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The Matamoros Affair

To: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.religion.orisha,alt.satanism
From: nagasiva@luckymojo.com (dreadcomber)
Subject: The Matamoros Affair (was Palo Mayombe: The 'Dark Side' of Santeria?...)
Date: Thu, 10 Aug 2000 21:54:59 GMT

50000810 Vom

[reconstructed from a variety of parts in this thread]

E. C. Ballard:
>>> ...the matamoros affair....
>>> Adolfo Constanzo claimed many things, but the fact remains that he 
>>> borrowed ideas from a number of traditions and perverted them to his 
>>> own murderous ends. He was neither practicing anything approaching 
>>> palo nor was he a validly initiated palero. 

richard sprigg :
>> The information gathered by the FBI suggests otherwise.
>> His initiator was accepted as a bona-fide palero by the 
>> Cuban community.

is this disputed? it seems to be one of the more important aspects
of the data discussed.

>> That these should indulge in post-hoc damage control is understandable,
>> though it might be more credible had they done so while Adolfo was still
>> alive.   

agreed. hindsight is wonderful, but does not replace responsibility.

>>> He was simply a madman and a criminal.
>>
>> Which is an easy way to sidestep the issue. The vastly amusing part 
>> of the whole affair was that the media circus branded him as a 
>> Satanist, which he certainly was not. 

depends on how you define the term ("satanist"). some Christians will 
label anything which contains elements of their satanism-egregore
(i.e. worship of non-Christian god or spirit, animal sacrifice, 
nonChristian symbolism and iconography, ritual violence) as "satanism"
regardless of the cultural components or context from which it 
derives. African-diaspora religious have at times taken up Christian
iconography for the purpose of survival in reaction to precisely
this kind of demonization. 

solitary religious sociopaths are prone to eclectic combination, 
sociopaths within religious traditions tend to have unusual 
'visions' or cosmological 'discoveries' which serve as their 
justification for their violence, by my (limited) assessment. 

as long as Satanism has its "independents" then should an 
individual identify as such it becomes difficult to know more
than whether someone belongs to a Satanist organization and
what kinds of activities they engaged. 

whether the Matamoros killings were "satanic" seems to depend upon 
who is doing the reporting. I see this kind of thing in the media 
all the time (even in court records): ambiguous characterizations,
oblique references to the egregore mentioned above, etc. with
regard to Matamoros I have a couple of sources. one of them is 
my wife (sri catyananda, catherine yronwode), who says that she 
does not remember Satanism being part of the newspaper accounts 
when she was researching the matter for the True Crime Trading 
Cards that she was editing and publishing. instead her memory
is that the focus was on Santeria and what Santerians said 
about Palo. 

my other source is Gary Provost and his "Across the Border: 
The True Story of the Satanic Cult Killings in Matamoros,
Mexico", published by Pocket (True Crime) Books in 1989. 
it is a competent criminological narrative drawing from 
interviews with law enforcement, academic figures, and 
family members associated with the case and newspaper 
accounts available at the time -- one major flaw in the 
book's content is his occasional references to Migene 
Gozalez-Wippler's book on Santeria as a reference source,
which may be excusable based on the fact that hers was
apparently one of the only commonly-available sources on 
the subject in English available at that time.

Provost indicates in the title and first few pages that 
Satanism is ascribed some relation to the crimes, but 
later discusses only Santera and Palo Mayombe. thus his 
usage of 'Satanic' and 'Satanism' (page 11) seem merely 
to be sensationalistic.

Provost quotes the following sources regarding the
the religious elements surrounding the killings:

	...the rites appeared to be some imported Afro-
	Carribean tradition, something like Santeria,
	but not really Santeria, because that religion
	does not practice human sacrifice. More likely,
	what went on in secret over in Matamoros was part
	of Santeria's dark co-tradition of Palo Mayombe,
	and an abberrant form of it at that. Especially
	characteristic of Palo Mayombe was the evil
	cauldron, or nganga, that had been found. The
	nganga is the powerhouse of the mayombero, or
	Palo Mayombe priest.

