EXPLORING THE OUTER EDGES OF SOCIETY AND MIND

Something as old as the ground she is rooted in – Hank Vine on life and Saint Death in Mexico City

Posted in > BLACK CADILLAC REVIEW by David on May 11, 2018

My good friend from Sulphur Springs, Texas — Hank Vine is in Ecatepec — sub-metro Mexico DF — he writes:

1*UiqBa_fh-T07CPBwzkGHwwPenche camiones —

The hybridization of taxi and micro-bus. There are countless ways to face unexpected danger at any given moment here, one in particular is the transit trucks, they are a hail as needed service.

Meaning there is a constant flow of people coming and going, on and off, businessmen, grandmothers, goth punk kids, and a steady flow of folks selling candy or ice cream or whatever.

It is a hard sell, they shove it in your hands as they pass. Then if you don’t want chiclets at that moment you hand it back and usually do not make eye contact.

Some folks are just trying to hustle to put food one the table, but there is without question a segment of these “vendors” who are genuinely dangerous folks.

Its the static. The kid high as fuck on glue begging a few pesos with an apparently funny story about a failed bathroom visit.

The dude with a bag of bitesize chocolates — 5 for 10 pesos. You have to be a quick judge of a person when they step on the penche camion as much as be prepared for an impact from the rear as we attempt to rejoin traffic.

As I write – Looking at a wreck

Taxi bus collision.

We all say a prayer for the person on the stretcher, and run the next three red lights.

Cathedral Chimes

All this is in real time

Waiting at this light, really sketchy looking cat gets on. He is pushing chiclets. Tattoo of flaca on his right forearm.

Two kids. One maybe 16, the other 10. Hustling mentos candies. Hard sale. Desperate. That is the penche camion.

1*GBFCxrO_zg4fdABjhFAR7gBeing in an epicenter of femicide, I see the sense of “awareness of surroundings” on the faces of women, young and old. It is not fear, or even resignment to an unacceptable and unavoidable fact of life ( that life in general, and here female life in particular, ain’t worth much) — it is determination and pure fucking grit etched in the faces of women I pass on the street.

There is a collective spirit that pulses in the backstreets and under yellow tarps as the aromas of street food, fruit, raw meat, bizarre offbrand cigs and weed and a thousand other unidentifiable scents all mingle into a sweet stench that is the scent of that unexplainable something.

The DF is as deadly as it is beautiful, with that, as untold numbers before me have already stated — the average working class person faces a daily life not unlike the worst parts of Dallas or Chicago or Minneapolis, the difference is in how folks deal with the situation.

Here, folks are smart/cynical enough that no one trusts the cops or expects any help from them, so the only leaves divine protection which makes for a very crowded playing field.

We took a trip to Tepito to get a crown for the statue in Dallas. While watching all the antics of the self appointed traffic cop for the corner, a camione that had the correct placards for where we needed to go pulls up.

We hop on like any other time, it is crowded as hell, so I stay standing.. The driver turns and comments on my Santa Muerte garb. I smile and say thanks, he is not the first driver to have SM garb and statues.

But this took a different turn. He offered me the most honored yet dangerous seat on the bus — by the front door, basically on the dash. I was humbled and shocked.

I introduced myself, took a good long look at this cat, he was no angel, but he is the flesh and blood example of that spirit that persists here.

It is something that I think is present in any environment where the common people are desperate as fuck, SM is in the States, but aside from a handful of folks who are really in touch with her gritty real world, blood on her robes aspects, they are just shadow boxing.

The driver, I will call him “chilango” went about his route like any other driver, we chatted as best we could. I helped a half dozen elderly folks on and off at stops, a few people mistakenly gave me the bus fare when all I was doing was offering a supporting hand as we went lurching back into traffic.

After about ten minutes we are at a light and stopped, he hands me a small multicolored bracelet, I gaze on it admiringly, when I go to hand it back, he motioned no, and I understood it was a gift.

In return I managed to detatch the first SM medallion I had purchased. There is so much left unsaid, without smelling it, tasting it, seeing it in the eyes of a stray dog, it is difficult if not impossible to convey.

1*5QsD17P2xqoQbHacUQ_JZQI do believe that same spirit is in the States, but it is feral, and still very wild, it is going to take the right folks with the strongest hearts and the weakest egos going into the streets, walking the homeless camps, really fucking doing something, not reading what bullshit I am posting on Facebook and taking my words for any value.

My words are shit, everyones words are shit. If there are true diehard devotees in the North of the border English speakers, they will go to their knees and they will go to the streets.

Here la Santisima is in the streets, not in a store — yet business is one extremely important, if not dominant, aspect of what I understand as Santa Muerte.

Mexico City is a very crowded marketplace for saints looking to make a sale. You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting an image of San Judas. Flaca, she’s a lot harder to find in terms of stores and whatnot. But I pass as many people sporting SM items as I do San Judas.

I honestly am not sure how or why Santa Muerte manifested in the time and place she did, but I am certain that the entrepreneurial spirit is somehow connected. Tepito has been a market area since precolumbian times, SM is something as old as the ground she is rooted in here.

There is something to be read — if only I could translate it.

