to track the various distortions to their sources. Finally, I will consider this curious paradox: that the credibility of false stories and photos rests on the credibility of the mainstream news media, even as they contribute to the undermining of the credibility of the mainstream news media: When readers or viewers learn that a supposedly true story is false, they naturally have reason to doubt the veracity of all news stories.
Fugarino, Virginia (Memorial University of Newfoundland)
Looming Looterers and Needy Newsmen: Perceptions of Credibility and the Impact on Hurricane Response
Issues surrounding belief are not new to legend studies and have factored into various discussions in the discipline (for example, Dégh and Vázsonyi 1976, Boyes 1996, Oring 1996, Dégh 2001). Belief can determine what legendary material is passed on and what impact it may have on the people hearing and sharing it. Legends and rumors about stories covered in the media (and about the media itself), by extension, can impact actions taken by the audience. In the case of a hurricane, these responses can take form in a variety of ways, including attitudes expressed regarding the severity of the storm threat and the steps taken (or not taken) to prepare for the storm.
For example, media stories about looting in New Orleans ran frequently after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, stories which were surrounded by debate over the accuracy and bias in the reports. A month later, the city of Houston was threatened by Hurricane Rita, compelling thousands of residents to evacuate and others to prepare to ride out the storm. For some individuals, the stories of looting and chaos became relevant to their Rita experience and shaped their preparation and response, marking a recontextualization of media information to a different storm and a different place. As one former Houston resident mentioned, I grabbed my gun because after Katrina I didn't know what to expect. Conversely, perceptions of the lack of credibility in the media also had impact on storm attitudes and responses. This paper will examine some examples of legendary material communicated by and about the media and the impacts that these examples had on perceptions of media credibility and on individual storm responses.
Boyes, Georgina. 1996. Belief and disbelief: An examination of reactions to the presentation of rumour legends. In Contemporary legend: A reader, eds. Gillian Bennett and Paul Smith, 41-54. New York: Garland Publishing.
Dégh, Linda. 2001. Legend and Belief:
Dialectics of a Folklore Genre. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Dégh, Linda, and Andrew Vázsonyi. 1976. Legend and Belief. In Folklore Genres, ed. Dan Ben-Amos, 93-123. Austin: University of Texas Press.
Oring, Elliott. 1996. Legend, Truth, and News. In Contemporary Legend: A Reader, ed. Gillian Bennett and Paul Smith, 325-339. New York: Garland Publishing.
Goldstein, Diane E.
Crying Babies, Tiny Handprints and Terror on the Web: Virtual Legend Tripping
Legend tripping is an activity in which individuals make an excursion to a place where uncanny events are believed to have occurred in the interest of testing a local legend (Ellis 1996:439). Such legend quests constitute an improvised drama in which the players, visiting the site of a haunting or the scene of a crime, recreate the storied events and simultaneously expand the tale by adding their own experiences to the core narrative (Lindahl 2005, 165). This paper explores the parallels between geographical on-site legend tripping and those occurring in digital environments.
Virtual legend tripping shares the recurring landscape found in real world legend tripping, including visits to abandoned buildings, remote bridges, tunnels, caves, woods, rivers and cemeteries, and focuses on popular contemporary legend themes such as cry baby bridges and bloody Mary in the mirror. Virtual legend tripping also exploits the possibilities of the internet not only to re-imagine the numinous but to directly experience it, from a distance. This paper explores the way Internet technology creates a venue for virtual legend tripping using interactive visual-auditory media for sharing in legend telling, legendary experience and legend communities. The analysis will discuss the relationship between the characteristics of real world legend trips and virtual trips, exploring the creation of a legendscape, the rituals of participation, the narrative act, the narrative second life, and the experiences of the liminal, communitas and the numinous.
Ellis, Bill. 1996. Legend Trip. In American Folklore: An Encyclopedia, ed. Jan Harold Brunvand. New York: Garland, pp. 439-40.
Lindahl, Carl 2005. Ostensive Healing: Pilgrimage to the San Antonio Ghost Tracks. Journal of American Folklore 118(468):16485.
