Archive for the 'Before My Year' category


Oct 27 2012 Published by under Before My Year

Some of you have already heard this part, but I wanted to do a dedicated blog post with it, as well.

My original intent behind creating the podcast was to make a platform for sharing my experiences along the way with others. Sort of an audio journal… I wanted to share books I had read, news stories I had found, and stuff like that… I wanted to share just how interesting and beautiful the religion is, without all of the drama and distractions. Also, I wanted something where I could look back on it later down the road and see how far I’ve progressed.

Somehow, things slowly shifted, though. I started giving my opinion and even advice on things, as more people asked questions or as I ran out of things to share.

I’m not a priest or anything… There’s a lot I still don’t know. And a lot I still mix up or forget.

With that in mind, I’ve decided it’s a good time to take a break.

Once I make ocha, and if I have my godparents’ blessing to do so, I’ll pick this podcast up again and see if I can get a bit closer to my original goal.

Thanks to everyone who has helped me so far and I hope to see you all after ocha!

2 responses so far

Episode 021: Spirit Happens

May 20 2012 Published by under Before My Year, Podcasts


Spirit Happens

The topic of spirituality within the religion is something I’ve touched on in past episodes, but I’ve always been a bit hesitant about dedicating an entire podcast episode to it. Since I don’t really have any news stories to discuss or other topics to go over, I guess I’ll give it a shot…

Hitting The Books

Spirituality and the interpretation of how it’s defined seems to depend on who you ask. Largely, the practices I’ve been exposed to seem to either revolve around spiritism or at least were loosely based on it.

First, a quick primer….  According to Wikipedia, spiritism:

“…is a loose corpus of religious faiths having in common the general belief in the survival of a spirit after death. In a stricter sense, it is a religion whose beliefs and practices are based on the works of Allan Kardec and others.”

It goes on to explain the differences between spiritism and spiritualism. Though they are both similar, spiritism attempts to take on an almost scientific methodology to its practices and hypothesizes that the moral and intellectual differences among men can be explained through  reincarnation. Essentially, a more pure and enlightened person will result in a more pure and enlightened spirit.

Though I own all five of Kardec’s books, I can’t claim to have actually made it through them all. They were pretty mind-numbing, to be honest… In the 19th century, when this stuff was written, advances in science and medicine made some feel like there were very few mysteries that couldn’t be explained. That view seems to show up in spiritism as well.

One thing I hadn’t realized initially is that spiritism claims to be a Christian doctrine, since even though it has its own interpretations of the teachings of Jesus, it’s still based on those things.

When you get right down to it, even though spiritism is supposedly a big part of the religion, the only aspect that really seems to have been adopted were the parts relating to mediumship.

Finding A Happy Medium

In spiritism, it is thought that spirits communicate with us all. Some people aren’t aware of the communication, but the guidance of these spirits get classified as a hunch or intuition. Others, though, are not only aware of these communications, but are able to actively engage the spirits.

It seems as if the actual method of communication varies from medium to medium. There are those who see spirits, those who hear them out loud, those who hear them internally, those who interpret them through signs and visualizations, and probably there are even more ways and combinations.

My own experiences have all been internal conversations with only one experience I can recall that had a visual aspect to it.

I blogged about my first spiritual experience, if you feel like reading it. To be honest, it freaked me out. Something changed that night for me, though. I went from being someone who simply wanted to communicate with a spirit to someone who could.

While I did eventually have one more experience with that first spirit, the next one is what ultimately became what I’d consider to be my spirit guide.

I’d love to share the details of that initial experience with my spirit guide, but it was apparently exciting enough that I actually forgot to blog about it. Oops. Most likely, I emailed my godparents about it instead. I need to see if I still have that email somewhere… If I can find it, I’ll upload it to the blog. In any event, my godmother wanted me to get a better feel for the spirit, who she jokingly had nicknamed Mr. Warlock. I think that name came from my first misa, where I had been told that there was a dark spirit lingering about… or something like that… and that when the spirit had been alive, it had been into witchcraft and the occult.

