• Ignacio J. Ceja

Santa Muerte Devotional Series - La Niña Santa

Like an electron that pops in and out of space, this line needed to be here, but almost didn't make it into the final devotion.



…My first books on Santísima Muerte were in Spanish. I wasn’t raised in a bilingual household. My father was bilingual, but the only time he spoke Spanish was when we visited my uncles, and then their conversations, which were probably quite loving and convivial, sounded like rapid shouting matches to me. Needless to say, I avoided them. And so I didn’t learn Spanish until high school, and even then I wasn’t the model student. So, you can imagine my joy and dismay at finding books on Santa Muerte, but only in Spanish.

Dismay can be a catalyst. And with a Spanish-English dictionary in one hand, and the books in the other, I began to read. I still remembered some of what I had learned in school, thankfully, but even so, taking three months to read a one hundred-fifty page book was quite humbling, and also gratifying…

We’ve now arrived at the fourth line in the devotion.

Ave La Niña Santa, She who heals me and keeps me healthy.

It sounds incredible to me as I write this, because I had to go back and look at the drafts and the research that I did, but I dropped this line from the subsequent drafts of the devotion. I had written the devotion to reflect specific characteristics, and healing was one of them. The name I chose for this line initially was Dama Poderosa, or Powerful Lady. I knew the line had to be there, but I also knew the name was not the right one; and so, instead of using the wrong name with the line, I dropped it altogether.

Fast forward to mid-July of 2017. I had been using the seven-line devotion for so long, but it still nagged me that Santa Muerte's healing aspect was not included. By this time, I had forgotten that the healing line had ever been written. So, I asked Santa Muerte to show me a name that reflected healing.

As I focused on the concept of healing, I began to reflect on a healing chant that I use over purple candles, which incorporates variations on the words “holy” and “whole.” At this time, I was also doing a Google search on nicknames, and website came up that listed a name I’d read countless times before, but suddenly seemed to stand out: La Niña Santa, The Holy Girl. My breath caught in my throat. Could it be this simple? To heal the body, to make it holy, to make it whole. I don’t mind telling you that I cried.

At this point, I’ll interject a story. Santa Muerte’s followers sometimes engage in making deals with her. Dr. Andrew Chesnut, in his book Devoted To Death, related the story of a man who needed to get home, but didn’t have enough money. He told Santa Muerte that if she gave him enough money to get home, he would buy her some apples, one of her favorite offerings. A few moments later, nearby, he found some money in the street, just enough for the bus fare and to buy the apples.

My own story with the Holy Girl is a little different. I have a miniature pinscher named Joey. He was a rescue, and we love him, but he’s always had this crusty skin rash that has worsened and spread as he’s gotten older. The creams the vet prescribed eventually made him sick, and so we had no choice but to discontinue their use and try a prescription shampoo that smelled horrible and only made the problem worse.

I had finally had enough. I went to my altar, and I made what would be my second successful deal with Santa Muerte. “Niña Santa, if you heal my dog, I will give you a wooden bowl of apples, and I will put it at the street intersection of your choice. Ave La Niña Santa, She who heals us.”

I went about my day. Nothing miraculous happened. I kept using the shampoo. I kept doing what I was doing. But later that week, I had a dream. I was rubbing Skin-So-Soft on our pet chihuahua, Candy. The year was 1986. She used to get fleas and skin sores, and the oil used to clear them up right away. I woke up from that dream thinking, “Well, that would be nice.” But I had looked up Skin-So-Soft back in 2008, and could only find the lotion.

Even so, I decided to do a search. I was surprised to see that the oil we had used on Candy was the bath oil, and that it was still available! I ordered it immediately, and began to use it, once a week, on Joey. A month and a half later his skin was free of that awful scaly rash, and I was out in the stores looking for the perfect wooden bowl, which I found in a local Marshall’s. Ave La Niña Santa.

A note about making deals. If you make a deal with Santa Muerte, and she doesn’t deliver, you don’t either. I can’t tell you why this might happen. I can tell you that I have asked for things that I didn’t truly want before, and they didn’t manifest, much to my ultimate relief. On reflection, they were probably desires solely associated with my ego that wouldn’t have added to my life in any meaningful way

But, if you make a deal with her, and she comes through, then you must fulfill your end of the bargain, too. I am not going to sit here and shake my finger at you and tell you that something really bad is going to happen if you don’t. But you are dealing with Death with a capital D, a force that has a vested interest in you, in all of us. I certainly would not disrespect a power like Santa Muerte.

© 2020 by Ignacio Ceja.

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