	[testimony by Dr. Tony Zavaleta, Professor of
	 Anthropology, Southmost Texas College; City
	 Commissioner, Brownsville, Texas]
	----------------------------------------------
	"Across the Border", Provost, p. 17.
	______________________________________________	

this gives the indication, especially when combined with the
testimony that Constanzo, the leader of the cult which
perpetrated the killings, was sent by his mother at the age
of 14 "to study Palo Mayombe under the tutelage of a mayombero" 
that he was a part of this community.

	[concerning Oggun, to whom Provost claims there
	 is some evidence Constanzo was dedicated.]

	He eats dogs and is the patron of ironworkers.
	Before going to war, the Yorubas used to sacrifice
	to him a human victim or a black dog.

	[and]

	The mayombero waits until the moon is propitious,
	and then he goes to a cemetery with an assistant.
	Once there, he sprinkles rum in the form of a
	cross over a prechosen grave. The grave is
	opened, and the head, toes, the fingers, the
	ribs, and the tibias of the corpse are removed.
	These graves are chosen ahead of time, and the
	mayombero usually knows the identity of the
	cadaver, which is known as a kiyumba. They are
	usually recent graves, as the mayombero insists
	on having a head in which the brain is still
	present, however decayed. He believes that the
	brain of the kiyumba can think and thus 'act'
	better. The choice kiyumbas are those belonging
	to very violent persons, especially those of
	criminals and of the insane, for the purposes
	of the mayombery are generally to commit acts
	of death and destruction. The bodies of white
	persons are also greatly favored, as the
	mayombero believes that the brain of the white
	person is easier to influence than that of a
	black man and that it will follow instructions
	better.

	[Provost notes that an occult supply house in
	 Pennsylvania which supplies human body parts,
	 such that grave robbery need not be involved.]
	 	
	[Gozalez-Wippler from her book "Santeria: African
	 Magic in Latin America", Crown, 1973.]
	--------------------------------------------------
	Ibid., p. 114, 119-20.
	_______________________

any truth to these quotes? the latter appears related 
because ngangas ("cauldrons" for which Gonzalez-Wippler
was describing a recipe) were found at the crime scene.

	Because Santeria does not address a specific
	moral code as in the Judeo-Christian tradition,
	it is frequently found in association with
	criminal activities. Drug dealers, for example,
	not infrequently have elaborate statues and other
	depictions of Santeria in their homes, and Ochosi
	(god of hunting and owner of traps) is propitiated
	and honored among some criminal and socially
	deviant groups to avoid incarceration or obtain
	release from jail. Hence, Santeria, while
	predominantly a white or neutral magic religion,
	does have a component of malevolent sorcery and
	is invoked by criminal elements. This should not
	be construed, however, to suggest that Santeria
	promotes malevolent or criminal activities, but
	that it may simply be used by such persons to
	promote their already established intentions.

	[and]
	
	Because of the acculturative and syncretic
	processes which took place over several centuries,
	the rituals and myths of Palo Mayombe are
	frequently associated with the practitioners of
	Santeria. Indeed, many santeros claim they have
	also been "Rayado en Palo" {initiated into the
	Palo Mayombe cult}. Religious paraphernalia typical
	of Santeria and those characteristic of Palo
	Mayombe may be found in the same home, but in
	different locatinos of the residence. Despite the
	historical and symbolic associations with Santeria,
	Palo Mayombe has certain distinguishing features.
	Most importantly, the myths and rituals of Palo
	Mayombe are centered about the spirit of the dead
	(kiyumba). In most instances, the magic is used to
	inflict misfortune (insanity, divorce, etc.) or
	death upon an enemy or the enemy of a client.

	[and]

	In contrast to Santeria, which is predominantly
	used for good or neutral purposes, Palo Mayombe
	is primarily oriented towards malevolent sorcery.
	While many depictions and symbols in Palo Mayombe
	appear identical to Santeria, devotion to
	*brujeria*, the use of human remains, and other
	features distinguish this cult from other African-
	Caribbean religions.

