Death Cult

        “I am become death the destroyer of worlds.” Bhagavad-Gita

Originating in Latin America (the first references to the practice are found in Spanish Colonial records dating from the 1500s), the cult of Santisima Muerte entered US culture by way of the West Coast porn industry in the early 2000s. Dirty Sanchez, the notorious Juarez born porn star and present day New Age guru is believed to be the first to have referred explicitly to La Santa. Sanchez has a prominent facial tattoo of the divinity, a skull with a burning crown, on her forehead. In interviews Sanchez spoke passionately about the blessings she receives from her devotion to the saint of annihilation. From the beginning of her career Sanchez incorporated the ambiguous deity into her screen persona.

Sanchez, the niece of Hidalgo Sanchez, spiritual adviser to Arturo Sandoval, head of the Ruby Glove drug cartel well known for its alleged connections to the Mexican Government, was a revolutionary figure in the porn industry and in the culture at large where she simultaneously pulled back the curtain on the extent to which porn had pervaded every strata of world civilization and bridged the gulf between the pornographic demi monde and mainstream society. As Sanchez entered the mainstream so too did Saint Death.

Sanchez became infamous as a result of a single film, or as she termed it, an act of “ terrorismo de alquimia y semiotico.”  The Date Rape Holocaust video, starring an unconscious Sanchez dressed only in her signature skull print red silk stockings, a ruby tiara, an immense red lace Elizabethan collar decorated with embroidered rococo images of Santisima in black and gold thread and a single elbow length ruby encrusted glove on her right hand, unfolds (for 12 hours) to a relentless soundtrack of Mexican death metal. The film the production cost of which is believed to have run in the tens of millions of dollars also features countless all too realistic “Lizard Men,” their scales the colors of the flags of the Group of 8 Nations. Floating over the action massive holographic images of familiar corporate logos, coats of arms of royal and aristocratic European families, Masonic, alchemical, algebraic and religious symbols, and the insignia of state and multinational organizations such as the World Bank bloom and fade like clouds. There is of course much speculation regarding the identity of the projects financiers. The film was viewed just short of a billion times prior to its criminalization. Those who have not seen the film will have read about it by now.

Hidalgo Sanchez, executive producer and director of the film, currently living in an airport hotel in the Ukraine while awaiting a decision from the Ukranian government regarding his request for political asylum there described the film cryptically as “terminal satire” (satira terminales) in the only interview he has given on the subject to date. Whatever its theoretical underpinnings, Date Rape Holocaust, a Parable, its full title, was the first in what has become the dominant porn genre in North America, allegorical or ritual porn.

The video, Sanchez explains in a prefatory interview, is meant first as an homage to Michael Jackson, whom Sanchez regards as a martyr, and whom she supplicates as a saint alongside Santasima Muerte, Doctor “Professor” The little known Insomniac Prosthesis and The Holy Spirit, and second as “a suicide bomb attack aimed at the heart of global Civilization.” It is ultimately and most importantly an offering of devotion praise and gratitude to the Mother of Transfigurations and Decay, La Santa. As the film opens, a hooded figure administers what we are informed is the same anesthetic that took Jackson’s life to Sanchez. As the anesthetic takes effect the lizard men slowly enter the space which appears to be a large over-lit aircraft hangar.

The film itself, like much artistically ambitious porn, is not remotely erotic (this should perhaps go without saying). Many describe it as hypnotic however, and, in its ruthless insomniac monotony and despair (the film is 12 hours long) it does begin to take on some of the ambiance of a ceremonial dance and vigil. Famously, in the course of the filming, Sanchez claims to have died (we see the attempts to resuscitate her at about hour 11.5) and had a near death experience in which she received a vision of La Santa which became the germ of the popularization of the cult in the USA and increasingly throughout the developed world.

Dirty Sanchez’ empire is currently thought to have a net worth in the billions of dollars stemming from publications like Dead Sexy, get the shape (and everything else) you want by learning to harness the energy that wiped out 99% of the species that have ever lived on earth. She also has a highly lucrative personal and corporate consulting business and provides extremely expensive and highly secretive seminars and workshops catering mainly to celebrities and transnational elites. 

In a syncretic manner, Sanchez has been adapted to North American tastes and become a facet of the consumer friendly New Age movement where Saint Death is framed as an agent of self-improvement and called the Mother of the Abundant Beauty (she also finds devotees among a number of shadowy subcultures including  fundamentalist anorexics, Hikkomori, and cosplayers). Death in this new context becomes a sort of djinn by whose grace all wishes can be fulfilled (so that with the sanctification of death, desire is simultaneously sanctified thus consummating the latent metaphysics of late capitalism). The Saint Death movement is now the fastest growing religious denomination (it is not an exaggeration to refer to it as such) in the USA and bordering Canadian and Mexican States and provinces that have a history of Scientology and Mormonism. 

