Altar Work: Deities

The Virgen Guadalupe and Santa Muerte

In sharing the central experiences of this altar, such as La Limpia, we can’t go without telling you about two female deities who provide love: its power, not the fantasy, and divine know-how – its science, not the superstition.

Along with limpias, most of our practice has a dynamic with these two Ladies; we need their direction, access and many times their Hands, to get it done.

The Virgen Guadalupe

The Mother of all traditional dancers of our lineage, the Virgen Guadalupe, represents more than a church figure. Most of our tradition centers around Her, whether you’re a dyed-in-the-wool Catholic or you know Her from Earth and Cactus, She’s the Main Vein.  

What many call the Great Awakening or the New Age we call El Sexto Sol, the Sixth Sun, from long before the Spanish alphabet came to Mexico. Aside from saving our people from extinction by the European epidemics, the Virgen’s gift of Fertility has governments still worrying about our immigration habits. wOur stories say She leads the coming of the Sixth Sun.

Day to day She is the Goddess of Fertility and Love, to bring all the good possible from Earth, such as healing, crops, livestock, children, family. She first appeared at a place where the Aztec Goddess, Coatlicue, Lady of the Serpent Skirts, had been retired by the Spanish and the Catholic Church for over 100 years. The sacred place is called Tepeyac, nose of the mountains, comprised of three small hills, actually.

It was an ancestor of our last Speaker (king), Cuahtemoc, a humble church-worker by the name of Juan Diego, who first saw the form now known as La Virgen Guadalupe. The rest is history, as they say, and worth checking out I must add.

The Virgen Guadalupe, Coatlicue Tonantzin, is the reason we have an altar. She is the sustenance of a culture long a target of genocide. Her Hand and presence energize our making of art.

The Virgen, later,gave us permission to work with the Santa Muerte, Holy Death,a most controversial deity!

The Santa Muerte

Times were especially difficult. Our work was getting darker and more dangerous. We needed expert guidance and on-the-ground help in the darkness we were facing. Ground Zero.

The concept of death as a sobering force in the face of life is very old with us. Carlos Castañeda sums it up nicely, “In a world where death is the hunter, my friend, there is no time for regrets or doubts. There is only time for decisions.”

At the end of the day there is nothing like death on the planet. He, she, it, as your beliefs may lead you, stands alone. We met Her when we were overrun by regrets and doubts and we needed to get our Will back – yes, that free will that the whole world agrees we have.

With permission from the Virgen we began a now 12-year relationship with the Santa Muerte.  

So, can awareness of our death be useful?

All the major religions and philosophies have thoughts and recommendations about death, at the very least. Some religions have an active practice around serious dogma or deity.

Like the Virgen, the Santa Muerte has pre-Columbian roots.

Mictecacihuatl was the Goddess of Death who guarded the bones of the dead and governed over the festivals of the dead – clear connection to Día de los Muertos, Day of the Dead.

We came to see that the power of death can do much of what the power of love can do. While the power of love is beauty and life, the power of will, defined by death, can also bring beauty and life.

I think all of us can identify with the idea that while we won’t take our Mother to some of the places we go, we gladly take our Big Sister who seems to fit right in those places. For us at the altar, the Santa Muerte brings a way to take light where light won’t go on its own.

This combination of these two Mexican deities is rare. For the most part altars in the tradition go one way or another.

Balance is a goal and a standard. Being in the thick of it we can’t always be objective about how well we do, but over three decades individuals and their families have found healing, a better way, help with the courts, a hand with ghosts, pain relief, power over addictions and moved on from a hard divorce. The list of knotty human situations is long, as you know.

So, as for the Virgen Guadalupe and the Santa Muerte,

Without them we wouldn’t be here.

In the name of the Virgen Guadalupe and the Santa Muerte we wish you a safe and happy holiday season. We’ll be talking, until then,


Published by Mike Callas

Michael Parra Callas authors and presents both non-fiction, aimed at better living in hard times, and fantasy, focused on magic and the imagination. El autor escribe y presenta ambos, no-ficción, para vivir mejor en tiempos difíciles, y fantasía para inspirar la imaginación.

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