	[from the "Journal of the Florida Medical
	 Association", August, 1983), authors Charles
	 Wetli, deputy chief medical examiner for
	 Dade County and professor of pathology at
	 the University of Miami and Rafael Martinez,
	 administrative officer of the Dade-Miami
	 Criminal Justice Council; Provost claims that
	 "both men are nationally recognized experts
	 on Afro-Caribbean religions. (After the bodies
	 were found in Matamoros, Texas law enforcement
	 agencies considered the credentials of thirty
	 experts around the country. Martinez was the
	 man they chose to help them with their
	 investigation.)"]
	------------------------------------------------------
	 Ibid., pp. 110-1, 115-6.
	_____________________________

any reason to discredit these sources?

	It's not correct to say that Palo Mayombe is the
	dark side of Santeria. Santeria has a dark side if
	the santero chooses, and it is perceived to be just
	as powerful as Palo. All African religions can be
	used for good or evil. Most of the paleros are good,
	law-abiding people. This Constanzo thing takes
	place thousands of miles away from Miami. There are
	over five thousand paleros in Miami, and they have
	never seen anything like this. Certainly some
	paleros are linked with drugs or illegal activity,
	if you are living on the margin, you are going to
	seek protection more than anybody else, and you
	can't go to a Catholic church to pray for
	protection tonight for a shipload of cocaine. You
	can't go to the priest and tell him that I am in
	love with my best friend's wife and I want to see
	how I can get her over to my place. But that
	doesn't mean that all paleros are evil. How come
	with five thousand paleros in Miami, this man
	Constanzo couldn't even get a following in Miami?

	[and]

	Constanzo was a sociopath and he would have murdered
	people even if he was a Methodist.

	[Terasita Pedraza, a professor of sociology and
	 anthropology at Florida International University,
	 and an expert on Santeria and Palo Mayombe]
	---------------------------------------------------
	 Ibid., 117-8, 120-1.
	______________________

this seems to make a case for the possibility of someone
turning toward crime at least within Santeria and Palo
Mayombe religious traditions. whether physical violence 
to humans might once have been involved in Afro-
Caribbean magic seems very unusual at least, and, if the
sources above indicating it are incorrect (e.g. Gonzalez-
Wippler), possibly fictitious.

>> He may well have used bits and pieces of other traditions, 
>> but he was certainly also using Palo methods extensively.

this appears to be the case, from Provost's sources, moreso
than that what Eoghan has claimed below.

eballard@sas.upenn.edu (E. C. Ballard):
> ...the man heard about various religions and borrowed 
> scraps from many and then added his own mad murderous part. 

this seems extreme, though I would agree with Eoghan when 
he characterizes it as 

> ...regrettable because it doesn't really have anything to 
> do with the normal practice of any religion.

Richard's point was NOT that it had something to do with
"normal" practice of religion (one might say the same of 
any sociopath who *is* a participant within an extant
religious tradition who takes it to violence -- this was
Professor Pedraza's point about Methodism). his point
was that Constanzo appears to have been initiated by
a mayombero or someone who posed as such. Constanzo's
mother claimed to be a santero and provided Constanzo
with an initiation into Santeria, but there was no 
evidence that she went through the training. unless we 
were able to identify by whom Constanzo was trained in
Palo (or clearly able to falsify the story about the 
training), other indicators are that he was closer than 
just some syncretic poser.

> A madman can claim anything for his basis. Like Rasputan 
> however, he has only his madness to blame. 

we're not talking about blame here. we're talking about
actually identifying the individual's relation to the
religious culture in question. when a Satanist commits a 
murder nobody is helped by attempting to distance the
individual from Satanism. it is far better to identify
how what they did matches up with the religion of which
they are part and identify the normal practices which
constitute the standard from which they were an anomaly.

> In this, as everyone other than the most sensationalist 
> "journalists" have already made clear, this man was not 
> a legitimate follower or practitioner of any religion. 

would training have made him "legitimate"? otherwise,
what disqualifies one who has been trained as a palero
from being considered "a legitimate follower" of either 
Santeria or of Palo Mayombe? I'm not asking in order to 
pick on anyone here, I'm trying to get a better sense of 
what criteria are used to "authorize" practitioners and 
see why you are making the claims that you are. thanks.
 