Hank Vine
Ecatepec de Morelos, Los Estados Unidos Mexicanos
May 11th, 2018

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Somos de Huesos – A documentary about Santa Muerte in Queens, New York

Posted in > EVENTS by David on May 23, 2016

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Somos de Hueso (We are Made of Bone) is a documentary look at Mexican immigrant life and the fast-growing subculture that venerates the folk saint Santa Muerte (Saint Death). The film is a colorful celebration of this thriving transplant community in Queens, and a religion in which devotion takes the form of parties, late-night worship sessions and a reverence for death.

Somos de Hueso will be screening Wednesday, May 25th as a part of the New School’s Documentary Studies film festival, Truth Be Told.  Click Here for a preview of the documentary on Vimeo.

The film’s director Olivia Ebertz was kind enough to answer a few questions regarding her experience making this fascinating journey into the lives of those devoted to one of the Americas most popular saints:

Q: What led you to do a documentary about Santa Muerte?

A: I’d been interested in the cult of Santa Muerte ever since a trip to Mexico last May. I was really attracted to the social justice aspect of the Santa Muerte community–the fact that death is seen as the great equalizer and it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, because la Muerte will meet us all eventually.

I also had heard stories of Santa Muerte helping immigrants cross the border. Immigration and immigrant rights are things I’m very passionate about, and I thought this would be a really interesting perspective to view immigration from. Basically I see Santa Muerte as a saint who protects people who have to live their lives a little closer to death than other people, and that includes immigrants, both during their border crossing and after. So the protector aspect of Santa Muerte, for those fiscally, socially or politically less well-off, was an attractive concept for me.

Q: What is your opinion of the media’s portrayal of Santa Muerte as a ‘narco-saint’ after interacting with the Santa Muertistas and Muerteros in Queens?

A: It’s essentializing and harmful to Mexicans in the US and abroad. It promotes racial stereotypes. People in the cult of Santa Muerte are just that–people: good ones, bad ones, mediocre ones, and we shouldn’t judge any culture or religion by its extreme members.

Q: Were any of your friends or family concerned when you decided to tackle this subject?

A: None of my friends or family were concerned. But there was a colleague of mine in my graduate program who is a first generation Mexican-American from a border town in Texas who at first tried to warn me about the connection between the cult of Santa Muerte and their “connection to Mexican cartels and their murders.”

Q: Did you have any odd experiences while shooting the documentary?

A: No, just great ones. Everyone who I met was really hospitable and kind to me!

Q: Were there any hurdles in trying to connect with the Santa Muerte community?

A: No, I actually wrote them on Facebook and got an answer right away. They were very helpful from the beginning.

Q: What do you hope people will get from the doc?

A: I really hope that people come away from the doc with a deeper respect for immigrant culture and tradition as a whole, and a greater understanding and appreciation of alternative cultures. I want people to walk away with a more open mind in general, and realize that there is lots of beauty and an incredibly rich oral history to be found in this specific culture and tradition.

Q: What are some upcoming projects you’re working on?

A: I’m actually planning on applying to a Fulbright grant to continue my work with Santa Muertistas and Muerteros, but this time in Mexico. I’d like to do a series of short films about different aspects of this culture. I’d love to get in touch with people who make the statues, actually, so if you know of anyone, email me! oliviaebertz  at gmail dot com

For more information on the New School’s 10th Annual Documentary Studies film festival, Truth Be Told:  Click Here 

Pillars II – The Golden Eitr

Posted in > ANALYSIS by David on November 15, 2013

Photo Credit: Patrick John Larabee

David B. Metcalfe has a unique piece on la Santisima Muerte in the new Pillars Periodical Journal: Pillars II – The Golden Eitr (Anathema Publishing).  El señuelo de sus ojos vacantes (The lure of your vacant eyes) explores his search to encounter the truth behind this controversial devotional figure:

“Scouring news reports, passionate prayers, savage indictments and delicate devotions I was at a loss, unable to find Her nature. Her influence everywhere, yet nowhere a trace.

Her devotees smoking strong cigars, cigarettes, blowing sweet green smoke into Her empty grin. Leaving offerings of rum and candy, apples, flowers and faith. Living their lives under Her cloak, each day a gift, and Her eventual acceptance is, to them, a gateway leading to whatever lies beyond.

They sing Her praises, some speak in fear of Her potency, they turn to Her with pledges, pleas and petitions, yet all remain enigmatic when it comes to Her true nature. Those who tend Her shrines speak more of experience, and direct connection, but offer no clues to answer the impolite details of scholarly investigation.”

PILLARS .II. ‘The Golden Eitr’ (- Vol.1, Issue.2 -)

CONTENTS: “Hymn To Tannyin” by G. McCaughry, “Falx Of Sarusemjaza-Malestiel” by Ash Nostro Morg,“Consuming The Fruit Of Unlife” by Matthew Wightman, “The 20 Demons Of Fear” by Łukasz Grochocki, “Cosmology In The Christian Theological Tradition” by Stewart Clelland, “The Luminous Masquerade Of Qayin” by Patrick J. Larabee, “The Unforgiven” by Robin-the-Dart, “El Seoulo De Sus Ojos Vacantes” by David Metcalfe, “ÒRÚNMÌLÀ and the matrix of the cosmic design” by Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold, “The Invocation Of Tiamat” by Nikolai Saunders, “The Seed Of AChMOTh” by Cláudio César de Carvalho, “The Dissolving Edge Of Darkness And The Star” by Andrieh Vitimus, “Liber 0=11 Oracle Ov The Primal Kaos” by Edgar Kerval, “Of Serpents And Flames” by Matthew Venus,  “The Exemplar” by Kyle Fite.

