Expert: Goat decapitations likely a prank

Mon, Aug 11, 2008


Apparently, we need “experts” outside of our traditions to tell the authorities about us, what we do and when we’re safe. This article is about a professor that is dispelling a rumor that a recent goat beheading was involving Santeria or Palo.

I suppose we should be grateful the professor got involved, but all I can think is “and who are? and why are you speaking on behalf?”


Expert: Goat decapitations likely a prank

African religions do not call for discarding dead animals in public places, says Dr. Eoghan C. Ballard
Daily News

People have a tendency to fear the unknown.

That’s what one scholar of African-based religions believes is the case with the local goat decapitations.

First, there were whispers the headless goats were being along local streets as some sort of pagan ritual. Now, rumors are surfacing of Santeria and Palo Mayombe involvement in the beheadings.

“It is far more likely, even in Florida, that such activity is caused by teenagers looking for thrills or some disturbed individual, than from any Afro-diasporic religious activity,” Dr. Eoghan C. Ballard, an expert on Afro-diasporic studies, said in an e-mail.

Ballard said that “paleros,” or Congo priests, are very discreet in their practices and prefer not to call attention to themselves. Authentic Palo practices require little in the way of sacrifice. Most sacrifices are used for celebratory meals.

“From my experience, both in the U.S. and in Cuba, there are no discernable reasons for a Palero to leave a decapitated goat head on a city street,” Ballard said.

Ballard is a professor who did his doctoral research on Central African religions in the Americas at the University of Pennsylvania.

When paleros do sacrifice animals, they do it to feed their “nganga,” or ritual vessel. Ballard said there only is one form of nganga that would be fed a goat, and the head of the animal would most likely be placed in a religious temple, not on a street. Also, Ballard said it is very unlikely that someone would be feeding the only nganga that “eats” a goat more than one or two times a year.

In all of his experience, goats used as sacrifices have also been eaten at festivals, he added.

The only animal to be disposed of away from a temple would be a rooster or hen used to treat someone with a serious illness, Ballard said. Even then, it would be done in a way that a casual passerby would not see it.

“Of course, it is completely possible that somebody with little substantive idea of these traditions is attempting to imitate it,” Ballard said.

Ballard dispelled theories suggesting Santeria or Palo spells. He said when paleros use spells that require an item to be placed somewhere, it is usually small, inconspicuous and intentionally unidentifiable.

As for the azaleas and plants that have been found in the animals’ mouths, Ballard said azaleas have no specific meaning in Palo, although goats or rams are often given straw or grass to eat before they are sacrificed.

“I suspect this is either a game someone is playing, or the work of another disturbed individual,” Ballard said. “There’s nothing in Palo that would justify doing this.”

Daily News Staff Writer Robbyn Brooks can be reached at 863-1111, Ext. 1445.

Source: NWFDailyNews

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1 Comments For This Post

  1. Margot Says:

    Since you don’t know who he is, what makes you assume he’s outside your tradition? I do know who he is, and he’s not outside – he’s actually both inside, and a scholar. That made him a pretty good choice as a spokesperson, I should think. :)

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