> Bottom line, Palo and Ocha are like any other responsible
> modern religion in condemning murder and abuse. 

this much appears to be very true, and I hope that anyone
contributing to the thread understands it. amongst the
variety of religions, however, there do appear to be
differing notions of what "abuse" includes. it is quite
clear that physical violence is considered 'abuse' within
both these traditions. the line does appear to be more
ambiguous when it comes to other illegal activities (such
as the purchase or sale of controlled substances).

if you dispute this I'd like to know why and on what basis
the sources presented by Provost are found wanting. thanks.

dreadcomber
-- 
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E. C. Ballard wrote:

> First of all, no serious student of academic or practical interest in
> either Ocha or Palo will say anything flattering about Wippler, at 
> least not once the half hour laughter fest is over. 

Well said, and agreed. 
> 
> Secondly, Palo is not evil nor dark. 

Agreed, in principle. 

> That particular discourse came out of
> a combination of the political motives of certain Yoruban derived
> religious leaders who wished to level the playing field by accusing 
> the Congo derived religious groups of sorcery while maintaining that 
> they were strictly devotional practitioners 

Emphatically agreed!

> and the Webberian notions of scholars
> such as Bastide who believed so firm a line could be drawn between 
> magical practices and religion that a practitioner of one could not 
> be a participant in the other. 

This is a new argument to me, but i consider it one that is equally
applied to other religions (e.g. Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism)and can
be easily dismissed by examining the historical record. 

> Neither of these views are accurate or are
> viewed seriously by much of anyone other than the writers for the 
> National Enquirer.

Here i think you are going overborad, Eoghan. Gary Provost is hardly a
writer for the National Enquirer. His book on the Matamoros killings was
admittedly compiled from an outsider's point of view, but he is a
respectable jouranilst and he consulted witnesses, survivors, government
prosecutors, anthropologists, and published sources -- and cited them
adequately throughout his book. His standards are certainly above those
of a tabloid journalist.  

> As for what the "Cuban" community thought about the man purported to 
> have initiated him, all of this was in Mexico. mexico is not Cuba and 
> my experience has been that what passes for reputable Palo in places 
> like Mexico City and even California are so mixed with Mexican 
> traditions as to not be in any realistic way traditional Palo. 

Okay, your paragraph above indicates that you are actually less familiar
with the Matamoros case than i had thought. 

To bring you up to speed -- Adolfo Constanzo, the "padrino" of this
group of Paleros, was not a Mexican at all. He did not receive
initiations in Santeria or Palo in Mexico City or California. He was
from Miami, where his Cuban-born mother, Aurora COnstanzo, was a
practicing Santeria in the Miami Cuban community (and had a minor
criminal history of her own). The only reason Constanzo was in Mexico
was that his business (drug smuggling) took him there. 

For the most part, his followers were Mexicans and American Latinos who
were part of his drug-smuggling operation and he initiated them into
Palo Mayombe. However, for the benefit of his girlfriend, who claimed to
be too sensitive to even witness the sacrifice of roosters, he also
practiced a modified form of Santeria Cristiana. 

> Besides, who was the so quoted "Cuban community"? There are plenty of 
> Cubans outside of Palo even in places like Habana who would be unable 
> to judge accurately whether someone were a validly initated palero or 
> not.

I understand what you are saying, but, in fact, this is a point that one
of Provost's informants, Terasita Pedraza, the professor of sociology
and anthropology, made preceisely! Let me re-insert that quotation, if i
may -- and now, knowing that Constanzo was the Spanish-speaking son of a
Cuban-born Santero, Aurora Constanzo, and that he was also was said to
have been initiated in Palo in Miami, the professor's references to
"Miami" will make much more sense to you, i think: 

        It's not correct to say that Palo Mayombe is the
        dark side of Santeria. Santeria has a dark side if
        the santero chooses, and it is perceived to be just
        as powerful as Palo. All African religions can be
        used for good or evil. Most of the paleros are good,
        law-abiding people. This Constanzo thing takes
        place thousands of miles away from Miami. There are
        over five thousand paleros in Miami, and they have
        never seen anything like this. Certainly some
        paleros are linked with drugs or illegal activity,
        if you are living on the margin, you are going to
        seek protection more than anybody else, and you
        can't go to a Catholic church to pray for
        protection tonight for a shipload of cocaine. You
        can't go to the priest and tell him that I am in
        love with my best friend's wife and I want to see
        how I can get her over to my place. But that
        doesn't mean that all paleros are evil. How come
        with five thousand paleros in Miami, this man
        Constanzo couldn't even get a following in Miami?