ARTWORKS & ILLUSTRATIONS: by: Pierre Perichaud, Kevin Foy, Mitchell Nolte, Vænus Obscvra, Yoann Lossel, Elly Muerte, Alexander L. Brown, Cláudio César de Carvalho, Hagen Von Tulien, Antithesis, Paul McCarroll, Léon Ka, William Barry Hale, Valin Mattheis, Glyn Smyth & Kyle Fite.

EDITION SPECIFICATIONS: Format: 7.5 x 9.5 inches. 144 pages. Gold and black foil-stamped on Deluxe heavy art cover. Perfect Binding method. 16 color plates. Fine typography, illustrated with various fleurons, emblems, artworks and glyphs.

* Comes with a custom bookmark featuring artwork from Patrick J. Larabee.

** All copies of the Journal shall be ritually consecrated, hand-numbered, and fumigated with a specially devised Incense Blend made by Xonia Abyssos of Teufelskunst.

*** Limited to 250 copies. (only 220 copies available for public distribution)

David Metcalfe is a researcher, writer and multimedia artist focusing on the interstices of art, culture, and consciousness. He is a contributing editor for Reality Sandwich, The Revealer, the online journal of NYU’s Center for Religion and Media, and The Daily Grail.

Metcalfe writes regularly for Evolutionary Landscapes, Alarm Magazine, Modern Mythology, Disinfo.com, The Teeming Brain and his own blog The Eyeless Owl.  His work has been featured in The Immanence of Myth (Weaponized 2011), Chromatic: The Crossroads of Color & Music (Alarm Press, 2011) and Exploring the Edge Realms of Consciousness (North Atlantic/Evolver Editions 2012). Metcalfe is an Associate with Phoenix Rising Digital Academy, and is currently co-hosting The Art of Transformations study group with support from the International Alchemy Guild.

Most Holy Death – Exploring the sanctification of death in the popular faith traditions of the Americas.

Posted in > ANALYSIS by David on May 3, 2013

12506_517237511655529_2120697171_nHave you heard of Santa Muerte? San la Muerte? or perhaps Rey Pascual?

Faith traditions in the Americas are as diverse and expressive as the many cultures they emerge from, but one particular set of traditions has captured the eye and ire of official orthodoxies in government, law enforcement and the Christian church, the passionate veneration of Most Holy Death.

SkeletonSaint.com is a collaborative venture between Dr. R. Andrew Chesnut, Bishop Walter Sullivan Chair in Catholic Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, and author of Devoted to Death: Santa Muerte, the Skeleton Saint,  David Metcalfe, and Liminal Analytics, presenting a multi-faceted exploration of the sanctification of death in the popular faith traditions of the Americas.

Join us as we examine the complex faith traditions that develop around the sanctification of one of humanity’s oldest fears, and continue a conversation that began at Viva La Muerte!, a  lecture and panel discussion, hosted by the Morbid Anatomy Library at The Observatory in Brooklyn, New York.

For more information, and ongoing engagement, head over to the project page: skeletonsaint.com and follow us on Twitter at: @MostHolyDeath

R. Andrew Chesnut, Ph.D., holds the Bishop Walter F. Sullivan Chair in Catholic Studies and is Professor of Religious Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. He is currently conducting research on the new religious economy of Latin America and the cult of Santa Muerte (Saint Death).

A specialist in Latin American religion, he is the author of “Competitive Spirits: Latin America’s New Religious Economy” (Oxford University Press, 2003), “Devoted to Death: Santa Muerte, the Skeleton Saint” (Oxford University Press, December 2012), and of “Born Again in Brazil: The Pentecostal Boom and the Pathogens of Poverty” (Rutgers University Press, 1997)..  He also blogs for the Huffington Post.

IMG_20130430_111422.jpgDavid Metcalfe is an independent researcher, writer and multimedia artist focusing on the interstices of art, culture, and consciousness. He is a contributing editor for Reality Sandwich, The Revealer, the online journal of NYU’s Center for Religion and Media, and The Daily Grail.

Metcalfe writes regularly for Evolutionary Landscapes, Alarm Magazine, Modern Mythology, Disinfo.com, The Teeming Brain and his own blog The Eyeless Owl.  His work has been featured in The Immanence of Myth (Weaponized 2011), Chromatic: The Crossroads of Color & Music (Alarm Press, 2011) and Exploring the Edge Realms of Consciousness (North Atlantic/Evolver Editions 2012). Metcalfe is an Associate with Phoenix Rising Digital Academy, and is currently co-hosting The Art of Transformations study group with support from the International Alchemy Guild.