Some of you might be listening to this and are thinking, “Well, that’s great for you. But how am I supposed to find my guide…?” I can share what worked for me, but I really have no idea what will work with you. My godmother said she’s been able to see spirits since she was a young girl and said it just came naturally to her. For me, I was nearly 28-years-old when I had my first experience and I just sort of stumbled my way through it all. Everyone is different, it seems.

In Good Spirits

I’ve always struggled with believing in things. Even as a child, I was like that.

I was a pretty young kid at the time, but I remember thinking that the story of the Tooth Fairy seemed unlikely. I decided to test it out. After losing a tooth, my parents told me to put my tooth under my pillow and there would be a reward from the Tooth Fairy in the morning. Instead of doing that, though, I put the tooth in my sock drawer. The next morning, I found money under my pillow. After retrieving the tooth from my sock drawer, I went out to show my parents and tell them about how my tooth must have somehow fallen on the floor during the night and wasn’t noticed until morning. With a confused look, I’d ask why the Tooth Fairy had given me money but didn’t take my tooth. I was told she must have made a mistake, so they asked me to put it under my pillow again. The next morning, the tooth was gone and I had a bit more money. I got away with this same scam during the loss of my next couple teeth, until they finally realized I was taking advantage of them. Still not wanting to admit defeat, though, they claimed that the Tooth Fairy told them that she wouldn’t leave any money for me if the tooth wasn’t under my pillow when she came to visit. Their ability to hold out and insist that the Tooth Fairy was real outlasted my ability to lose baby-teeth.

My attitude towards spirituality pretty much went the same way… It all seemed too unlikely and I was sure there was a way to either prove it or at least take advantage of it somehow.

Ultimately, I went for the latter of the two…

I read plenty of books, websites, and forums about spirituality. In the majority of the accounts, people seemed to fall in one of two main groups.

The first group consisted of the Lady Gaga spiritualists, who typically described themselves as being “born this way”. Since I had gone roughly three-decades without any sort of spiritual experience, I was fairly certain I wasn’t in this group.

The second group were full of the faithful and the devout. A lot of these people seemed to come from families who all believed in spirits and grew up assuming that spirits communicating with people was just a normal part of life. My family definitely wasn’t like that. I was raised to be logical and critical. Faith wasn’t really my thing….

The interesting thing about the “believers” is that it didn’t really seem to matter why they believed. So the way I looked at it, as long as I could come up with a process that made sense to me, I figured that would give me just as good of a shot as anything else.


You can read more about it in the original blog post, but my idea was pretty straightforward:

Rather than waiting around for my spirit guide to reveal itself, I could just make one. It’s a bit like playing pretend as a child. So I’m going to pretend I have a spirit guide. Now I just need to ask myself, “What’s it like? What’s it’s name?” and that sort of thing.

It’s actually quite simple. To some extent, I can just make stuff up as I go.

It sounds silly, but I think it’s actually pretty logical. If a spirit can add subtle influences to the way you think, it can help you come up with a “fake” that’s actually quite real. And on the other side of the spectrum, if spirits are attracted to certain thoughts and feelings, the very act of concentrating on the different aspects of the made-up spirit will attract similar spirits.

I went on to rationalize it even further, by adding:

Because I know I’m pretending, I can bypass my usual skeptical/rational side. When trying to believe in something, it’s hard to for me to not find all sorts of alternative explanations. This way, I’m just skipping right past it. Or maybe just doing things in reverse.

Ultimately, the methodology doesn’t matter. As long as it works for me, I can start moving forward spiritually and that’s what is important.

Obviously it worked for me. And it’s apparently not a new idea. I found at least one book on Amazon promoting a similar concept. The biggest difference is that its approach focuses on creating sigils and symbols and was all heavily integrated with more pagan-esque practices… while I went with more of an off-the-cuff approach that relied more on just visualizing details.

To do it right, tricking yourself is actually a lot harder than you might expect.

Is there another method or technique one of you would like to share? If so, leave a comment on the blog post for this episode, so the rest of us can hear it about it.