Green, Spencer (Pennsylvania State University Harrisburg)
Disastrous Alternatives: Boy Scout Disaster Stories and Legends and Imagining the Natural World
From death by roasting hot dogs on oleander or green sticks to flash floods taking out entire troops, the Boy Scouts have long had a rich folk tradition particularly in connection with camping. What can these macabre legends of disaster and warning tell us about how these adolescents relate to nature and how what the psychological exchange of that relationship entails? This paper will seek answers to that question by examining various scouting legends, their performance and context, and the psychological needs these legends of the land serve.
Hiking the Narrows in Zion National Park, young scouts recount tales of the flash flood that killed an entire scout troop. The veracity of the tale is little challenged with the details of place and supposed newspaper coverage. Another trip, a scout has cut a branch to roast a hot dog while another scout comments that green branches have poisons that will seep into the hotdog if used as a roaster. The scout abandons his green branch to find one less likely to kill him.
Scouting legends such as these do more than exert social control on scouts liable to damage local trees; they express deeply felt fears and values in how humans relate to the outdoors, the scene and subject of many of these fearsome tales. Jay Mechling suggests that campfire legends and lore meet the psychic needs of those who share them with their thematic obsession with death. These stories and legends deal with death and injury, and an obsession with sex and death in children and adolescent folklore is well documented. These are the taboos against which children's folklore poke and prod, looking for a way to handle these serious issues. These stories then intensify the drama and experience of the outdoors both by imitating the legends of pioneers and the frontier, but also playing on a physically immediate reality to these stories in terms of the setting.
The purpose and focus of these dramatic narratives goes beyond fear and obsessions with death. Victor Turner speaks of liminal monsters that are not intended to terrorize initiates but to startle them into thinking about objects, persons, relationships, and features of their environment they have hitherto taken for granted. Seen in this way, stories of death and injury in the outdoors can foster a ritualistic experience with nature that encourages and allows adolescents to change their relationship with the land. Being betwixt and between, they are no longer city dwellers, nor are they woods people, but they but on the dressings of that, and imaginatively play out various possible consequences and dangers of life in their wilderness setting.
This kind of play with danger is distinct from legend trips and what Bill Ellis terms, mock ordeals in that the legends and stories are evoked by the place rather than the other way around as in legend trips; further the ordeal is real only there is a heightened sense of potential danger while experiencing the more mundane discomforts of camping life. And here is where playing with masculinities and adulthood enter into the stories and their appeal: the adult world, as well as the natural world, are largely unknown and as such can be a source of anxiety and fear for adolescents. Imagining the dramatic danger transforms the discomforts of camping life into more exciting, manly adventures; gives them a handle on perceived, real, but unrealized fears; and serves as an outlet for the fears and anxieties of camping, manhood, and adulthood.
Ellis, Bill. The Camp Mock-Ordeal Theater as Life. The Journal of American Folklore. 94 (1981): 486-505.
Mechling, Jay. The Magic of the Boy Scout Campfire. Journal of American Folklore 93
Turner, Victor. Betwixt and Between: The Liminal Period in Rites de Passage. Proceedings of the American Ethnological Society, ed. J. Helms. Seattle (1964): 14.
Kitta, Andrea (East Carolina University) Understanding Unusual Medical Information (or What happens when your nursing students believe there's a link between MMR and autism, but think penis fish are a legend)
Recent research and media coverage has demonstrated that the anti-vaccination message is becoming more prevalent, available, and understandable than the pro-vaccination message (Halperin 2010; Kata 2010; Kitta 2009; Ritvo et al. 2003; Wolfe et al. 2002; Andre 2003; Baker et al. 2003; Ernst 2002; Poland and Jacobson 2001; Spier 2001). However, the medical focus thus far has been on lay public's understanding of health information that is incorrect, with the spotlight on information found on the Internet. Lay readers of Internet health materials are not, however, simply passive receptors of the information they contain (Goldstein 2000; Goldstein 2004).Instead the public interacts with this information, which opens the possibility of the public dismissing medically approved information because it does not fit into the worldview of the individual, which has been largely overlooked in vaccination discourse. Additionally, televisions shows such as Grey's Anatomy and House have presented both medical information and contemporary legends in similar ways, further blurring the lines between truth and legend. In an era when the lay public has access to a variety of information, the notion of expert is fluid and the public is cautious to report belief in anything that sounds too outlandish. Past research has demonstrated that legends certainly influence medical decision making (Goldstein 2008); however, little has been written on the effect of the lay public (and medical professionals) assuming this knowledge is a legend instead of approved medical information. This paper hopes to explore the consequences of medical information which is perceived as legend as demonstrated in vaccine and other medical narratives.