The basic tenets of the practice are that by embracing the ultimate transformation, that is by identifying with death itself and merging with her while alive, one achieves all desired transformations (via her intercession with the elements) which are described as death’s children. One thus becomes the mother of extinctions, or endings, and so implicitly of beginnings as well. One ceremonially becomes death and simultaneously master of transformations, at which point it is believed one can affect any change one desires. On the surface this development seems bizarre, but looking a little deeper it is almost predictable. It is natural after all for humans to worship what frightens them, and what scares us more than death? It does not take much reflection to see how nice a fit the practice is to contemporary world culture for a myriad of reasons.

As the global economy evolves inexorably toward one in which a lifetime of de facto indentured servitude cloaked in a smoke screen of neoliberal propaganda is the norm for the vast majority of working people, folks are increasingly scared, regressed, and pliable. And scared they should be. Consider for example the growing and conspicuously underreported phenomenon of mass disappearances in US poverty zones such as the Transnational Fiscal Protectorate of Detroit. This phenomenon, new to the USA, has become almost commonplace in other parts of the world. Where once we had mass lay-offs plant closures and outsourcing we now find large numbers of workers simply vanishing in the night. Meanwhile manufacturing flourishes in these zones with Detroit, Des Moines, and Compton now challenging China for dominance in exports. Conspiracy theories abound linking the financiers behind these bailouts and restructuring schemes to the Mexican Cartels and indirectly through syndicates of US corporate heads and government officials to the global Holy Death movement. What makes these theories so hard to dismiss, despite the shrill rhetoric of their promoters, is of course that they are not altogether lacking in supporting evidence. Tony Weird, for example, CEO of Releva Health Care, the largest Home Health and Hospice Conglomerate in the US (called “the vampire squid of hospices” by its vocal detractors) and a key financier of the Detroit Appropriation is an avowed devotee of “Our Mother of  ‘Problem Solved,’” as he candidly refers to the Saint. He also has been a known associate of Hidalgo Sanchez whom he employed as a consultant for a period in the mid 2000s.

Did we as a species reinvent death, remake it in our own image, or has it always been our creation? Death, as much as it is may be viewed, mystically, as a boundless and total intimacy with the whole continuum of being, is ultimately, and by definition, strange. It is estrangement itself, a hiss that walks through everything. Listen carefully; into the sounds around us, into their timbre, their invisible distances: a footstep, a silver thread walking there. We are all strangers now.

Darby Precariat lives in the icy shadow of a freeway overpass in a withering ski town in the Colorado Rockies. He works graveyards as a security guard and suspects he may hold the world record for most consecutive days survived without speaking to another human being. He cites the sound of the before mentioned freeway at 4 a.m., old school Muzac, Noam Chomsky’s chronic hoarseness, and the poetry of Richard Cronshey (even though Richard Cronshey won’t friend him on Facebook- is he even on there?) as important influences. He sees living and writing as two forms of the same ascetic exercise which is learning to carry with style the weight of consciousness in an indiscriminately affectionate universe. He is coming soon to a town near you.

The Insomniac Prosthesis


Remembering how the sun felt on his skin when he was a child time unimaginable the earth. He sees his death, the car on its side in the road side snow, saying his last goodbyes inside himself, keening mute American twilight sprawled like a crime scene from coast to coast. Every one scalds his heart; his body unalarmed as if death were a wordless remembering, a light that catches itself before it falls. He relives the first time his father said his name, the warmth and supplication in the sound like a hopeless promise to his spooky flickering life. The whole utterable taste of his life washes through him again, child of nothing but its own heartbeat.

Snow in the midnight parking lot and more snow. The girls Doctor “Professor” hired late December afternoons in the chronically languishing ski town to unwind with were surprised sometimes by their own candor with him because he listened like he really cared with soft melty Jesus eyes and a little sad carefully pious smile with the traffic an unbegotten hiss in the wasting grey snow in the gutters as the last cars before dawn crawl north south homelessly searching elegiac through the slush. The elephant in the room has no clothes.

Pirate Jenny Shepherd Me

Dear Doctor “Professor”

is this what it feels like to be an algorithm?

Who is the builder of this hiss? Windshield

wipers walk the incantation home

under the dark

unmoving trees

down nerveless

suburban streets

forever. In the over-lit lobby, the self

rummages through its pockets

wipes its nose on its sleeve

looks for the outskirts of this movie

which cannot be found

Images by Elfie Hintington courtesy of the L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.

Copyright © 2016, Otis Nebula Press. All rights reserved.