Lessons Learned

These are some basic things I’ve picked up while working with my muertos. Agree with it or not, but they’ve been true enough for me.

  1. Take what is said with a grain of salt. I remember a situation when someone’s muerto claimed something about me that was not true. Defending myself with, “Nuh-uh” wasn’t really going to do much good, so I just did my best to reaffirm my side of the story and let it play out. Some people hold their spirits as dearly as they would a family member — or maybe more so — because their spirit guide is always there for them. As protective as people sometimes are of their guide, I can’t help but wonder how if, in a similar way, these spirits are protective of their people. Do they get jealous? Do they ever tell the person what they think they want to hear? Who knows. But not even spirits can be everywhere at all times, so just keep that in mind.
  2. Names don’t matter much. Unless you’re trying to summon Cthulhu or something, it doesn’t seem like the name you refer to a spirit by holds much meaning. When I first posted the name of my spirit guide on my blog, my padrino cautioned me against it. He was afraid that if I posted too many details about my spirit, not-so-nice people might use that information against me. I wasn’t convinced and my muerto didn’t seem to care, so I figured, “Why not?” I’ve never had any issues because of it — at least not that I know of. In any event, names seem to be more for the benefit of the person more than the spirit. Instead of using a name to identify a spirit, it seems easier — at least for me — to go off of its feeling or presence. As long as the intent is there and you know who you’re trying to communicate with, you should be good to go.
  3. Respect your muertos. I recommended not blindly accepting what is said as truth, but you should still show respect. Whether it’s a spirit that’s with you for life or for only a few minutes, it likely has something to teach you. You just have to be open to it. On the opposite side of the spectrum, you don’t want to treat your spirits like a parlor-trick, to be called upon at birthday parties and bar-mitzvahs. When I first started learning about the religion, I read somewhere that, during divination, you shouldn’t ask questions that you already know the answers to. The same thing applies to working with spirits. There’s a fine line between receiving confirmation on something and using it as a Magic 8-Ball.

Chicken Or The Egg

I never did get a definitive answer to my question about whether we are shaped by the spirits around us or whether the spirits we attract are shaped by us. But I look at it similarly to the orisha who claims your head.

Up until you crown, your guardian orisha can change. You may start up with Shango ruling your head, but by the time you make ocha, it’s Obatala who claims you. Were you getting into more trouble when you were younger because of Shango’s influence? Or did your calm demeanor later in life make you better suited for Obatala?

I have no clue. But I don’t think it matters. The end result is that, by the end of things, you and the orisha are well suited for one another. I see no reason why muertos are any different.

Proper Care And Feeding Of Your Spirits

Whether you’re working on building up a connection with your spirits or you are at the point where you’ve already established a relationship with your spirits, the general consensus is you need to have an area for them.

This is different from your eggun shrine. Your eggun are your ancestors, but not all of your spirits are your ancestors. For many, there might not be any ancestors that are communicating with you. For those of you who don’t get along with your family members, well, maybe that’s a good thing, right? The important thing to remember is that eggun and muertos are different.

In the same way as an eggun shrine acts as an area to focus yourself on when honoring your ancestors, a boveda works the same way for your spirits.

A boveda can be as simple as a glass of water or a complex as multiple fishbowls.

The thing I love about the boveda, and — really — the spiritism aspect of the religion in general, is that it’s completely personalized. With religious ceremonies and things, there’s considered a right way and a wrong way to do things. But with this, you can really have some fun with it. Go with whatever feels right to you.

What I was told when I first started out is that the spirits will help guide your creation of their space. If you’re having a difficult time with it, perhaps you can try going to a misa and working it out that way. In the beginning especially, it’s easy to trip yourself up with self-doubt and a lack of certainty.

In addition to placing items with the boveda that make you feel more connected to your spirits, such as dolls, tarot cards, or trinkets, you can also try using items that represent things you want your spirits to help you with. If it feels like you lack direction in life, maybe a compass would help. If it feels like you are without options, perhaps a key will help unlock some doors for you. Just start small and get a feel for what works and what doesn’t.

