Since two headless, hogtied goats turned up last week in the 2600 block of Sheridan Road SE and the Humane Society suggested the animals may have been slaughtered in an animal sacrifice ritual, City Desk decided to talk with someone who purports to have first-hand knowledge of such matters.

Meet Elaine Hall, who says she’s attended between 10 and 12 animal sacrifices in the District. Hall explains via email that she’s been practicing the religion of Santeria—a hybrid of Christian and African beliefs that sometimes incorporates animal offerings—for about 16 years. She’s currently a member of a local “Ile,” or Santeria house.

“I think that they were sacrificial animals, but I am not certain with which religion they are associated,” Hall says of the decapitated livestock found on Sheridan.

Though devotees of Santeria certainly could have given the goats up to the gods, Hall has a hard time believing the gory remains Humane Law Enforcement came across on Jan. 17 have anything to do with Santeria. Why? It was sloppy work.

“With the religion of Santeria, if an animal is destined to be ritually killed, it is believed that we— as humans—should be grateful to the animal, and it behooves us to treat the animal kindly and humanely before it dies for fear of offending the orishas [deities] and Olodumare [God].  Therefore, it is inappropriate to kill an animal that is bound (i.e. hog-tied), for one wants the animal to be offered of its own free will.” 

Another reason? “My first thought when I read that two decapitated goat bodies were found was ‘That’s weird! Why did they waste the meat?” Hall says goats killed during a Santeria ritual are typically eaten afterward.

Still, she says, “like every other religion, Santeria has its own fair share of those who are either ignorant, or lazy, or just plain callous….” So it’s possible the goats were left on the side of the road by a sub-par sacrificer.

In the name of ritual, Hall herself has dispensed with two chickens—something that was tough to do. She’s an animal lover, so “the actual killing part has never been easy for me.”

Of the animal sacrifices she’s attended in D.C., most involved the killing of poultry. But many Santeria ceremonies don’t involve a bloodletting at all, she explains, just “flowers, or candles, or fruits, or just intent prayer….”

That sort of ceremony would seem safer to conduct since, in the past, organizations like the ASPCA have clashed with Santeros over animal slayings. “Kill a flower and nobody notices; kill a chicken, and folks have a totally different reaction,” says Hall. “Unless the chicken is coated in the Colonel’s secret recipe.” 

Photo by dcJohn, Creative Commons Attribution License