You don't have to be into Santeria to run into some Afro-Carribean spiritual products here in Houston. After all, while thousands in the city practice the religion --- which, yes, can include sacrificing small animals like chickens or goats --- this form of mysticism has caught on in a major way, especially in Latino heavy corners of the United States.
Santeria worship, along with the widening appreciation for the skeletal Santa Muerte, is something we told you about back in 2012. It's syncretic faith worship that's just a part of everyday American life now.
In spite of official rejection by the highest levels of the Roman Catholic Church in Mexico, Santa Muerte's followers only increase in number and devotion, carrying her all the way onto the fringes of the American pop-culture mainstream. She made a cameo on Breaking Bad -- Tuco's terrifying cousins light candles to her, petitioning her for success on the way to Albuquerque on their mission of murderous revenge.
Reports say there are more than 20,000 people practicing Santeria in the United States. Houston is home to thousands, behind Miami or New York.
Botanicas, or small herbal stores used to be the only place to buy special candles and tools for Santeria. The small mom and pop shops are plentiful throughout Houston, even if their products are now sold online and in mainstream places like Amazon.com, the Fiesta supermarket down the street, or Wal-Mart. Here's a list of these kinds of saints we published in our story from two years ago.
Go into any Wal-Mart in Houston and you're likely to find a section with candles depicting the Virgin Mary or her skeletal counterpart. There might even be dozens of other candles that promise to help with life's dilemmas or cure problems. Many people, especially Santeros and Santeras pray using these candles for luck, for money, to control people, to help get relatives out of jail, to deal with impotency, or to deal with spurned love.
And it's not just folks who practice Santeria who have dibs on the candles and the spirit world. There are people who practice similar beliefs like voodoo and hoodoo, plus Catholics and Christians who have helped make spiritual products, especially candles, part of a multi-million dollar industry.
So, if you're in the need for some help from the kind of spirits you can contact through candles, then here's a look at some of the options we found here in Houston.
How this candle might help you: Saying prayers and using this candle of St. Jude is supposed to bring money and a job if you're looking for it. So, if employment numbers start to dip again soon, expect these to be in limited quantities.
What you have to look out for: San Judas Tadeo is often called the patron saint of the undesirables like thieves. Reggaeton-loving street kids honor Jude with a parade on the 28th of every month in Mexico City.
This story continues on the next page.
How this candle might help you: The mano poderosa, or hand of power talisman is an overall protection from evil and harm. It's supposed to be the hand of God pointed up to heaven.
What you have to look out for: If you have evil chasing you and this doesn't work, we're not sure what you can do next.
How this candle might help you: The red candle comes in many shapes and sizes, some look like the sort of things you find in porn shops. However, this candle, which is meant for bringing back a lover is pretty G-rated.
What you have to look out for: There's always that chance that this could backfire. Forcing a particular lover to return to you with the help of the spirit world might eventually be a mistake. Maybe you were better off with a bit of heartbreak.
How this candle might help you: St. Martin is a good-luck talisman for people who need a hand, a lift up. San Martin Caballero as he's called in Spanish cut off his coat for a homeless person, which is all types of metaphor-y here in Houston.
What you have to look out for: For many he's the patron saint for people in poverty. So make sure you'r really in need before busting out the prayers for this one.
How this candle might help you: Santa Barbara is the saint for people in dangerous jobs, like firefighters, soldiers, and also prisoners.
What you have to look out for: She protects people from violent death, the unpredictable sort, like the kind caused by lightening. You might want to double down with another protection and not put all your eggs in one basket.
How this candle might help you: The Holy Child of Antocha is like the pilgrim version of baby Jesus. He's here to help people who are knee deep in it. He's the patron saint of among other things prisoners, people living under political regimes, rape and kidnap victims, and people facing serious court cases.
What you have to look out for: This candle is really one of the cutest out of the bunch, but it's for some of the darkest things people have to deal with. Probably best to use it only if you're really going through it.
How this candle might help you: The pope candle is for people who need to get as close to God as possible. And why? For some of that papal mojo, that's why.
What you have to look out for: We're not really sold on what magical powers this one might have. Plus, it's like having a souvenir from the Vatican gift shop.
How this candle might help you: Maybe the Lady of San Juan De Los Lagos is one of the most famous saint images in Texas. And maybe this candle will help heal and perform miracles.
What you have to look out for: Nothing, the Holy Virgin has got your back.
How this candle might help you: El Niño Fidencio is the guy to go to for healing the body and the mind. The image is based on a Mexican faith healer Jose Fidencio Sintora Constantino.
What you have to look out for: For whatever reason, the legend around El Nino Fidencio includes rumors about him being everything from an alcoholic, to being a closeted homosexual, to being a guy who never had sex.
How this candle might help you: If turning a profit in your business is as easy as lighting this purple candle and saying a prayer, then buy us a few dozen. This abundance candle has the power of attraction, as seen by the little magnets at the bottom.
What you have to look out for: Money drawing candles shouldn't take the place of, say, hard work and good decision making.
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How this candle might help you: If you need people to listen to you, for things to go your way once in a while, then the domination and control candle might be the one you're looking for.
What you have to look out for: The old saying, "What goes around comes around," applies here too. So watch out for retaliation.
How this candle might help you: Santisima Muerte, or St. Death has so many meanings. First, off this feminist folk saint is said to be the image of the Virgin Mary without skin. She's a "love magician" for some devotees and helps make sure lovers don't stray.
What you have to look out for: Don't get it twisted, this is also the goddess of death and helps people passing into the afterlife. Plus, there's that connection to the criminal underworld that she can't shed, bringing glory and riches to gun toting narcos.
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