Kline, Jim (Saybrook University/ Northern Marianas College)
Shamanic Influences Upon the Pied Piper Legend
The figure of the Pied Piper, featured in the folk tale in which he rids the German town of Hamelin of its plague of rats, then later lures the children of the town to a mysterious fate, has been considered a legend inspired by an historical event that occurred in rural Germany in the year 1284. This alleged event has served to inspire numerous variations of the folk tale, many of these legends told as if the events had occurred in various towns in Germany, Eastern Europe, and China. Michael Ripinsky-Naxon in his book on shamanism gives a contemporary variation of the legend from a Polish informant who reports the event as if it had occurred in her town during her lifetime. Rapinsky-Naxon also presents the story as if it were an example of a contemporary shaman performing in his traditional role as Master of the Animals, using music and dance to influence the behavior of animals. The shamanic dimension of the legend also seems to apply to the original Medieval reference that served to inspire other variations.
Koven, Mikel J (University of Worcester)
'A Fairy? How lame is that?': True Blood as Folk Narrative
While clearly fictional narratives, and therefore (according to Bascom) folk/fairy tale-like, True Blood, like the Southern Vampire Mysteries books by Charlaine Harris the series is based on, draw upon what Bascom identifies as 'truthful' or at least 'believed' genres such as myth and legend. This paper explores the generic transformations which occur when (ostensibly) 'truthful' folk narrative genres are absorbed into a fictive narrative frame. While True Blood co-opts myth and legend into its folk/fairy tale diegesis, the discussion of the different folk narrative genres reflects and refracts the variety of traditional meanings associated with the various tale types and motifs drawn upon.
Langlois, Janet (Wayne State University)
They all see dead peoplebut we don't (do) want to tell you about it: On legend gathering in real and cyberspace
This paper is something of a meditation on the differences between legend-gathering face-to-face and online, and on how these different modalities or methodologies might impinge on the data collected. I draw on my fieldwork in an on-going project recording mystical or paranormal narratives in situations that are health-related, often end-of-life. I will focus here on accounts of death bed visions, in which the dying all see dead people, a quotation from a hospice doctor who is the medical director at a Detroit-area hospice where I have conducted questionnaires and interviews with doctors and staff off and on since 2003. Early in my field research, a certified nurse assistant (CENA) leaned over my shoulder and told me that staff had witnessed or heard about these experiences, but that they didn't wish to discuss them with me. I took their reticence as a given, and allowed it to guide my research in subsequent years. I saw each interview granted as a gift given, and was not deterred by their relatively-small number.
Then one day, late in the research gathering phase of the project when I was more aware of the explosion of digital culture, I googled the subject death bed visions. I was thunderstruck, for my initial foray into virtual ethnography yielded over 5,000 sites, most of them conducted by hospice or hospital staff, all discussing quite openly those very narrative events that had eluded me. I recognize that I am an outsider to hospice culture while the bloggers are insiders, yet their discussions are available to all online. Here, I would like to come to grips with either my failure as traditional ethnographer, or with the methodological and theoretical contexts that make traditional fieldwork a more delicate operation than lurking on websites and blogs that do yield rich material. I would like to ask how to evaluate and integrate these data sets ethically to say something meaningful about dying, that storied place we will all come to know.
Mieder, Wolfgang (University of Vermont)
'The Dog in the Manger': The Rise and Decline in Popularity of a Proverbial Fable Remnant
Starting with a discussion of the interrelationship of folk narratives with proverbs, proverbial expressions, and wellerisms, a closer look will be taken at the medieval fable of The Dog in the Manger. While its motif can be found earlier but not in Aesop, the actual German fable gained considerable European distribution, appearing in English during the 14th century. For several centuries the fable was picked up in various collections gaining considerable popularity. Not surprisingly the fable was eventually reduced to a proverbial remnant with people having no difficulty understanding what was meant by the phrase To be (like) a dog in the manger. Yet, as interest in fables, especially in school curricula, has waned, the content of the dog in the manger fable has largely been forgotten during the past few decades. The proverbial remnant can still be heard or read from time to time, but is there enough cultural literacy left to assure meaningful communication? Numerous historical and contextual examples will be cited to explain the phenomenon of vanishing narratives and their proverbial remnants. Special consideration will be given to the survival of the proverbial expression in present-day American discourse, taking a close look at the survival chances (if at all) of this useful folk metaphor.
