Tree City Witch: Breaking up With Santa Muerte

Tree City Witch: Breaking up With Santa Muerte June 13, 2017


I used to ride the subway a lot, when I lived in New York City. I used to have a lot of feelings on the subway. Every season had a soundtrack, but I can’t remember what was playing when I first laid eyes on Santa Muerte. Maybe I was watching something on YouTube. Maybe I wasn’t on the subway at all.


I was unhappy then, but I’ll spare you the details. And I wouldn’t say I ghosted her. I never asked her for anything. Truth is, I gave. Truth is, we were just getting to know each other. Truth is, she was the only one for me. And I don’t mean to pick on Staten Island, but my advice to you is this: do not live on Staten Island unless you are in walking distance of the bodega that will sell you two kinds of Santa Muerte candles in all her colors. Trust me. You’ll need it. If living on Staten Island doesn’t make you a witch, then nothing will.

Image by Issa via Flickr.  CC License.  (Slightly edited by editor of Agora.)
Image by Issa via Flickr. CC License. (Slightly edited by editor of Agora.)


That I occupied the back bedroom of the long railroad apartment. Third floor. Looked like nothing from the outside. Less than nothing. Bedroom window faced the street which was a crossroads (bonus points for Witches). I slept on a mattress on the floor, never bothering to put the metal futon frame back together. Kitchen window that faced the high school courtyard, well-lit at night. The smoking window. The somewhat popular pizza store next door where i got my chicken parmesan that never failed to give me diarrhea.

But about the bedroom. It contained or tried to contain one of my many (moveable) altars, which included Miss Santa Muerte, and this was a mistake. To presume this level of intimacy with her. I had earned this? Who was I to think I could absorb/tolerate/handle her? In my BEDROOM of all places. She required her own third floor walk-up perhaps. An entire city block.

Months later, not long before I left the city, I “entertained” a Taurus in that bedroom, ten years older than me. Army man and the most gorgeous human I had ever seen (perhaps on par with a Taurus I met in Florida a year later).


It is neither Taurus Season nor Scorpio Season (Taurus’ opposite sign) as I write to you. The Sun is in Gemini which is a good time for memory lane. Gemini is “ruled” by Mercury and Mercury rules communication, writers and writing, messages and messengers. Mars, desire, is in the sign of Cancer and Cancers have famously good memories. I am just now starting to unpack some of 2015 from my memory including writing about Santa Muerte for the first time. Lay out the memories like clothes from a suitcase after two years of travel. Wrestle it all to the ground like Jacob and the Angel.


My leave from New York City was an exodus of the spirit, an exodus of the rapid sort, faster than the 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 subway lines put together, and I took what I could carry. I remember telling people that New York belched me out. It was a heavy, fermented leave.

I can’t remember if there was a moment when I decided that we couldn’t go any further, me and Santa Muerte, that I couldn’t take her with me, that I had to leave her behind. That we had done everything we could.

Part of me thinks that life just got busy, but I wonder if I’m rationalizing. Jeff Goldblum’s character in the movie the Big Chill says that none of us get through the day without at least one juicy rationalization. Fall 2015 was hard. It was cold. I was alone. I kept drawing Tarot cards about the Taurus, and Saturn, newly in Sagittarius, was killing me softly. But I swear I never asked her for anything. Never summoned, never asked.


Flash forward to Florida. I’m with Mary now. That Mary. Our Lady. She’s my candle now, my saint (paraphrasing Wallace Stevens).

I never thought for a moment that this is Santa Muerte in a different dress until this moment. Santa Muerte trying to find me, Santa Muerte not letting me go, Santa Muerte letting me know that I belong to her, and she will disguise herself if need be. Shape shifter. Protector. Hunter. Lover.

And a little zanier than some would give her credit. Yes, I said zany. She is misunderstood, she tells me. She has a sense of humor, she tells me. It’s not all death and dark land and drug lords. I have a sense of humor (she repeats) and then lowers her voice to whisper in my ear like an ASMR video with binaural microphones.

I’m not saying nobody understand but you, but I am saying that YOU understand me. She says this in Spanish and English. Her voice covers me like the old oaks and canopies of spanish moss of my current neighborhood, the land I mean to write about but never find the words.

Who do you think brought you that Taurus, she says, and smiles like a girl with Shirley Temple curls sitting on a stoop in a cute little dress, Goldilocks-ish. She sounds a little like God from the Book of Job: who created the heavens? Who created the seas? What made the fish? Who created the this and the that? You, Job? I think not.

Santa Muerte shrine in New Orleans.  Photo by Mankey.
Santa Muerte shrine in New Orleans. Photo by Mankey.


So that’s the story of me and Santa Muerte. Part of the story. You bet I left huge tasty wedges out, much left unsaid today, and sometimes the best way to tell a story is NOT to tell the story. Or to talk around it.

See, you can tell a story about love, or lust, by talking about Santa Muerte. And you can tell a story about betrayal, or heartbreak, by talking about Santa Muerte. And you can tell a story, a good long story, about the end and the beginning and the death and the rebirth and the exodus of the spirit and the humid Florida redemption by talking about Santa Muerte. And you can tell a very plain simple story about sex with a hungry Taurus in the very same way.

To be continued…

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