As I said, everyone has their own preferences for how to approach things. When I work with my boveda, I usually stick to very minimal offerings. I make sure that the boveda is clean and full of fresh water and might light a candle or burn some incense. I like to keep it very low-key. Even though when I work with eggun, I have no problem offering food or liquor, somehow that just doesn’t seem right for my spirits. Just use your instincts. Maybe you’ll want to add perfume or fragrant oils to the boveda water or incorporate fresh flowers into it. Everyone does things their own way.

So… What Now?

What you do with your spirits is really up to you.

For me, I mostly just stick with some internal one-on-one every now and then if I have a decision I need to make or something I’m unsure of. I have a difficult time asking other people for help. Most of the time, I feel like I either already know what to do or at least can figure it out on my own. I view my muerto almost like a personal assistant, in a way. And I hope that doesn’t sound horrible. But I think it helps clarify the role we each have.

My muerto can be a sounding-board to run ideas by or can help give some piece of information that I might be missing, but I’m ultimately the one calling the shots. My muerto can quit at any time or put up with me and hope it leads to something better in the future. I feel like it’s a mutually-beneficial relationship, though.

As for misas, I never really got into that stuff, myself. But I’m also just not a big fan of people I don’t know. I’m sure if it was just with a couple close friends, I’d get more out of it. If you’re a bit more social than I am — and I’m sure most you probably are — maybe give it a try. Maybe you’re spirit can help someone else. Or maybe someone will help you better work with or understand your spirit.

That’s All, Folks!

I think I’m just about tapped out on things to talk about for this episode. I’m sure once it’s been uploaded and I relax for a little bit, some idea will pop into my mind about something else that would’ve been great to bring up…

But for now, I’ve got nothing.

If there’s something you feel like I missed or maybe you have your own experiences you’d like to share, go to and let me know.

Oh, and I know a lot of you were wondering whether I had made Ocha yet or not. Nope, not yet. I’m still slowly raising funds for it. This week, I got an extra twenty-bucks added to the pile, though. The donation was made by a pagan podcaster by the name of “Silver Shadow“.

Once I get done paying for all of this wedding stuff, I should finally have enough money set aside to get crowned and start living “La Vida Ocha”… or something like that. There’s a link on the site to donate some money, if you haven’t already. Even a contribution of a few dollars helps out.

Before I end this episode, I want to give a quick update…

My godfather and I had a long talk about this podcast and what — if any — benefit was coming out of it.

My original intent behind creating it was to make a platform, for sharing my experiences along the way with others. Sort of an audio journal of sorts. I wanted to share books I had read, news stories I had found, and stuff like that… I wanted to share just how interesting and beautiful the religion is, without all of the drama and distractions.

Somehow, things slowly shifted and I started giving my opinion and even advice on things.

I’m not a priest or anything… So there’s a lot I still don’t know. And a lot I still mix up or forget.

With that in mind, I think it’s a good time to take a break.

Once I make ocha, and if I have my godparents’ blessing to do so, I’ll pick this podcast up again and see if I can get a bit closer to my original goal.

Thanks to everyone who has helped me so far and I hope to see you all after ocha!

Maferefún eggun.
Maferefún orisha.

6 responses so far

Episode 020: Spring Cleaning

Apr 04 2012 Published by under Before My Year, Podcasts


It’s been a few months since I’ve done any podcasts.

Sorry about that.  Quite a bit has been going on.  I’m engaged now… (sorry ladies) but I want to get some stories out of the way before they get any older….

Here’s a quick round-up of news stories that have caught my attention over the past few months.


We started off the year with CBS News reporting in January on Santeria priests in Cuba rejecting doomsday predictions for 2012.

They do predict major changes for the year, but isn’t that pretty much what the prediction always is?

The article mentions that some believe that, according to the Mayan calendar, the world will end on December 21, 2012.  The thing is…  Scientists have already disputed these claims. The Mayan’s own Elder Council have spoken out against the misinterpretations of their calendar.  If folks still believe it, well, I’m not sure whether a few babalawos in Cuba will change their minds…


In February, there was some controversy about a 4-year-old in Georgia that had apparently suffered lacerations on her chest as the result of a Santeria ritual.  It definitely caught my attention.