Preston, Cathy (University of Colorado at Boulder)
Third Bridge: Local Legend in Aurora, Colorado
On the website strangeusa.com, the following post began a lengthy, on-line conversation about a legend site in Aurora, Colorado, known as Third Bridge.
Travel east on Smokey Hill Rd and take a left at the stop sign when the road becomes one lane each way. Drive all the way up and down over the hills on the dirt road until you come to the third bridge. Local High School students have died there in a car accident. Drums can be heard in the distance and if people visiting the bridge are loud and obnoxious, the drums get louder and closer as though whoever playing them wants you to hear. It is said that an Indian massacre took place there in which settlers killed the men in battle and then returned and killed the wom[e]n and children of the tribe. Some have reported fog rolling in from both directions and have seen a man floating on a horse and other strange things.
Participants in the conversation repeatedly ask for directions to the site and argue about where the site actually is while those who have legend-tripped the site(s) relate personal experience stories that describe not only encounters with drums, fog, and a man on a horse, but a range of legend motifs, including but not limited to small handprints left on their cars, children laughing, and cars moving of their own volition forwards or backwards over or back down the bridge. My paper will explore the participants' on-going negotiations over where the site is in relation to statements of if and why the site is haunted as well as the range of haunting experiences reported by legend-trippers.
Puglia David J. (Pennsylvania State University, Harrisburg)
Getting Maryland's Goat: The Goatman Legend in Prince George's County
One hundred miles due south of this conference, a humanoid cryptid has been terrorizing the Prince George's County countryside for over half of a century.
The creature resembles either Pan or Baphomet, haunts either Lottsford Road or Tucker Road, and sprung forth from either the former state tuberculosis sanitarium at Glenn Dale Hospital or a science experiment gone wrong at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center. In addition to its long life in oral tradition, the Goatman seems to have historical origins. Examining regional newspapers shows the Goatman panic began simultaneously with a rash of pets gone missing or found mutilated. Although the legend is locally well?known, no scholarly attempt has yet been made to assess the function and meaning of Maryland's Goatman.
The Goatman of legend lives on the fringes of Prince George's County, which is itself on the fringes of the metropolitan Washington, D.C. After fleshing out the narrative, I will argue the legend has two basic meanings in the region. Living outside the boundaries of humanity both morally and geographically, the Goatman is not unlike a stock psychopath for some. An antisocial personality who kills, vandalizes property, abuses animals, and purposefully frightens people, the creature is the locus for the projection of all the fears associated with surrounding area. On the other hand, local teenagers seem to identify with the Goatman. Personal narratives from locals recount ostensive behavior including Friday evenings spent hunting the Goatman. Like sport hunters, teenagers seem not to hunt out of hatred but out of respect. Legend tripping is a way of rebelling against the norms of society by entering the Goatman's land and joining his rebellion, if only for a brief time.
Schmitt, Casey (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
The Barefoot Bandit, Outlaw Legend, and Modern American Folk Heroism
This paper explores the emergent legend of fugitive and airplane thief Colton Harris-Moore, the Barefoot Bandit, to locate its place within American folk legendry. In many ways, Harris-Moore exemplifies the Robin Hood, or noble robber, type discussed by Eric Hobsbawn and Graham Sealthe same folk type embodied by Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Sam Bass, Pretty Boy Floyd, and othersbut, in equally many ways, clearly departs from the description of bandit presented by Hobsbawn in his noted and oft-cited 1969 book on the subject. I argue that Colton Harris-Moore does indeed fit the bandit/folk hero model, but in a manner specifically suited to his place, society, and time. I shall explore Harris-Moore as a bandit in Hobsbawn's terms and in online folk representations, highlighting how folklorists might re-envision classifications and representations of banditry in constantly changing populations and environments, before more closely examining Harris-Moore within his specific context and recognizing the particular elements of his legend which appeal to a modern audience. Along the way, this paper will explore the interaction of generally accepted forms of folk transmission, emergent media and technologies, such as Facebook and YouTube, and mass media news reports, papers, and magazines to consider how all versions of a story can work together in the development of a legend. I ultimately suggest that the Barefoot Bandit represents a particular kind of outlaw hero, specific to modern American society: the anarchic and footloose wilderness rebel, rejecting suburban expectations and flying (sometimes quite literally) in the face of materialistic ideals.
