Card: El Altar / The Altar
Numerical Value: 7
Astronomical Symbol: Uranus
Depiction: In the Tarot de la Santa Muerte, "El Altar" depicts the white cloaked Santa Muerte upon a wheeled altar. The altar is ornate and adorned with offerings which travel with the altar as it moves. The top of the altar depicts a tapestry of stars that hang above Santa Muerte. At the base of the altar, one wheel is white and the other is black. In the background appears the outline of a city. White clouds hang in the sky above, and a flock of birds is visible in the top left of the card.
Symbolism: El Altar represents granted miracles, victory, and the determination to succeed. When Santa Muerte devotees are faced with particularly serious or urgent problems, some will promise Santa Muerte to erect a public altar (as opposed to a private or hidden altar) in exchange for the miracle. Building and maintaining a public altar can become a full time job, so it is not a promise taken lightly and one generally reserved for the most serious of petitions. With that being said, the sight of the Santa Muerte altar on this card - as well as the sight of such an altar in real life - is a symbol of a granted miracle and victory over an obstacle. It also represents the determination of will to succeed by the devotee, who makes and keeps the promise to erect the altar. The white cloak worn by the Santa Muerte on this card represents protection and general blessings.
The tapestry of stars at the top of the altar represents the Santa Muerte's connection to the spiritual realm or heavens. The white wheel and black wheel on which El Altar is perched represent the Santa Muerte's station between the world of the living and the world of the dead, and therefore her power over death to effect change in the real world.
Visible at the front of the altar are various offerings typically found on Santa Muerte altars - like lit candles, incense, and flowers. The symbolism of offerings here represent the devotion to Santa Muerte which allows her to be petitioned by devotees - as well as the determination of her devotees to have their petitions heard.
White clouds, like the ones at the top of the image, are symbols of peace and hope, and a sign of what's to come from the granted miracle or victory represented by the card. The four birds flying in the sky over the Santa Muerte are symbols of communication and a sign that prayers and petitions have been heard.
The city imagery in the background of this card shows that the altar depicted is actually outside of the city - away from the trappings of materialism. This is an important symbol for this card because it shows that one must be removed from materialism, from sometimes obsessive attachment to the physical world, in order to receive blessings and miracles from Santa Muerte. This doesn't mean that one has to abandon wealth and leave the city in order to successfully work with Santa Muerte, only that one must not be so attached to the physical world that they become blind to the power of the spiritual.
In a reading upright, this card represents a victory followed by a period of peace and hope - a positive outcome following a period of prayers and petitions. Whatever a person might be hoping for, rest assured that if confidence and self determination continue as they are, the outcome will be positive.
In reverse, El Altar represents loss or defeat. In the absence of an actual loss or defeat, this card can also represent feelings of impending loss or defeat - as if there's no hope because there is no altar at which to pray. When no actual loss or defeat has been expereinced, this card serves as a warning that negative thoughts and emotions need to be checked because they very well may lead to a type of self fulfilling prophecy. A person's own negativity about a situation may be the thing that knocks the altar over.
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