Tag Archives: Andrew Chesnut

Selling Holy Death – From Grim Reaper to Skeletal Virgin, A Brief Look at Commercializing an Emerging Iconography

“What Flowers Indicate:

I have always noticed that wherever you find flowers, no matter whether in a garret or in a palace, it is a pretty sure sign that there is an inner refinement of which the world is not cognizant. I have seen flowers cultivated and cherished by some of the lowest and poorest of our people. Where these emblems of purity are found, you may rest assured that they represent a  hope, and speak of a goodness of heart not to be found where they are absent.”

– from My Prayer Book – Happiness in Goodness: Reflections, Counsels, Prayers and Devotions by Rev. F.E. Lasance (Benzinger Brothers, INc. Printers to the Holy Apostolic See, 1944)

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Tracking the flowering of the Santa Muerte tradition is a fascinating way to study the development of an “official” religion from the seeds of folk practice.  In the United States alarmist media has spurred the interest of popular kitsch, and the images of La Madre Poderosa that have become part of the commercial aspect of Her cultus are an interesting way to engage in the changes that occur when a tradition begins to develop enough efficacy in the social domain to elicit commodification. 

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