Samper, David A (Independent ScholarUniversity of Pennsylvania)
Killer in the Backseat: Revisited
In his seminal essay, The 'Pretty Languages' of Yellowman, Barre Toelken argues that by carefully examining textual elements in story-telling performances, we can understand the deep levels of cultural meaning that narratives articulate. Toelken elucidates the intricate and deeply symbolic relationship between Coyote narratives and Navajo religious worldview. What I propose to do here is a multilevel reading of Killer in the Backseat (KIBS) similar to the nuanced and complex analysis conducted by Toelken. This multilayered analysis investigates this legend on three connected levels: Literal, symbolic and ideological. At the literal level, KIBS is a cautionary tale for women about stranger danger and random violence. However, the legend and others like it do not simply reflect or express our society's fears of random violence perpetuated by malicious strangers; they actively create and propagate that fear. Urban legends therefore participate in a larger discourse that is creating and sustaining a culture of fear. At the symbolic level, the legend maintains and perpetuates our society's patriarchal system by threatening punishment and death to women who challenge it. Ultimately, KIBS, as I will argue, is a story told by women to women. Therefore, at the level of abstracts at the heart of our society, or ideological level, KIBS articulates women's (and men's to be sure) continuing and persistent concern, anxiety, and ambiguity about the women's movement. In short, the legend permits us to understand one of the ways in which society culturally programs us as feminine or masculine and how society uses fear to enforce gender conformity.
Tucker, Elizabeth (Binghamton University)
Legends of Lily Dale
Lily Dale Assembly, a lakeside Spiritualist community in western New York, was founded in 1879. The oldest Spiritualist community in the United States, Lily Dale has inspired the telling of many legends, most of which describe visits by spirits of the dead. During the spring of 2009, I heard intriguing stories about the community from a fifteen-year-old medium who had done her training at Lily Dale. Last summer I spent some time there, listening to legends, attending message services, and conversing with mediums and innkeepers. I also had an unusual experience that fit the pattern of some of the legends I was collecting quite well, so my field trip became a legend trip. Most of my research into folklore of the supernatural has taken place on college campuses. On campuses where many students have a similar religious background, shared belief may facilitate their initiation into what Helen Gilbert calls a community of believers in which spirits' presence seems extremely important (1975:76). Similarly, at Lily Dale, emphasis on the Spiritualist faith intensifies community residents' and visitors' focus on narratives about their own and others' experiences. This paper will analyze Lily Dale legends that reinforce a sense of cohesiveness and explore how the sharing of these stories helps the community thrive.
Cadwallader, Mary E. Hydesville in History. New York: Nabu Press, 2010.
Gilbert, Helen. The Crack in the Abbey Floor: A Laboratory Analysis of a Legend. Indiana Folklore 8:1-2 (1975): 61-78.
Seekings, Cara. The Ladies of Lily Dale. Lily Dale, New York: Lily Dale Assembly, 2010.
Tucker, Elizabeth. Haunted Halls: Ghostlore of American College Campuses. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2007.
Wicker, Christine. Lily Dale: The True Story of the Town That Talks to the Dead. San Francisco: Harper SanFrancisco, 2003.
Van de Winkel, Aurore (Catholic University of Louvain)
Organisation and Contemporary Legend: When the Narrative Causes Misunderstanding
Currently, storytelling is frequently used by companies to present or construct their identity and so arouse the emotional adhesion of their public. These companies are also affected by narratives often of a negative nature : contemporary legends. Similar to rumours, these legends are considered as an attack against their image or their identity. They can cause profit losses in case where clients - influenced by 'we-say' avoid their buildings, buy less of their products or services. In fact, the company in these narratives is just a vehicle to the construction or implementation of a surprising or harrowing plot, only intended to provide credibility and proximity to the subjects-transmitters. The company implicated is not the result of a conscious strategy aiming to compromise it.