The news articles I read from ABC claimed that the family practiced something called “Paulo” and the child received cuts on her chest as a result of a religious ceremony.

So, I mean, first off… No matter how you pronounce it, Palo is something I know next to nothing about.

But let me just play a small clip for you from a WSBTV news segment about the case.

Again, let’s just ignore the mangling of the name. I mean, the family could have just as easily practiced “Crispianity”, right?

This interview sort of rubbed me the wrong way…  I don’t know the details surrounding the girl or why this was done.  And, just like the writer of The Wild Hunt blog who commented on the incident, I don’t know if it’s commonplace in Palo and just something I don’t normally hear about.

It all brings me back to a topic that I just can’t seem to escape from….

Santeria originally came from slaves who had to hide their religion under the guise of Catholicism.  I’ve never read anything about them actually believing that not only did Olodumare create everything but also that Christ died for our sins.

This idea that you have to punish yourself as a way of proving your belief is not something that came from Africa…  The idea that you need to be surrounded by crosses did not come from Africa….

I try to be diplomatic about things, because all of us have our own views, we approach the religion from a different angle, whatever…. But this type of stuff is just a bastardization of the religion. It’s taking two completely separate practices (three, if you add Palo into the mix) and trying to treat them like a single one.  Instead of having a single strong religion, you end up with something diluted and impotent.

Maybe I’m missing something here….  Is it just that traditions have slowly been blending over time and people really do think that going to a Santeria drumming on Saturday and then confessing their sins at a church on Sunday is all part of the same religion?  I just don’t get it.

If you have some experiences to share or can shed some light on how things got this way, I’d love for you to share them in the comments.


Next up, there was a case mentioned on a Lehigh Valley news site involving a dead chicken found in a box, along with some popcorn, apples, oranges, potatoes, coins, and some red and white candles.

According to Miguel De La Torre, who has been interviewed about similar cases in the past, the box’s discovery at an intersection, the red candles, and the coins made him to think of Elegua.  But the oranges and potatoes made him think of Inle.  So… who knows.

He suggested that it might be an offering for help with a medical problem and the person might be seeking to open the paths to healing.  He goes on to compare the offering to something local residents might have an easier time relating to. He says:

“I’m assuming that the folks in that county once a year, get their own fowl, say a turkey, and then offer it in thanks to their deity for all the blessings of the year.  They call that Thanksgiving.”

I appreciate what he is trying to do here, but the big issue that a lot of folks seem to have really isn’t about a chicken being slaughtered.

Look beyond the fanatics who are talking about the worship of false gods. Ignore the racist comments about how this stuff is ruining America.

Once you get past all of that, the general discontent from folks seems to be that these things are simply left to rot in a public place.

Ok, now, that I get.

One public place that I really wish people would avoid leaving remains are cemeteries. If it comes out in a reading that you need to do that, well, that’s between you and the orisha. I’m not saying no one ever should do it. I’m sure there are plenty of people who have less of an issue with it than I do, but I feel like it should only be done when you have to.


In Pennsylvania, around the same time as those other news stories, there was a large dumping of animal remains in a cemetery in Berks County.

You really have to see the pictures to believe it, but there were dozens of trash bags scattered throughout the cemetery, containing what the experts claimed were ritually slaughtered chickens.

My first reaction was discomfort at the idea of leaving offerings for the orisha in plastic trash bags.

My next reaction was a thought something along the lines of, “Wait… what…? Dozens of bags?  That is a lot of freakin’ chicken remains!

Another article about the incident quoted Dylan Heckart, a Human Society employee, who said that it did not look like the result of animal fighting and it seemed consistent with ritual practices related to Santeria or Palo Mayombe.

I’m curious how he came to that conclusion.

No mention was made of anything other than animal remains being in the bags.  No candles, coins, candy, or the usual stuff you might expect to hear listed.

