Santa Muerte has come up a few times now over the last few emails I've received. I've written blog entries on this before but I think it's time to be straight-up blunt to really hit this information home.
1.) Santa Muerte has nothing to do with hoodoo.
2.) Santa Muerte has nothing to do with ATRs.
3.) There is both an inner circle and an outer circle of followers. The inner circle are the "initiated" or "enlightened" ones who actually hold her tradition and keep her ways. The vast majority of followers are part of the outer circle who know little to nothing about how she is actually worked with.
3.) There are only 3 forms of Santa Muerte. Those forms are the red, white, and black forms. Colors like blue, green, yellow, gold, silver, and even "7 colors" are created by people of the outer circle. Even the road way shrines in Mexico are created by people of the outer circle and not the people of the inner circle. The meaning of the colors are as follows
White - The cool aspect of Santa Muerte. The white Santa Muerte is for peace, blessing, general protection, healing, and prosperity. She supposedly represents a quick, peaceful death, such as in unborn children or elderly people who die in their sleep.
Red - This is a hot aspect of Santa Muerte. The red Santa Muerte is for love and relationships. She supposedly represents people who die at the hands of a lover.
Black - This is a hot aspect of Santa Muerte. The black Santa Muerte is for protection from witchcraft, protection from evil spirits, and for enemy work. The black form also has a negative association with people who turn to this form of Santa Muerte to do evil. She supposedly represents people who die painful or violent deaths.
I've been told that these three colors represent three distinct personalities that have merged into the one "Santa Muerte". I've also been told they represent aspects called, The Bride (or Virgin), the Wife/Mother, and the Widow. However, again I'm not an expert so don't take my word on this.
4.) Santa Muerte is far darker than people realize. In the inner circle she is honored with blood sacrifice and I've heard from several people now that part of the "initiation" into the inner circle involves a blood oath or pact by which a person "sacrifices" a family member to Santa Muerte. This is a form of pact by which the "initiate" allows Santa Muerte to kill a family member. This doesn't mean that Santa Muerte will actually do that, but it is the allowing of it should Santa Muerte choose. I'm not expert on Santa Muerte and this information may be wrong, but I have heard it several times now.
5.) Santa Muerte has absolutley nothing to do with Wicca, Neopaganism, or "Traditional Witchcraft". Santa Muerte is not your "dark mother". Santa Muerte is not the Mexican form of Hecate or Kali. If you can't honor her properly then keep her statues off of your Wiccan altars.
6.) Santa Muerte is not a goddess. There is no evidence that Santa Muerte is a pagan Aztec goddess.
7.) Santa Muerte's main role has nothing to do with keeping men faithful. Don't believe everything you read online. Santa Muerte is the angel of death. She can offer you protection, to make sure you don't die before your allotted time, and can perform any manner of miracles, such as healings, prosperity, protection, etc. In Mexico there is an important belief in "dying right", meaning not dying in a manner that will bring shame upon your family. "Dying right" is kin to "living right" in a sense. So you don't want to be found dead from auto-erotic asphyxiation, for example. You want to go peacefully in your sleep at a ripe, old age. That's what this concept means and this is also what Santa Muerte represents.
8.) The belief that Santa Muerte is for criminals to help protect them from the law is of rather recent origin and came about by the pre-existing belief in other folk saints, such as Jesus Malverde, who perform a similar role. So it was easy for certain criminals to also believe that Santa Muerte would likewise protect them.
9.) Because Santa Muerte is the angel of death and because death doesn't discriminate, she therefore accepts all those who have been rejected by the Church. People such as criminals, drug dealers, prostitutes, and homosexuals believe that Santa Muerte comes through for them and believe that she is their special patron.
10.) In other traditions there is a "male form" of Santa Muerte called "San La Muerte". His appearance is almost identical but he comes from a separate tradition.
11.) Santa Muerte is not the skeletonized form of the Virgin Mary. Santa Muerte is the angel of death.