June 28, 2020

First published by Oxford University Press in 2012 with the second edition in 2017, my book Devoted to Death: Santa Muerte, the Skeleton Saint has been translated into both Spanish and Polish and now the Turkish edition is forthcoming this summer with Ganesha Press of Ankara. To that end I asked my research partner, Dr. Kate Kingsbury,* an Oxford-trained anthropologist of religion at the University of Alberta, to write the foreword for the Turkish edition. Dr. Kingsbury and I have… Read more

June 14, 2020

Co-authored by Dr. Kate Kingsbury* and Dr. Andrew Chesnut It’s Brazil that’s been in the news recently for the persecution of practitioners of the Afro-Brazilian religions of Candomble and Umbanda at the hands of Pentecostal gangs who issue death threats to devotional leaders in an effort to expel them from their urban turf, especially in Rio de Janeiro. The latest victim of Pentecostal persecution in Latin America, however, is not in the nation with the largest absolute Pentecostal population on… Read more

May 4, 2020

What really struck me in the second episode of Penny Dreadful: City of Angels is the religious feminism. Each of the three major faith traditions depicted in this episode and probably throughout the season are presided over by powerful women. The newcomer in this episode is Sister Molly, a charismatic Pentecostal radio evangelist who leads her own church and radio program in the City of Angels. Sister Molly is based on Canadian-American Pentecostal evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson who was a female… Read more

April 26, 2020

Co-authored by Dr. Kate Kingsbury* and Dr. Andrew Chesnut In this piece we explore the portrayal of Santa Muerte, the Mexican Female Folk Saint of Death in ‘Penny Dreadful: City of Angels.’ The show is set in 1938 Los Angeles which, it claims, is ‘a time and place deeply infused with Mexican-American folklore and social tension.’ The television series in actual fact demonstrates creator John Logan’s ignorance of Mexican culture and his penchant for cultural misappropriation in his misuse of… Read more

March 24, 2020

‘My name is Death: the last best friend am I’. Robert Southley, 1816 Co-authored by Dr. Kate Kingsbury* and Dr. Andrew Chesnut As Santa Muerte cards circulate in Mexico with prayers of protection against covid-19, we consider the contours of life and death in these tumultuous times.  Many countries across the world are now in lockdown or a state of emergency due to Coronavirus, as governments and citizens, gripped with fear, seek to attenuate the virus’ reach. The panic and… Read more

February 6, 2020

What prompted your interest in the Santa Muerte phenomena?* I am a specialist in the religious landscape of Latin America and was conducting research for a book project on the Virgin of Guadalupe when in March 2009 I saw the news that the Mexican army had demolished 40 Santa Muerte altars on the border with Texas and California. I have more than 3 decades of experience in Mexico so I was already familiar with the Mexican folk saint of death… Read more

November 26, 2019

“The Bible has returned to the palace,” Bolivian interim President Senator Jeanine Áñez said when taking office last week. A few days earlier, Fernando Camacho, one of the leading voices in the process that led to Evo Morales’s resignation, entered the Bible with his hands in the same building and said that “God” would return to “government.” Both are Catholic and have been supported by conservative sectors of the Church and evangelical leaders to weaken Morales. In recent years, mentions… Read more

November 23, 2019

Pachamama has become the latest lightning rod of division in the Catholic Church. She is an Andean fertility goddess representing Mother Earth, venerated primarily by Quechua and Aymara-speaking groups in Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador. During the recent Synod on the Amazon several statuettes of a naked pregnant woman which first appeared at an Indigenous prayer service held at the Vatican with Pope Francis in attendance became known as Pachamama. The Argentine pope himself referred to the fertility figurines employing the… Read more

November 8, 2019

As a specialist in the Mexican religious landscape I had visited the Saint Jude shrine in Mexico City several times, but this time I was fortunate to be in town for his annual feast day on October 28. I had come to Mexico City for research on Day of the Dead, but there was no way I was going to miss the annual fiesta of Mexico’s most popular Catholic saint, the patron of lost causes, so I headed to San… Read more

October 22, 2019

Co-authored by Dr. Kate Kingsbury* and Professor Andrew Chesnut A widely circulated photo of Ovidio Guzman, one of the sons of notorious narco kingpin El Chapo Guzman, wearing a pendant of the Holy Infant of Atocha reminded us that it’s not only Latin American folk saints who serve as narco-saints but also a number of Catholic ones. Last week the 28 year-old narco, who has taken on a leading role in the Sinaloa Cartel in his father’s stead, was briefly… Read more

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