Archive for: July, 2011

Episode 019: Florida Fun

Jul 30 2011 Published by under Before My Year, Podcasts


Here’s a few news stories for you that all come out of Florida.  It seems like there’s always something interesting going on around here….

Tampa Tribute:

According to the St. Petersburg Times, a cardboard box filled with headless animals was discovered early Wednesday outside the Falkenburg Road Jail — just a week after a cow’s tongue riddled with nails was left in a box near the courthouse. Authorities say they are investigating whether there is a link between the two incidents.

The first incident didn’t get a whole lot of press when it first happened.  A box was found near the parking lot for the county courthouse.  The bomb squad was called to check the box for explosives and they ended up finding the tongue, instead, studded with nearly a hundred nails.

The more recent incident involved another box, found near the front entrance of the Falkenburg Road Jail, containing the headless remains of a small white goat, two baby chicks, two roosters, and a dove.

These articles would be a pretty boring without the so-called “experts” coming out of the woodwork to give their two-cents on the matter.

One speculator was Mercedes Cros Sandoval, a retired anthropology professor and “Santeria expert” at Miami-Dade College.  She said that the box of animals might be part of a voodoo ritual or just an individual acting on his own.  For the nail-covered tongue, she suggested that it could be a ritual offering to Ogun or simply for keeping someones mouth shut.

Next is Mozella Mitchell, chairwoman of religious studies at the University of South Florida.  She is quoted as saying that leaving headless carcasses at the jail “is not a legitimate practice. It’s a prank.”  There is also a bit more attributed to her, that seems to be perpetuating the idea that the animals sacrificed are almost always eaten afterwards. Listen, folks, no matter how many times that line gets said, no one is going to think of Santeria as just one big religious barbecue or something.  At best, they are probably going to imagine a chicken or rooster getting its head cut off. So let’s just be honest here, alright?  Sometimes the animals are eaten.  Sometimes they aren’t.

Maybe it’s just me, but it feels like the people who quickly jump to the “they are usually eaten” line of defense are usually the same people who have either only heard second-hand about what goes on or maybe they choose to remain on the outside and just want to “observe”, so they only get invited to events that are likely to be viewed in a more positive light.  I’m not sure.

Lastly, there a clip on YouTube from ABC Action News about this story.  You get to hear a bit more from Dr. Mitchell’s interview.  She says that the findings appear to be related to witchcraft and that “It’s the act of some crazed mind — a person who is out of their head,” and that, “It’s a twisted, distorted mind that does something like that.”  Thankfully, there’s no people like that listening to this podcast, right?  None of you would be crazed and distorted enough to leave animal remains somewhere, right?  …I thought so.

Suspicious Shrine:

Speaking of crazy and distorted…. WFTV had a pretty interesting news story that took place at a Bank of America in Orlando.  According to the article and news clip, an employee discovered a suspicious device at the entrance to the bank.  If you just leave it at that, it makes sense that the bomb squad was called and a SWAT team evacuated everyone and closed down nearby roads while they secured the area.

The thing is, though, this “device” apparently consisted of a cross, corn husks, avocado, lemons, money, and pictures… and there were open beer cans lying nearby. Instead of closing down the area and bringing in bomb-diffusing robots, maybe they could have just been on the lookout for someone nearby that is both very religious and very hung over…?  Just a thought.  Look, I get people are a bit sensitive to potential risks and all of that, but… c’mon…!  Was this seriously considered a threat?

Deputies are mentioned in the article as saying that this is a shrine and is most likely related to Santeria.

I’ve heard of making a shrine to pay homage to eggun, to orisha, or whatever.  Most of the time, that’s done in your house or something. Maybe I missed the memo, you guys… but I don’t recall ever hearing about that stuff needing to be done in front of a public building.  It’s not that I think it’s impossible that this is related to the religion — but I do think it’s more likely that this is the action of someone doing things on their own rather than being told to do it by their godparent or through a divination.  This just seems a lot more like something someone might do because they wanted attention or simply because they were very intoxicated.

Miami Monster:

News articles have been cropping up all over recently regarding the arrest of 46-year-old Raul Armenteros, who is now facing 22-counts of animal cruelty.  Miami police were contacted after receiving a report about what sounded like a baby crying from within a parked vehicle.

