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Devoted to Death

Santa Muerte, the Skeleton Saint

Second Edition

R. Andrew Chesnut

02 November 2017

ISBN: 9780190633332

264 pages

In Stock

Price: £27.49



R. Andrew Chesnut offers a fascinating portrayal of Santa Muerte, a skeleton saint whose cult has attracted millions of devotees in the past eight years. As a personification of death, the Grim Reapress has become one of the most popular and powerful saints on both the Mexican and American religious landscapes. Although condemned as satanic by both Catholic and Protestant churches, this folk saint's supernatural powers appeal to millions of Mexican citizens and Central American and Mexican immigrants.

  • The first study of Santa Muerte, a saint whose cult has millions of devotees New to this Edition:
  • Includes new material on narco-devotees, the rapid expansion of the cult in the US, the growing conflict with the Catholic Church in Mexico, and the folk saint's special appeal to LGBT followers

About the Author(s)

R. Andrew Chesnut, Virginia Commonwealth University

R. Andrew Chesnut is Bishop Walter F. Sullivan Chair in Catholic Studies and Professor of Religious Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. He is the author of Competitive Spirits: Latin America's New Religious Economy (OUP, 2003) and Born Again in Brazil: The Pentecostal Boom and the Pathogens of Poverty (1997).

Table of Contents

    Introduction: Blue Candle: Insight and Concentration
    1. Brown Candle: History and Origins of the Cult
    2. White Candle: Beliefs and Practices
    3. Black Candle: Protection and Harm
    4. Red Candle: Love and Passion
    5. Gold Candle: Prosperity and Abundance
    6. Purple Candle: Healing
    7. Green Candle: Law and Justice
    Conclusion: Seven-Color Candle: Multiple Miracles


" Reviews of the first edition: Devoted to Death is an illuminating account of a lively, vibrant, multihued personification of death in Santa Muerte. Chesnut's text offers a unique and very personal portrait of Mexican culture... His expansive examination is interdisciplinary, involving diverse topics and methodologies. As such, this book has much to offer to scholarship in a variety of disciplines, such as Mexican anthropology, American anthropology, cultural studies, and sociology, among others." - Journal of Religion and Culture

"Vividly written and cleverly organized, this wonderful book provides the most comprehensive and balanced account of Mexican and American devotion to this controversial folk saint." - Thomas A. Tweed, author of America's Church: The National Shrine and Catholic Presence in the Nation's Capital

"Chesnut provides a much-needed analysis of the meteoric rise in devotion to La Santa Muerte, the saint of death whose appeal has attracted the attention of immigrants, jilted lovers, journalists, drug dealers, clergy, the infirmed, and a host of needy petitioners. This first book-length study of the devotion will be a foundational reference point for future researchers as the Santa Muerte phenomenon continues to evolve." - Timothy Matovina, author of Latino Catholicism: Transformation in America's Largest Church

"...intellegent, responsible, and sympathetic (although not uncritical) account of a significant and rising movement." - Books & Culture

"Chesnut's book is readable and accessible. Like one of the Santa Muerte-inspired films the author describes—indeed, like the kidnapper and murderer who first brought Saint Death into the public eye—Devoted to Death is engrossing in a pulp fiction kind of way." - Wilson Quarterly

"This chatty, anecdotal work provides a basic introduction to the rapidly expanding cult of the Mexican folk saint Santa Muerte...Recommended" - CHOICE

"Devoted to Death is fascinating, and a continuous revelation. The Skinny Lady may look sinister, and she's certainly not to be trifled with, but something about her is terribly human. As demigods go, she is the salt of the earth. Devotees feel a special intimacy with her because she is, as one of them told Chesnut, 'an old battle-axe, like us.' She also has appetites. Lighting a candle will get her attention, but she gets thirsty, and while water is acceptable, she prefers something stronger. She enjoys tobacco, but won't turn down marijuana." - Inside Higher Ed

"Andrew Chesnut's comprehensive survey of Mexican folk saint Santa Muerte is a detailed and highly entertaining read. Organized by the colors symbolizing her various powers, the book neatly encapsulates the themes significant to devotees. As a researcher with a keen interest in vernacular religion and folk saints in particular, I found this book strongly appealing and an informative, engaging text...an excellent companion to Graziano's Cultures of Devotion and a very relevant read for scholars and students interested in Mexican druglore, faith healing, and vernacular religion." - Journal of Folklore Research

"Andrew Chesnut offers a comprehensive view of the cult to Saint Death, also known as the White Sister or the White Girl. ... Devoted to Death unpacks the meaning and origin of Saint Death's following. ... Consequently, anthropologists, sociologists of religion, criminologists, and immigration scholars would all benefit from reading Devoted to Death to get a full understanding of the breadth of Santa Muerte's cult." - Contemporary Sociology

"Chestnut contributes the first book-length study of Santa Muerte, Mexico's skeletal patroness of death... No doubt, this initial study has set the bar high for more research even while providing a book that is accessible to students and readers of all levels." - Religious Studies Review