Santa Muerte Tinwork Shrine Ornament
Mixed media tinwork ornament made with vintage and upcycled materials, including tin-plated steel, aluminum, glass, wood, pewter, jute, cotton, and wool.
There's a long tradition in both formal and folk Catholicism of presenting offerings or gifts to saints as a way to thank them for their intercession. Sometimes these offerings are part of a specific vow made when petitioning the saint for their help, and in some cases the gifts or offerings are seen as not just fulfillment of a vow but as an actual payment made to the saint for services rendered.
As with many things in the realm of folk Catholicism, traditions can and do vary widely depending on time, place, and context, and the oral tradition plays a large role in how these practices emerge and spread. That has certainly been the case with the veneration of Santa Muerte over the last 20 years. Once, her imagery and altars were usually kept in private spaces within devotees' homes, away from prying eyes and rampant misunderstanding. Now, her statues are displayed in private homes and public temples all over the world, devotees gather publicly for communal devotion and prayer, and the sorts of offerings she's given have gotten a lot more diverse.
One longstanding Catholic tradition is still as vibrant as ever, though, and it's one I'm especially fond of. Often, small silver charms known in Spanish as milagros are given as offerings, as expressions of thanks, and/or as part of payment or fulfillment of vows.
For instance, a devotee might petition a saint for their intercession when a loved one is having a difficult pregnancy, perhaps praying at their shrine and offering a milagro with the image of a woman to represent the mother-to-be, or maybe the image of an infant to represent the child they are praying will be born healthy. A heart milagro might be accompany a prayer for successful treatment of a heart condition, or it might just as easily be offered as thanks by a devotee whose prayers for a happy marriage were answered. Milagros come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and they are part of a rich symbolic language and economy in vernacular religious practices especially.
This shrine has been made with an eye towards that tradition, because y'all, if you know, you know, right? Santa Muerte can take up some serious real estate in your house when you've been working with her for a while. Back in the day, she had three statues - red, black, and white - and that was a good chunk of altar space all on its own. Now she's got a Skittles rainbow of colors and some customary offerings that can crowd up a nightstand or small nicho in the blink of an eye.
The milagro tradition is beautiful and effective, and it is also a helpful way to approach offerings and fulfillment of vows, especially for those who have limited space available for shrines and altars.
This ornament has a row of small holes punched into the tinplate along the bottom edge, and they are perfect to hang milagros from temporarily or permanently. They can also be used to suspend prayer/petition papers and photos if these are part of your practice.
No space to leave Santa Muerte a bunch of fresh fruit, full-size bottles, or offerings on dinner plates? Well, you don't actually have to do all that. These traditions are *always evolving* and it's only been in the last few years that big shrines taking up lots of horizontal space have become familiar to the public eye. Milagros have functioned as votive offerings for a very long time, and they have an added benefit of being nice to look at and gradually adding to the beauty of your sacred space over time.
This piece was handmade by Mike, the quieter human partner at Seraphin Station, who is now branching out from carpentry and painting and Buddhist art into shrine creation, folk art from other traditions, and mixed media work.
Body of piece is 2.5" by 2.5". Entire piece is 5" from top to bottom when measured hanging. Signed by artist.