Satanism, Santeria, or Sensationalism?


Is a torched chicken Satanic? Photo by Flickr user adactio.

Step 1: Patrol the local cemetery at night.

Step 2: Find a patch of burned ground.

Step 3: Find a dead, burned chicken.

Step 4: Find an empty bottle of cologne nearby.

Step 5: Conclude Satanism is involved.

Wow. Do they teach this stuff in the police academy?

Honestly, I’m still trying to wrap my head around this particular bit of deductive reasoning. Maybe the fact that this incident took place near Halloween is what set the police officer’s Satan-radar off; I’m not sure. The article is much less about the actual incident in question and more about a string of supposedly Santeria-related activities involving everything from dead animals to human skulls and, er, coconuts.

Because, of course, a bunch of police guesswork is the same thing as proof of an “upswing of occult activity in Bridgeport, much of it related to voodoo or Santeria.”

Unfortunately, one thing it doesn’t include is any information from actual Santeria practitioners, or Satanists for that matter, to discuss such things as a) their actual religious/spiritual practices, b) whether those practices routinely involve harming animals, and c) how these groups feel being mistaken for each other. (Try calling a Catholic a Mormon sometime, or vice versa. After all, they both believe in Jesus, right? Just try. See what happens.)

As I’ve said here before, Satanists rarely, if ever, practice animal sacrifice. Those who do harm animals under the banner of Satanism probably aren’t dedicated practitioners, but dabblers who don’t know what they’re doing, and are following horror movies or misguided web sites or books — they aren’t the real deal.

Santeria does, at times, involve animal sacrifice — and, by the way, it’s protected under the Constitution after a 1993 Supreme Court vote. It’s part of the religion, practiced rarely and carefully, and shouldn’t be touted as ooky-spooky “occult” ritual and certainly not “Satanic.” However, it’s hard to say whether these particular incidences in Connecticut were the work of a devoted Santerian, since I’ve been told that just leaving animals lying around — or, in this case, leaving one of them alive and half-burned, isn’t considered a respectful part of their religious practice.

In other words, it’s wrong to peg such acts on a particular faith without a much deeper knowledge of the incident in question, and who perpetrated it. Right now, all they’re doing is making Satanists and Santerians look bad, and that’s not right.

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