A semio-pragmatic analysis of the legend « a child kidnapping at IKEA », the company's denials, press articles and reactions on web forums - presented the narrative as a contemporary legend or as news allows us to understand interpretations, intentions and relations of the different diffusers of these diverse utterances and so their lack of understanding. This paper will explain how the ignorance of the narrative genre of contemporary legends can cause economical consequences and image problems for companies. The negativization of the diffusers who try to protect their family, the baseless accusation that competitors are at the root of these legends, the disclosure of the legend by the company's public denials to those who did not know it previously, are the main reasons that the company has still not regained the full trust of all their public after ten years of diffusion.
Victor, Jeffrey S (Jamestown, NY Community College)
American Creation Myths: Little House on the Prairie vs. a Tenement on the Lower East-side
Creation myths, or myths of origin, are common to all peoples. The thesis of this paper is that the current conflict over health care reform and many other expressions of the culture war arise out of a clash between two different creation myths about who we Americans are as a people. These are two different visions of the moral order of American society; of right and wrong behavior. They are stories that convey the epic struggles of a people's origins; their special virtues, and the behavior necessary for their survival. The two different American creation myths are the myth of the pioneers on wilderness frontier and the more recent myth of European immigrants arriving in large Eastern cities.
A basic sociological principle is that the material and social conditions of life create the beliefs and values by which people live. Life on the wilderness frontier presented a physical environment that was harsh and dangerous. The frontier had a thinly scattered population and there was little or no law enforcement. So, they valued self-reliance and individual responsibility. They had free land and distrusted government interference in their lives.
In contrast, immigrants of the mass migration were mainly poor people from villages, who moved with their families into crowded, tiny apartments. They lived in ethnic neighborhoods in multicultural cities, and had to adjust to a diverse social environment. That environment required cooperation and mutual helping in extended families and within ethnic groups, and later, with other ethnic groups in the city. This paper will examine the realities of life in these two different social conditions, the values the different conditions created, and the way those values are expressed in contemporary politics today.
Santa Muerte. Mexico, la Mort et ses dévots [Holy Death. Mexico City, Death and its Devotees] by Francis Mobio. Paris, Imago, 2010
The book signed by Francis Mobio [anthropologist and video maker University of Lausanne, Switzerland] and dedicated to the new Mexican cult to the Santa Muerte presents itself as a photographic journey.
Most of the book consists of about a hundred photographs recently taken in Mexico. These photographs illustrate the cult and present the urban setting, very degraded by pollution, in which the cult practices.
The photographs are first presented without commentaries (9-128). Then Field Notes comment and situate these documents (129-150).
Two articles conclude the book. That of Silvia Mancini [University de Lausanne] La Santa Muerte et l'histoire des religions [Santa Muerte and the History of Religions] presents a globalizing interpretation of the cult, stressing its radical originality (153-164). Alejandro Allarcon Olvera's concluding article La Vallée de Mexico City et la Santa Muerte [Mexico City's Valley and the Santa Muerte] is mainly centered on the catastrophic destruction of the natural and social environment (165-171).
Scenes of daily life, portraits of devotees, altars and paraphernalia, but also implacable descriptions of a gigantic and inhuman environment, the photographs that constitute the main body of the book are impressive. An authentic poetry surges from them. The commentaries that follow are welcome and situate the difficult living conditions of this universe in crisis. In the Foreword, Francis Mobio gives briefly his vision of this popular cult.
Its rise is a reaction to an ecological and social disaster:
For most of the inhabitants of this city [Mexico], living there is synonym out of violence, of precariousness, of insecurity, of illness or of death (7).