Instead of a baby, though, officers found four goats, eight roosters, four pigeons, four guinea hens, and a duck.  A few news sources, even large ones like Huffington Post, reported guinea pigs in the list of animals, but I have a feeling that might be a misunderstanding by the reporter and they were actually guinea hens.  My usual rule of thumb is, if it’s something the general public would have as a pet, it probably is not something sacrificed in the religion…  One headline, from the Miami Herald, made it sound like there were 22 goats…  Sometimes it’s difficult to tell whether it’s more the result of bad writing or bad journalism.  I was able to get the actual animal count after finding a copy of the arrest report online.  I love the internet sometimes.

According to police, Raul and another man were said to be responsible for the vehicle and its contents.  The men admitted to being santeros and said that the animals were going to be used for religious purposes.  They are being held on $110,000 bond each.

The reason why this story seemed to get so much traction is being Raul Armenteros is a bit of a celebrity, for his involvement in the adult films series “Bang Bus”, where he’s known by the name “Ramon” or sometimes “The Monster”. ….Yikes.

When I hear stories like this, about people being arrested for possible animal cruelty charges in relation to animals being sacrificed, my first reaction to the story usually sticks with me.  I typically feel like the person might not have done things ideally but that people need to just chill out a bit.

With this story, the more details I read, the more my opinion began to change… The first thing that got me was the time involved for someone to hear the goats, call the police, for the police to arrive and investigate, and then at least another 45-minutes for the two guys to actually show up again.  Especially with the heat lately here in Florida, that’s just way too long to leave these animals alone in a vehicle.  Secondly, the police report mentioned that the goats were tied up and each were kept in plastic bags. I can understand needing to limit their movements or whatever while they are in the van, but — I agree with the police — this just sounds cruel.

If these animals were indeed meant to be sacrificed, they should have been treated with more respect.

Final Thoughts:

The underlying issue with all of these is on the public visibility of things in the religion that should remain private.

If you’re leaving ebos or offerings somewhere, either on your own or in response to a divination session, it should be put somewhere that it won’t be discovered. It might be difficult to do.  It might even require driving a little further out of your way or walking off the beaten path a bit, but it’s something you should take seriously and do with the utmost respect — both for the religion and for the public at large.

Secrecy is still a big part of the religion.  Even though people talk more openly about it and there are even blogs and podcasts — like this one — which deal with some general topics, it’s still not something that everyone needs or wants to be exposed to.

People just need to be more creative with their disposals.  If you have to leave it somewhere and don’t have the option of just bringing it somewhere and then throwing it away afterward, you need to leave it somewhere that isn’t going to lead to angry police or bomb squad calls.

The same goes to the handling and transporting animals prior to a sacrifice.  Carrying birds by their feet or wings — especially in public — is a great way to get stopped by an officer who might view it as animal cruelty.  Try carrying the bird upright and in your arm like you would a pet.  You might get a few weird looks, but it should save you from getting hassled.

And, of course, if you see animals prior to a ceremony getting left in a hot car or being mistreated, speak up.  If nothing else, it’s also a great way to meet porn stars, apparently…

Maferefún eggun.
Maferefún orisha.

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iPad Ifa

Jul 28 2011 Published by under Before My Year

A short article from Boston University’s “BU Today” site caught my eye while looking through religious news stories.

Onaje Woodbine has developed an iOS app that allows Apple iPhones and iPads to run an application the mimics the throwing of the chain for Ifa divination.  By simulating various throws, users of the app can quiz themselves on the verses associated with it.  It’s essentially a high-tech version of flash-cards.

The application seems to have received criticism from some in the community, who feel like it reveals too much.  Personally, I don’t see an issue… All of the verses and things are widely available in books already.  This just provides a way of easily accessing the information through a phone or tablet.  Just because other people have already made information available doesn’t mean it’s right, though, and I get that… but I still don’t think it’s going to be that big of a deal.

To put it in simpler terms, think about throwing Obi.  Even if you explain to someone how Obi works, unless they have the ache and know what they are doing, it’s simply a handful of coconut pieces scattered on the ground — any sort of divination they do through it is based on pure luck at best.

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Clarity in Clearfield

Jul 05 2011 Published by under Before My Year

The case against Roberto Casillas-Corrales has finally been dropped.

For those of you who might not remember the case, this was the guy who was charged with desecration of a human body, after law enforcement officials discovered two human skulls in addition to various animal remains.

My guess is that the case was so entrenched in religious rights issues that they probably didn’t feel like it was worth the hassle pursuing.

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