La Tributa (TheTribute)
An important practice for La Santisima in the system I learned is La Tributa, the tribute. The purpose of la tributa is to gain the attention of La Muerte for a specific purpose or working, as well as to provide her with an offering at the threshold of her home, the cemetery. This should be done when you begin with Santisima, especially if you wish to know if she will assist you in spiritual workings rather than simply accepting you as a devotee.
Obtain an unglazed earthenware vase or pot. If the only thing you can find is a planter, then seal the bottom drain hole as it needs to hold water. At least a day before you perform the ceremony of la tributa paint a white skull on the vase/pot and let it dry. You’ll also need six white roses, seven dimes, water, holy water, and siete machos cologne. Remove any thorns and leaves from the roses.
When it’s time, gather everything together in front of your Santisima altar. Say the opening prayers, including asking God’s permission to call upon La Muerte. Talk to La Madrina as you place the roses into the vase/pot, add the water, add three drops of holy water (“In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit”), sprinkle in some siete machos, and add the seven dimes. When this is complete, tell Santisima that you are leaving to take her tributa to her home and to meet you there to receive it. Close with three Our Fathers, and then immediately take the tributa to a cemetery and place it in the gateway, neither completely inside the cemetery nor out of it. Talk to Santisima about the reason you’re doing this, and when you’re finished thank her, stand up, turn and leave, but do not look back.
If you give her a tributa asking for her help, make sure that when she does it you give her a manda as payment, along with anything else you may have promised her.
La Santisima Muerte is one of the more recent manifestations of Death, and unlike other spiritual beings who may be from the Underworld, over the spirits of the dead, or guardians of the cemetery, Santisima brings with her an almost overwhelming energy that those who work with her frequently must be protected from. There is a traditional safeguard for this called the Amparo. The most common type of amparo calls upon St. Michael the Archangel, although a person could call on another saint that has military and protective characteristics, such as St. George or St. James.
To make an amparo with St. Michael, get two St. Michael prayer cards and place them back to back. Seal up the sides and bottom with tape, glue, or by sewing them, thereby making a small packet. Then go in front of a St. Michael image or statue and pray. Say 1 Our Father, 3 Hail Marys, 1 Glory Be, and say the St. Michael prayer. Ask St. Michael to be your protection as you work with La Santisima Muerte. Write your name on a small piece of brown paper and place this inside the prayer card packet. Then place some hair from your head and some nail clippings inside. Drop a few drops of Holy Water inside and blow some cigar smoke into the packet. Seal up the top of the packet, closing it off completely, and baptize it in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit using Holy Water. Then place it between your hands and pray the St. Michael prayer over it. Offer St. Michael some cigar smoke and a strong spirit, such as rum or tequila. Close with 1 Our Father.
Keep this amparo under St. Michael's image or statue so he continues to protect you. Keep it hidden so no one else sees it. Every now and again bring it out and say the prayers again while holding it between your hands.
Amparo with St. Michael the Archangel, photo by Nick Arnoldi.
The Manda of Candles
When La Santisima Muerte answers your prayer, completes a work, or does something big for you, it is traditional to offer her a payment, or manda. One of the ways this can be done is a manda by candles. You take the statue that you worked with or the one who held the petition and place her on a safe, fireproof surface. Place an incense burner next to her with a charoal for burning incense and have some white copal incense ready. Surround the statue and incense burner in a circle of twelve 6 inch taper candles, 4 white, 4 red, and 4 black, in an alternating sequence. Light the charcoal, place the copal on it, and light the candles. Say the opening prayers, and give your thanks to Santisima. Tell her how wonderful she is and that this manda is the payment for her work. Say the closing prayers and let the candles burn all the way down. Once it's done, replace the statue on her altar, and put any left-over wax in a small brown paper bag, along with 7 dimes, and take it to the cemetery.
The photo I've attached is an example of the candle manda, done by Hechicero Nick.
Manda of candles, photo by Nick Arnoldi.