Getting any tattoo is usually a personal or spiritual decision to show devotion or enlightenment to the outside world. The bearer should take religious-style tattoos seriously, but what is the meaning of the Santa Muerte tattoos?
A Santa Muerte tattoo indicates devotion, loyalty, and worship to the Saint of the Afterlife and Death. The bearer believes a Santa Muerte tattoo protects them from evil and enemies. Any outsider of the religious cult does not usually wear the Santa Muerte tattoo.
Unless you belong to the religious Santa Muerte sect, you might consider getting this tattoo style if it appeals to you for different reasons. The Santa Muerte tattoos are typically elaborate with lots of detail, but let’s delve into what meaning it has in general.
Why Do People Get A Santa Muerte Tattoo?
People from different cultures get tattoos for personal, religious, or commemorative reasons. For religious reasons, it is typically to display their devotion and fielty to the Saint of Death.
People who practice the religion of Santa Muerte will proudly display their Santa Muerte tattoos on their backs, shoulders, chest, or forearms.
There is a definite infatuation with the Saint of Death even among people who do not belong to the religious cult, and it could be because of the shock value or because they enjoy the look. There is a distinct similarity between the Catholic Virgin Mary tattoos and the Santa Muerte, and both are the center of worship.
What Do Santa Muerte Tattoos Symbolise?
For the followers of Santa Muerte, having a tattoo that is the image of their primary Saint is likened to a rite of passage. It is worn with reverence and pride. There are several interesting things the Santa Muerte Tattoo symbolizes, for example –
- Narco Culture – Some of the most dangerous individuals in Mexico and parts of South America are devout followers of the Santa Muerte religious cult. They identify each other by displaying their respective Saint of Death tattoos. To the narcos, she symbolizes the angel of death, the angel that gives them protection from death.
- Wealth and Power – Many devotees believe and claim to become wealthy after becoming a member, getting a tattoo, and erecting a shrine to Santa Muerte.
- Next Life or Afterlife – Santa Muerte symbolizes the connection between death and the afterlife. She represents protection from death, and they view her as a protective entity that accompanies the dead to the next life.
- Anarchy – After the Roman Catholic church humiliated and demonized the Santa Muerte cult as anarchists, their devotee numbers increased significantly. They were excommunicated because the church states it has no religious affiliation with Santa Muerte even though it is a mix of the two religions. Many devotees tattooed the word Anarchist to show their anger at the church.
- Criminal Activities – Many outsiders believe the Santa Muerte tattoos symbolize a connection with criminals and crime. There isn’t documented evidence to support that the bearer of such a tattoo symbolizes being a criminal. However, those affected by crime call the Saint of Death the protector of the criminals.
- Good Health – Many devotees believe that a Santa Muerte tattoo will protect them from evil and promote good health.
- Bravado – While many devotees do not belong to gangs or narco-gangs, the Santa Muerte tattoo is like a badge that warns and testifies to onlookers of the bearer’s bravado and that they are untouchable.
Is A Santa Muerte Tattoo A Devotion To The Religion?
Typically, people who love religious-style tattoos will get one because they are deeply devoted or like how the tattoo looks. It could be the style, the size, or the coloring that can trigger a person to want a similar tattoo.
Because Santa Muerte is the most revered Saint in the Mexican incarceration culture, almost every prisoner will have a tattoo of her instead of the Virgin Mary on their body. She is rumored to be efficient in keeping them from death while on the inside.
Santa Muerte followers pray with rosary beads similar to Catholic rosaries. They bring food, drink, and tobacco offerings to the shrine and slaughter animals for higher protection in darker sacrifices.
Although a Santa Muerte tattoo does not mean you are devoted to the religious cult, it can send a silent message to people who are, and it might be misconstrued in certain cultural circles.
What Color Is Best For A Santa Muerte Tattoo?
Another personal choice would be choosing the color of your tattoos. The Santa Muerte tattoo is no different. Colors are very often used to signify and symbolize things without the need for words. Santa Muerte tattoos are equally striking in black and white.
The following colors have significance when getting a Santa Muerte tattoo –
- Yellow or Gold – Wealth, prosperity, and health when used to tattoo the veil of Santa Muerte. This will symbolize her taking care of the devoted follower.
- Green – Using green in the Santa Muerte tattoo will symbolize justice brought on an enemy or to the devotee if they were wronged.
- White – Using white in the Santa Muerte tattoo symbolizes peace and serenity. This is the peace the devotee believes the Saint of Death gives them in this life and hereafter.
- Red – Using red ink in the Santa Muerte tattoo symbolizes the faith the devotee has in the abilities of the Saint of Death.
Where Should You Apply A Santa Muerte Tattoo?
If you are a devotee of the Santa Muerte religious following, then applying the tattoo on areas of the body that can be displayed in public should be considered, and those areas would be –
- Upper chest left or right.
- Inner forearm
- Outer forearm
If you want a more elaborate tattoo design, you could consider using your whole back as a canvas. You can add the globe and full-size scythe as is customary with a Santa Muerte tattoo.
Is A Santa Muerte Tattoo Always A Female Entity?
Santa Muerte is commonly referred to as “ The Bony Lady,” Santissima Muerte or Most Holy Death, Lady Death, or Lady of the Holy Death, so it can be assumed the entity portrayed is a female. In the full-scale tattoos, she is seen wearing a vesture very similar to the Virgin Mary but in different colors.
In the Mexican culture of Saint worship, Santa Muerte is not considered a dead Saint but rather an entity that embodies death itself. Santa Muerte gives protection against death and illness, and she brings healing and wealth and accompanies the dead devotees to the afterlife.
Currently, the Santa Muerte religion is one of the fastest-growing religions globally and one of the biggest. You’ll find Santa Muerte tattoos on people from all walks of life, from narco kings, prisoners, bakers, butchers, everyday citizens, and notorious gang members.
Whether you are a devotee and wish to honor the Saint of the Most Holy Death or find the art of the Santa Muerte tattoos appealing, it is customary to receive such a tattoo from an artist that understands the cult and its symbolic importance to its devotees.
Some of my favorite designs, tattoo books, and aftercare products, selected for you
Thank you for reading my article, I hope that you have found it helpful. If you would have trouble finding ideas for your tattoo, wonder what is meaning of design that you have found or what to buy for aftercare, to make sure that your tattoo will be healing quickly and easily, here are some of my favorite products in one place, hope that this will also help.
Design and tattoo ideas
For some ideas you can have a look at those 3 books with hundreds of designs that I use with my clients, they are available on Amazon for Kindle or in classic, paper version (links below):
- Great Book of Tattoo Designs, Revised Edition: More than 500 Body Art Designs (Fox Chapel Publishing) Fantasy, Celtic, Floral, Wildlife, and Symbol Designs for the Skin by Lora Irish
- The Big Book of Small Tattoos – Vol.1: 400 small original tattoos for women and men by Roberto Gemori
- Tiny Tattoos: Over 1,000 Small Inspirational Artworks by Rebecca Vincent.
If you would like to read more about the meaning of different tattoo styles and designs before you will decide what you would like to have, I can recommend a book that was really useful for me when I was starting my tattoo adventure – it’s “Conscious Ink: The Hidden Meaning of Tattoos” by Lisa Barretta (through the link you can find it on Amazon for around $10).
The skin at the tattoo site often dries out. To prevent it and speed up healing for my clients, I usually recommend one of those tattoo aftercare balms (you can find them on Amazon):