        [and]

        Constanzo was a sociopath and he would have murdered
        people even if he was a Methodist.

        [Terasita Pedraza, a professor of sociology and
         anthropology at Florida International University,
         and an expert on Santeria and Palo Mayombe]
        ---------------------------------------------------
         Ibid., 117-8, 120-1.
        ______________________

Now do you see her point? She was saying that although Constanzo was
indeed a Palero from Miami, he was not respected enough in the large
Miami-Cuban palero community to gain a following there, and, as a
sociopath, he might just as well have been a Methodist for all the
validity of a link between his religion and his actions.  

This, to me, seems a far more effective defense of Palo than to claim
that Constanzo got some weird ideas about Palo in Mexico or California
or that he learned about Palo from dabbling in books. 

By the way, Constanzo retained some connection to the Santeria religion
practiced by his mother after adopting Palo -- and this is brought
forward in an interview with his Mexican-born assistant Sara Aldrete,
who at the time of the killings was an American college student at Texas
Southmost University. (I use the term "assistant" advisedly --
Constanzo, who was gay, mainly used her for drug-smuggling across the
Texas-Mexico border.) 

     A. I don't believe in any of that [human sacrifice]. 
     I am in the religion Santeria Cristiana [Christian 
     Santeria]. Adolfo initiated me last year. I was 
     still learning about it and he was showing me all 
     these things, and he gave me some saints that I 
     have in my house, Saint Francis, Saint Barbara, 
     and the Virgin of Charity, and the Holy Child, 
     and some others. I really am very confused about 
     all this. The other part of my religion is Palo 
     Mayombe. I didn't love Aldolfo, but I followed him. 
     I feel terrible about all that has happened. 

     ... People don't know that I am a vegetarian, that 
     I am opposed to killing animals. They don't know 
     that I belonged to the animal defense league, that 
     the one thing I could never accept about the 
     Santeria Cristiana is that you are supposed to 
     sacrifice roosters. 

     Q. How did you learn about Santeria Cristiana?

     A. Alfonso taught me. [She calls Adolfo "Alfonso."] 
     And I was fascinated by it. It is a religion that 
     does not interfere with your being a Catholic, only 
     the difference is that you can worship the saints in 
     your home. Build your own altar. You leave little 
     bits of fruits for offerings, but Alfonso also said 
     you had to sacrifice a rooster, and I would not go 
     along wih that." 

     Police-supervised press interview with Sara Aldrete, 
     May 7, 1989.

        ---------------------------------------------------
         Ibid., 227-229.
        ______________________

I find it intriguing that even while distncing herself from animal
sacrifice, Aldrete frankly told interviewers that her "other religion"
(besides Catholicism and Santeria Cristiana") was Palo Mayombe.   

> Lastly, Palo is not Yoruba or "santer├a" 

I think Provost deals adequately with this, stating it much as you did,
and also quoting Professor Teresita Pedraza as noted above ("It's not
correct to say that Palo Mayombe is the dark side of Santeria") and
Charles Wetli, deputy chief medical examiner for Dade County and
professor of pathology at the University of Miami and Rafael Martinez,
administrative officer of the Dade-Miami Criminal Justice Council
("Despite the historical and symbolic associations with Santeria, Palo
Mayombe has certain distinguishing features"). Also, to be fair, these
events took place in 1989 -- and to this date no book on Palo exists in
English, as you well know. 

> and although Paleros will use 
> the names of Orichas such as Ogun or Chango as referents, especially 
> for outsiders who are not familiar with the Congo traditions, Ogun is 
> a Yoruba deity or Oricha. He is sometimes equated with Sarabanda, a 
> Congo Enkise or deity, but they are not the same.

Provost also notes, in a section of the book not quoted earlier, that
Constanzo was devoted to Zarabanda, and he also quotes a Santerian
source who then identifies Zarabanda losely with Ogun. 