I find it hard to believe that this is the result of a religious ceremony, though.  It seems more likely that this was the result of illegal dumping from a butcher shop or farm than from anything Santeria-related.


Another blown-out-of-proportion news story that takes place in — you guessed it — a cemetery. A visitor to Lincoln Memorial Park in Miami discovered a tomb of an very young child had been cracked open.  She peered into the grave and said that the body was there, but not the head.

She is quoted in the article as saying, “That is not godly.”


Both the visitor and the cemetery’s owner, Ellen Johnson, apparently believe that the vandals used the bones for Santeria rituals.

The article mentions that the graves are extremely old and no longer have name plates.  I’m sure that, yes, there probably are some misguided folks who would steal stuff like that from a tomb.  But isn’t it more likely that the head was simply destroyed when the tomb fell apart?


Since some visitors to the site and listeners of the podcast might practice a tradition which does use bones, keep in mind that you can buy that stuff online. There are sites like where you can get a finger-bone for about $10, a femur for $250, or pretty much whatever else your needs and budget dictate.  While sites like these might seem pricey, they are far cheaper than jail time…. As for animal remains, there are plenty of sites for that stuff — eBay, Etsy, whatever.


In March, the biggest story seemed to be the discovery of the attempted smuggling of two human fetuses.  According to the Miami Herald, the fetuses were transported in a sealed jar from Cuba into the U.S. by a pair of elderly women.  After the contents of the jar were discovered, the women explained that a babalawo in Havana had given the jar to them and asked that it be delivered to someone in Miami.  A medical examiner determined that both fetuses — one male and one female — were close to 20-weeks of age and both had been stillborn.  The women claimed that hadn’t known what was in the jar and were not charged with any crimes.  Aside from the jar supposedly being given to the women by a babalawo, there seem to be uncited  speculations that it was meant to be used in some sort of religious ceremony.


There was a great article posted earlier this week by Beth Winegarner about the way journalists should approach news stories about Santeria and other practices.  The entire article is worth reading, but her advice essentially boils down to:

  1. Don’t take what police or other sources say at face value

  2. Find & interview real experts

  3. Write carefully, with attention to relevant details

At The Wild Hunt blog, an additional rule was suggested. It was more for the group being written about than for the ones doing the writing, but it still is worth sharing:

  1. Pagan and other minority religion groups need to take a proactive stance with media outlets, and create their own media as well, if they want to be treated fairly.

I know some of you actively engage the media because I see many of the same faces (or at least names and icons) in the comment section of news stories about santeria.  For those of you who go a step further and have had experience educating law enforcement officers, the press, or whatever, post a comment and share your experiences.  It might help give others an idea of how they can help, too.


I apologize again for the time in between episodes, but life gets in the way sometimes. Since this episode was filled up with news articles and not much else, feel free to leave a comment here on the blog, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or whatever and let me know what topics you’d like discussed next time.

Until then…

Maferefún eggun.
Maferefún orisha.

4 responses so far

Gentle Nudge

Nov 27 2011 Published by under Before My Year

The orisha leave me with both a profound appreciation and a sense of amusement.

I had some music on in the background… I wanted something with a bit of a beat to it, but nothing overly distracting. I chose a station with a mix of light techno and ambient music.

As I was trying getting some work done, I found myself repeatedly losing focus and looking over at what was playing.

It was by a group I had never heard of named “Bullitnuts” (Sounds classy, right?). The song was called “Rhesus Perplexus”.

It took me a while to figure out what was nagging at me.

Every now and then, that song had what sounded like a call-and-response from some Ocha music mixed in with the beats.

Very cool. I love when seemingly-random stuff like that happens :)

2 responses so far


Oct 21 2011 Published by under Before My Year

I’ve never been a big fan of being told I can’t do something. That’s exactly what prohibitions in the Letter of the Year are about, though…

One time, there was a prohibition against wearing red shirts. Lucky for me, I almost never wear that color. I prefer blues, greens, and more subtle earth-tones. It was a mild annoyance at times, though, when I’m out of clothes and my only option is to wear a red shirt or toss on something wrinkled that was stuffed in a corner somewhere…

Still, it wasn’t anything too bad.

