1. Your new book, La Santa Muerte, details the patron saint of lost causes, the LGBT community, addicts, and anyone who has been marginalized by society. Who exactly is La Santa Muerte?
Death. The short and sweet answer is that La Santa Muerte is Death. While she does have attributes that confuse her with being a psychopomp, an angel of death, or even an Underworld Queen, she is probably best described as the essence of Death itself. But it's very hard for us humans to interact with such a nebulous and intangible concept, so those who are devotees of La Santa Muerte visualize her to be a female grim reaper figure. This iconic pop-culture image works perfectly to aestheticize the concept of Death, and I think that's why it has endured so long in our collective subconscious. A shadowy figure who reaps souls and has the skeletal physique of our own mortality, La Santa Muerte is both abhorrently disturbing and alluringly mysterious all at the same time; she is a wonderful visual metaphor for Death.
And like death, La Santa Muerte is completely nonjudgmental, which is why she is so popular among the world's outcasts, misfits, and those maligned by the judgmental standards of "decent" society. Death takes everyone without bias. Men, women, children, young, old, rich, poor, gay, straight, black, white, good, bad. She has no preference for or against anyone. So, if you are, let's say, a drug-addicted gay prostitute of color with a criminal record, already most people don't want to help you, but then to whom are you going to turn for divine aid? As a "sinner," you already know that you're not in the good graces of the God of monotheistic religions, the benevolent gods of polytheistic religions probably wouldn't help you secure a john to help buy another bump of ketamine since it's not for your "greater good," and you're too scared to make a deal with any malevolent spirits. . . so to whom are you going to turn? To Death, of course. Not in a suicidal sense, but in a mystical sense.
Death is not going to judge you, and she couldn't care less as to your past history, present situation, or motives for what you want. Because of this supreme neutrality, she has become the de facto deity to whom people turn when no one is going to help them. Thus people who are maligned by society and other religions find solace in working with La Santa Muerte and integrating themselves in her devotional community. In such a critical world, it is comforting to know that she accepts you totally without judgement. Come as you are, for what does Death care?
2. La Santa Muerte has historically been a part of Spanish-speaking communities, and your book is the first English-language book to bring her magic and mysteries alive. Why is this important to you?
It's important to me because access is everything. There are so many things in this world that can help people, but if they don't have access to it, then it's TS for them. To many, religion and faith are critical in receiving the greatest help of all, self-empowerment. Some are empowered by the Gospels, some by Buddhist meditations, some by an awareness of the Tao, some by ecstatic union with the God and Goddess, and many other paths. But we all find our own self-empowerment differently because what resonates with the soul of one person may not resonate with the soul of another.
For the spiritual mystery school of La Santa Muerte, this issue with access becomes more complex. Nowadays, the unprecedented knowledge databank of the Internet makes finding information about anything easier than ever. But for those seeking information on the magic and spirituality of Santa Muerte, if they don't speak Spanish, then tough luck. Making things more difficult, those who are in the know of La Santa Muerte and could translate often don't want to because publicly saying that you "venerate the Spirit of Death" often makes you sound evil, psychotic, or more likely both. Everyday people just don't have this kind of courage to be different.
And that's why I wrote this book: to provide non-Spanish speakers with access to this mystical community of La Santa Muerte wherein some of them will find the spiritual self-empowerment that they wouldn't be able to find anywhere else.
3. "La Santa Muerte" translates from Spanish to English as "Holy Death." Isn't death a rather grim topic? Why celebrate it? Why invoke help from La Santa Meurte?
Who says death is a grim topic? The only reason death seems like something negative is because of our impossible-to-empirically-prove opinion that life is better than death. But this judgment is inherently biased because life is all we know and death forever remains an unfathomable unknown. But if you believe in a wondrous or even neutral afterlife, then death really is just the gateway to our next adventure. And besides, death is necessary for creation. The death of the egg is the birth of the chicken, the symbolic death of the caterpillar is the birth of the butterfly, the death of a bad relationship is the birth of the possibility for new romances, and so on. Everything is based on perspective, and so in order to change the way in which we interact with something, such as death, we have to change our perception of it.