> Neither Palo nor Santeria sacrifice humans at any time. That is pure 
> rubbish. 

Is it HISTORICALLY rubbish? Apparently Constanzo believed that the
spirits of the dead would work more assiduously in his favour if he
killed them personally, and he seemed to believe -- rightly or wrongly
-- that human sacrfice had historical precedents in Palo.

He particularly offered Palo to people with troubled pasts as a form of
powerful religious protection. Interviews with other members of his
group indicate that he performed a cutting ceremony on them as part of
the initiation and that their reason for joining was FAITH-based, not a
matter of thrill-seeking: 

For instance, Serafin Hernandez Garcia, a 20 year old Texas-born
American citizen who led a double life as a college student at Texas
Southmost University, where he was studying to be a police officer, and
as a member of a family that earned its income from farming marijuana in
Mexico and transporting it to the Unoited States. When Serafino's
grandfather Saul, the head of the family, was murdered, family tensions
escalated to the point that Serafin joined the Constanzo drug-smuggling
operation. He believed that the Palo rrituals Constanzo performed on his
behalf would make him both invisible to the police and, should they see
him, render him invulnerable to their bullets. (Ibid. 59-69) 

Constanzo's rituals of protection took the form of Palo initiations, as
evidenced by an excerpt from an interview with the Mexican gang-member
Alvaro de Leon, known as El Duby:

     Q. Why did you join the sect?

     A. Because I had a problem in Matamoros. I had 
     killed a person there, and in the ritual I met 
     some of the people who could help me. 

     Q. How did it happen?

     A. Well, we went into this little temple, a little 
     house [a large farm shed -- cat], and we stood around 
     and we saw the padrino place a body in a cauldron.

     Q. Why was that done?

     A. Because Adolfo said it would go better for us in 
     the future. He said that we would receive protection.

     [...]

     Q. How were you initiated?

     A. I joined and got this blessing so I would have better 
     protection and they marked me... 

        ---------------------------------------------------
     Police-supervised press interview with El Duby, 
     May 7, 1989.

        ---------------------------------------------------
         Ibid., 227-229.
        ______________________

Maria del Rocio Cuevas Guerra, a 43 years old native of Mexico who
practiced brujeria, said, "I was having a run of bad luck, so I went to
him. He made some marks on my backs and killed some chickens." (Ibid.
225)

In addition, an AP/Wide World photo in t==Provost's book shows a police
commandant exposing the cut-marks on Elio Herndandez's shoulder, "made
by Adolfo Constanzo." Elio Hernandez, the uncle or Serafin Hernandez
Garcia, was 23 years old, an American citizen born in Brownsville,
Texas, and co-owner of the ranch in Matamoros where the killings took
place. He was also the childhood friend and former lover of Sara
Aldrete. 

        ---------------------------------------------------

Regarding the markings:

     Police also found Constanzo's diary, wherein  
     he ranked the members of his cult. He was  
     the "padrino" (godfather). [Omar Francisco] 
     Orea was "palero mayor" (greatest or main 
     palero, or follower of Palo Mayombe). Others 
     were simply "palero." Some were "rayado" 
     (marked with an arrow on their body) or 
     "no rayado." 

        ---------------------------------------------------
         Ibid., 210.
        ______________________


The first gang members arrested referred to Constanzo both as "El
Padrino" and as "tata nkisis." 

> I can call myself a Buddhist,
> but frankly having a poster I bought at a head shop and burning 
> Japanese incense isn't going to make me one. 

Now, Eoghan, i know you are angry about this topic, but take a look at
the facts. Constanzo did not buy a book by Whippler that called Palo
"the dark side of Santeria" and then set about killing people. He was
offering a faith-based magical form of protection, mostly to Mexicans
and Mexican-Americans who were ignorant of Palo, who called him "The
Cuban" to distinguish him from themselves, and who believed that he
could help them. As far as the testimony of gang members went, they did
not perform the killings themselves and they certainly did not engage in
alleged "satanic" activities such as drinking blood or eating flesh --
in each case El Padrino performed the ritual murder, the requisite body
parts were taken from the victim and placed in the nganga, and the rest
of the body was buried.  

