Steven Bragg is the owner of The New Orleans Chapel of Santisima Muerte. At his home in New Orleans he keeps an outdoor shrine and indoor altars for the Mexican folk saint of death. Bragg is one of the many new followers of the Mexican grim reaper, whose worship has grown in the U.S. mainly among Mexican and Central American immigrants. But Santa Muerte is now becoming popular in non Latino communities that practice alternative forms of spirituality.
Religious studies professor Andrew Chesnut specializes in “the skeleton saint” (watch one of his lectures on youtube), and he estimates that there are between ten to twelve million followers between Mexico, the United States and Canada.
In this piece, we hear a ceremony to La Santa Muerte from Steven Bragg’s home in New Orleans, and he tells us the story of how he came to worship Santa Muerte.
Dr. Andrew Chesnut holds the Bishop Walter F. Sullivan Chair in Catholic Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University and is the leading expert on Mexican folk saint Santa Muerte. His book, Devoted to Death: Santa Muerte, the Skeleton Saint, is the only study of the skeleton saint both in Mexico and the U.S.. Professor Chesnut also is the co-founder of Skeleton Saint, the only website dedicated to news and analysis of the Bony Lady. He lectures at universities and institutes throughout the Americas and Europe and is a featured blogger for Huffington Post. Dr. Chesnut is currently writing the sequel to Devoted to Death.
Reporter Eve Abrams contributed the audio recording of the ceremony from New Orleans.
Photo by Luis Acosta AFP/GETTY IMAGES