But why celebrate death, and why invoke its help? The hard and fast answer is threefold: Death doesn't judge, Death is all-powerful, and Death is a natural force in our world. For right now, I will skip the answer of "Death doesn't judge" since we talked about it previously. So, let's talk about how Death is all-powerful. Think about it; if you are searching for a particular deity to venerate or are just spiritually eclectic, then chances are high that you would want someone who is powerful and whose sphere of influence covers your daily needs. What better fit than Death? Death has power over all living things, including you, your loved ones, your enemies, and even non-living things if you take into account erosion, evaporation, and other such natural phenomena of change. And since our most basic human instinct is self-preservation, having Death on your side can be very helpful.
But for those who are more magically-inclined, the third answer of "Death is a natural force" is probably the most impactful. Magic, at its most basic, is the manipulation of natural energies in accordance with one's will. Death is a primordial natural energy and the natural companion to life. Without an understanding of Death, one of the most powerful natural energies in the world around us, how can you truly exercise a deep understanding of magic? Even more so, in Hermeticism, the Law of Polarity teaches that opposites are identical in nature, yet differ in degree, and so by studying one end of the pole, you can better know the other end. Therefore, anyone who wants to learn the magic and mysteries of Life can find them through the magic and mysteries of Death.
4. How can we connect to La Santa Muerte? Can anyone do it?
Oh, yes, absolutely anyone can do it. As organic, living beings, we are doing it all the time. We only have to become aware of it. Anytime we focus or meditate upon our own mortality or the impermanence of life, we are connecting with Death. The problem is that Death makes many of us uncomfortable, and so we quickly try to focus on something else or even convince ourselves that "it will never happen to me or the ones I love." This delusional death denial, although momentarily comforting, prevents us from developing any strong relationship with La Santa Muerte. It's the same with any relationship, really. The ones to whom we are closest are the ones with whom we spend the most time and interact. The more profound the relationship, the more each party is willing to help the other. The same goes for our relationship with Death. You can't expect to know La Santa Muerte and have her help you out with your life if you don't spend time with her. So the first way to get in touch with her is to get in touch with your own mortality. Realize that you do not have forever here on this Earth, and once you have accepted this and the fear of Death has begun to fade away, then you are ready to connect directly with La Santa Muerte by calling upon her in prayer or meditation.
5. Your book includes spells and rituals for everything from money and love to healing and protection. How does La Santa Muerte's power extend so far?
Her power extends so far because the creation of anything requires the death of something else. This is how the world stays in balance. In a scientific sense, this natural truth is defined by the first law of thermodynamics, which states: Energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it can only change form. So, in magical sense, when we create a spell for something to manifest in our lives, that manifestation has to come from already existing energy. This is why money spells don't manifest $100 bills out of thin air and why love spells don't create a soulmate out of the void. Both the money and the lover have to come from somewhere, and their new life with you means the death of their old life whether that be with their former bank account or their former boy/girlfriend. Even in a healing spell, our health is dependent upon the death of the ailment.
So, when we practice magic, and we manifest something into our lives, we are simultaneously manifesting the "death" of something else. Acquiring wealth is equal, yet opposite, to eliminating poverty. Acquiring a spouse is equal, yet opposite, to eliminating being single. Acquiring health is equal, yet opposite, to eliminating sickness. All in the same way that life is equal, yet opposite, to death. The power of La Santa Muerte lies in focusing on this opposite end of the coin. By eliminating the obstacles preventing us from obtaining what we want, we obtain what we want. Most people never focus on this magical truth, and so they never realize how far Death's powers extend.
6. What do you hope readers take away from La Santa Muerte?
I hope that readers take away a greater awareness of themselves and the magic of their own mortality. All knowledge leads to self-knowledge, and so to anyone who reads this book about the magic and mysticism of Death and the clandestine cult of La Santa Muerte, I hope they adapt and apply what they learn into their own lives. They don't have to become devotees of Death; they don't even have to co-create magic with La Santa Muerte. But if they can truly realize that nothing lasts forever, every day will become a bit more magical. Tomorrow is guaranteed to no one, and putting off our dreams for someday down the line often results in that day never coming. So after reading La Santa Muerte, I hope that my readers will open that bottle of champagne that they're saving, use the good China, take that vacation they've always wanted, ask that person out on a date, and start writing that novel because TODAY is special, if for no reason more than because they are alive.