While in many cases chromolithographs depict a female soul, many other figures such as popes and other men are commonly depicted in chromolithographs, sculptures and paintings.In the most commonly known image of the Anima Sola, a woman is depicted as breaking free from her chains in a dungeon setting surrounded by flames, representing purgatory.
In lieu of praying to a saint who then appeals to God, the Anima Sola represents souls in purgatory who require the assistance both of the living and the divine to ameliorate their infernal sufferings.
The Anima Sola is common throughout much of the Catholic world, though is perhaps strongest in Naples, where it is referred to as "the cult of the souls in Purgatory." In Latin America, one source reports, the Anima Sola is "a belief still deeply rooted in the mass of the campesinos.
Based on Roman Catholic votive statues (but now a standardized chromolithograph), this image is particularly popular in Latin American magical traditions.
It depicts a woman standing amidst flames, eternally burning yet never consumed.
Another interpretation is that the sacred figures most frequently invoked include the "Lonely Soul" [Anima Sola], who requires prayers because of her predicament; San Silvestre, magical because of the date of his feast day; and Santa Elena and San Onofre.
In Santería or Lukumi, the Afro-Caribbean religion of Cuba, there is a syncretization of the Anima Sola with the Eshu Alleguana.The Eshus are the Divine Messengers, the Tricksters, The Masters of the Roads and the Doors that are necessary for all prayers to reach their intended point.Eshu Allegwanna, one Eshu among hundreds, is thought to be the oldest of the Eshus, and to have existed on the Earth since a primordial time long before not only people, but before many of the gods of the religion, existed in the world.The devotion dates from the first colonizers, who probably brought the image in which the soul is represented as a woman suffering torments in purgatory with chains binding her hands.A legend concerning the 'thirst of Christ', about which Scripture seems to say nothing, passes from mouth to mouth: They say that in Jerusalem, there were women who gave drink to those who were being crucified.She gazes upwards, holding her chained hands towards heaven.