lad is particularly brave, it is said of him, “Él tiene heusos” meaning “He’s got bones.” Here in the States, we have the opposite phrase. When someone is showing weakness and a lack of courage, we tell him to “grow a spine.” Thus, when we call upon Santa Muerte as La Huesuda, The Bony Lady, we are literally asking her to give us courage. Because courage and strength are part of the physical condition, La Huesuda relates to La Roja, or the Red Robe, in the three-robe tradition.


Santa Muerte has gone from a clandestine religious figure prayed to for a holy death to a much more widely recognized power who is petitioned for a range of desires. As we further explore her through the lines of the devotion, we’ll see more sides of her. Ave La Huesuda, She who strengthens us.

© 2020 by Ignacio Ceja.

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