There hasn’t been anything in there yet that I wasn’t able to give up… at least for a year. But I worry sometimes about my Ita, once I make ocha.

I’m already a bit annoyed that I won’t be able to eat pumpkin once I crown Oshun. Not that I eat a lot of it right now, but at least I have the option.

With my luck, my Ita will probabily specifically say, “No Mountain Dew”… Ok, maybe not, but I’m sure there will be something on there that I’m not going to want to give up.

So what happens if you go against a prohibition?

Well, lightning won’t strike you down dead — at least not usually.

It isn’t about punishment for disobeying some arbitrary rules.

In a way, prohibitions are sort of like their own form of Ebo. You sacrifice eating/drinking something specific, performing a certain action, etc. Doing so helps you avoid certain issues. That’s the way I view it, at least.

I’m usually pretty good about doing ebos and adhering to prohibitions, but I’d like to share with you a recent incident where I wasn’t so well-behaved…

They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach and I believe it… Every once and a while, I take a break from home-cooked meals and go out to eat. Whether it’s escargot, rack of lamb, or a nice juicy steak, I know how to treat my taste-buds right. Unfortunately, one of the foods listed as a no-go this year is one that I find hard to resist…

Not seeing any other options that seemed more appealing than this forbidden food, I went ahead and ordered it. I figured, what’s the harm, right?

The food was great and the night went by without an issue.

The next day, though, while backing out of a parking space in my 3-month-old car, someone else was backing up at the same time. We were both in the others’ blind-spot and our vehicles gave one another a nice little “love tap”. Since we were going at a fairly slow speed and hit the brakes as soon as it happened, the damage was minimal. My bumper got dented in a bit and some of the paint was scraped off. The other woman’s car apparently had similarly minor issues and drove off. I got an estimate to fix the damage and it’s about $500-600.

Was this the indirect result of me ignoring the prohibition? Maybe. Maybe not.

No matter how tasty the food was, it certainly wasn’t worth the cost of repairs to the car, though.

I think, next time, I’ll just have a salad :)

2 responses so far

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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Mercury In Retrograde

May 18 2011 Published by under Before My Year

A recent New York Times article focuses on the topic of the ritual usage of Mercury.

I’ve never seen it used, myself, but I don’t doubt there are folks who have used it in their practices.

I can understand why the EPA is concerned about the issue, but I doubt their warnings and restrictions will do much to affect its usage in the religion.

Also, the cases mentioned in the article mostly sounded like issues of people not cleaning up properly… Especially in the case of the young child who had absorbed a lot of the mercury, it’s no different than any other dangerous substance. What if there had been rat-poison, broken glass, etc. lying on the ground? Would there be some warning about the dangers of these items?

A lot of attention is given to the public’s unawareness of its danger, but I don’t buy that… People know it’s bad news… That’s why you don’t see it at the front of the botanica next to a sign saying, “Mercury! 30% Off!”

If you use mercury, be safe about it. Use gloves. Don’t let it touch your skin. Just use common sense. Or, better yet, find something safer to use instead.

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Pigeon Poop

May 17 2011 Published by under Before My Year

As is often the case, just after I publish the next podcast, I find an interesting story to comment on…

This one goes back to that “Kudo” guy, from an earlier episode.

It seems to come from Ernesto Pichardo, but I’m hoping that — somehow — this was a joke, taken out of context, or something like that…

Watch it for yourself and see what I mean.

I mentioned it in the podcast and I’ll say it again… People need to consider how their words and actions will be perceived by the public…

Kudo accused the Santeria community of being involved with the slaughter of horses, puppies, and all sorts of stuff.

Rather than addressing those claims, Pichardo decided to focus on uncovering Kudo’s “dark secret” about being involved in Real Estate… He was also criticized for focusing on illegal slaughterhouses instead of focusing on things like pigeons and their poop.


This scares me — especially since Pichardo is such a public figure associated with the religion.

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