This reaction constitutes an active elaboration, a cultural bricolage drawing from multiple sources that demonstrates a rejection of the processes of cultural leveling that develop in Mexico:
Some have found the solution to establish a dialogue with death in person. Repair techniques, made up from recycled elements drawn from cultures more or less far in time and space, are elaborated so as to negotiate with Fate. The popular cult of the Santa Muerte embodies, in Mexico, one of these techniques, at the same time as it offers an active form of resistance to the current process of cultural homogenization, whose main vectors are wild neoliberalism and the impressive rise of evangelical movement (7).
The cult of the Santa Muerte is a complex phenomenon that develops a traditional presence of Death indeed limited to the Days of the Dead of November 1st and 2nd during which the living dress up as skeletons in a festive atmosphere that has struck all observers of Mexico. This cult also follows a tradition of folk Catholicism known since some fifty years (Ingham 1986, 1989). The cult devoted to Jesus Malverde, big-hearted bandit of the State of Sinaloa, North Mexico, just as the celebrity in Mexico City of San Juda Taddeus, an apostle of Christ reconverted into the patron saint of desperate causes, are two recent examples of these somewhat deviant devoutness.
The authors of the articles concluding the book have chosen to ignore some secondary but meaningful aspects of the phenomenon.
**The Santa Muerte cult has entailed hostile reactions of the authorities in Mexico City. Having presented themselves as defenders of the Tridentine Mass (pre Vatican 2 Council) and recognized as a religious group in 2001 under the title Iglesia Catolica Tradicional MX-USA, Misioneros del Sagrado Corazon y San Felipe de Jesus, the founders of the first place of worship of the Santa Muerte in Mexico City lost their accreditation in 2005 because they had lied on their real aims. Charged as the active accomplice of a network of kidnapping for money, the leader of this group, David Romo Gullen, will be jailed early 2011 (A.P. 2011). Moreover, in March 2009, an organized action of the military will destroy several open air altars dedicated to the Santa Muerte, asserting that the majority of its devotees are dealers or gangsters (Tuckman 2009).
**The cult is especially widespread in jails, a documentary movie made in Mexico suggest a figure of 40% of devotees amongst long-term prisoners (Aridjis 2007). Francis Mobio's photographs detail this aspect of the cult.
**Already in 2007 the extension of the Santa Muerte cult in Mexican communities settled in the United States (New York, Houston, Los Angeles, Chicago) was mentioned (Gray 2007) just as its extension, in Mexico itself, to more respectable segments of society (Bell)
To conclude the book Silvia Mancini emphasizes that the new devotion to the Santa Muerte is deeply original. She interprets this devotion as the rebirth of a pagan divinity fulfilling a function of humanization of a hostile world felt as non human, function that characterizes a polytheist universe. Her conclusion is radical:
The cult of the Santa Muerte takes all its meaning in the historical situation that Mexico lives through here and now Mexico, this frontier country whose environmental and cultural disaster started on the day Conquistadors defeated Tenochtitlan. (164)
Alejandro Alarcon Olvera draws up an impressive fresco of the ecological and cultural disaster of Mexico City's Valley and of its inhabitants' sad fate:
This geographical space has become, during the last phase [that of the Liberal-National State] one of the greatest deserts ever created by the civilizing forces of Christianity and Capitalism. [
] It is within this context of an ecological disaster that affects humans and non humans that the Santa Muerte cult has been born. [
]Most of the population, pauperized and degraded, can only be torn between the uncertainty of life and the fear of moral and material destruction of the little that's left. (170)
To this book's credit is the fact that it gives to its reader a direct and lively view of this new cult that has met with a huge echo congruent with the nihilistic and disenchanted climate of the contemporary world. The Santa Muerte cult's evolution is not over and will surprise.
A.P. [Associated Press° Mexico arrests Saint Death cult leader Guardian 5 January 2011
Eva S. Aridjis La Santa Muerte. 87 mins. [Commentary read by Gabriel Garcia Bernal], 2007
Kenneth Bell La Santa Muerte: Mexico's Death Goddess http://www.helium.com/items/597773 consulted 11.28.2010.
Steven Gray Santa Muerte: The New God in Town Time, 16 October 2007
John M. Ingham Mary, Michael, and Lucifer : Folk Catholicism in Central Mexico (Latin American Monographs, No. 69). University of Texas Press,  1989
Jo Tuchman Mexican 'Saint Death' cult members protest at destruction of shrines The Guardian, 10 April 2009