Fri 18 Jun 2010
There’s a cult in Mexico with two million followers who worship Santa Muerte (Saint Death), The Economist reported last January.
“She accepts offerings of beer and tequila…[and] is sometimes portrayed smoking a joint.”
Santa Muerte “is thought by believers to protect criminals and the law-abiding alike,” the magazine reported and added that candleholders in the sanctuary carry the inscription: “Death to my enemies.”
Last fall, the Mexican army destroyed 30 Santa Muerte altars in northern Mexico on grounds they were linked to drug trafficking, but that prompted her followers to hold rallies in Mexico City demanding religious freedom. “Indeed,” commented The Economist slyly, “some police and soldiers fighting the narcos ask Santa Muerte to bless their weapons.”
Intrigued by all this, I relayed the story to my 17-year-old stepdaughter Shaili in Guatemala. She wrote back, “When you mentioned Santa Muerte, I don’t know why but I thought of a Guatemalan legend called ‘El Cadejo,’ which supposedly is a black dog that takes care of the drunks and hobos that live on the street.”
The piercing gaze of El Cadejo guarding an old debauchee?
“Some Guatemalan folklore tells of a cadejo that guards drunks against anyone who tries to rob or hurt them,” Wikipedia agrees but adds that in other Central American countries and southern Mexico, “there is a good, white cadejo and an evil, black cadejo.
“Both are spirits that appear at night to travelers: the white to protect them from harm during their journey, the black (sometimes an incarnation of the devil), to kill them.”
I had forgotten about all this until what looked like a cadejo appeared on my deck Wednesday night. It certainly had the piercing gaze El Cadejo is supposed to have, but it didn’t look quite big enough.
Before it disappeared, I managed to shoot a second photo of the creature, and my suspicions were confirmed: just a common gray fox, nothing as otherworldly as a black dog.
Meanwhile, West Marin’s newspaper wars are heating up again, with The West Marin Citizen accusing The Point Reyes Light of taking a Santa Muerte approach to competition. A report on that complicated matter will have to wait until next week.