> The so-called experts in this case
> could not have read their way through any serious study of these
> traditions let alone have met any real practitioners. The continued
> discussion of matamoras serves only the purposes of those who wish to
> discredit African derived religions on any pretext they can find. 
> Anyone who knows even the simplest amount about the living tradition 
> will not take it seriously in that context.

On the contrary, i believe that the Matamoros case served to give many
Santeros a reason to distinguish their religion from media-fueled ideas
of "satanism" and that if Paleros were equally savvy and less defensive
they could admit that, yes, Constanzo was a sociopathic cult-leader --
but it just so happened that he was also a Palero. In this case,
protesting "too much" makes the defenders of Palo seem a bit dishonest.
Claims that Constanzo was ignorant of Palo or that he learned it in
Mexico, or that he got it from books do not serve the purpose of
isolating him from main-stream Palo Mayombe because they can be so
easily disputed.  

> It does deserve to be taken seriously as both a tragic event and as a
> stinging indictment of institutionalized ignorance and outright racism 
> - both against hispanics and people of African origins.

That statement i cannot agree with, Eoghan. The police and prosecutors
in this case WERE Hispanics, as you ought to know, and although they
went to great lengths to distance "the Cuban" and his religion from
their own local form of folk-magical religion, curandismo, they did not
make any racist remarks that i have seen. Charges of "satanism" and
"voodoo" made as the case first broke in the United States were early
dispersed, as were charges that the rituals, occuring as they did in
Mexico, were a form of "Aztec human sacrifice." Provost's book deals
with all of these media mis-statements and presents a fairly balanced
case for the fact that Constanzo was to Palo what Jim Jones (of the
Jonestown massacre) was to Christianity. 

Finally, in reading Provost's account of the Matamoros murders, what
stuck in my mind most strongly was not the fact that a renegade
Cuan-American Palero had ritually killed a series of Mexicans and
Americans in order to provide protection for members of his smuggling
operation -- it was that Juan Benitez, the commandant of the Matamors
branch of the Federal Judicial Police and the officer who arrested most
of the gang members, personally hired a curandero to ritually cleanse
the crime scene shortly after the bodies were removed. This the
curandero and his assistent did by performing traditional limpias,
consulting with a white dove in a box, and then standing by as a group
of devout curandismo-believing Federales burned the Palo nganga shed and
all its evidence to the ground before the trial started -- the whole
ritual witnessed by Tony Zavaleta, the anthropology professor from Texas
Southmost University.

cat yronwode 

Hoodoo in Theory and Practice -- http://www.luckymojo.com/hoodoo.html

No personal e-mail, please; just catch me in usenet; i read it daily. 

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E. C. Ballard wrote:
> 
> Cat, I was responding not to the larger case but the particular 
> comments. The quote you introduced is quite far from that of the 
> earlier piece I was commenting on. The sociologist you mention 
> (Pedraza)  is from Miami, Zavaleta is the one who refers to Palo as 
> the evil side of santeria and specifically mentions the "evil nganga".

Yes, Professor Tony Zavaleta's specialty is Tex-Mex curandismo, which is
rather on the "white light" or "spiritual" side of folk-magical
practices, as you probably know. He is also the one who actually
attended the ritual cleansing of the crime scene when the investigating
officer hired a curandero to perform limpias there and then burned the
site to the ground. Obviously Zavaleta is not informed well about Palo,
and he takes a negative attitude towrd it. Remember, though, on his
behalf -- these were HIS OWN STUDENTS who were bign killed and
participating in the killings. He was a littlwe too close for comfort to
take an objective viewpoint, i think. 

>  As for my remarks about Mexican Palo, the 
> comments in the Matamoros case support my point. This man would
> not have been doing what he did in the Cuban community, just as 
> Pedraza remarked. Also, I was trying to point out exactly what Pedraza 
> did when he remarked that the man would have been a killer even if he 
> was a Methodist.

I think, then, that yoiu did not go far enough -- because it is obvious
from the interviews that the Mexicans and Mexican-Americans involved in
Constanzo's version of Palo had NOTHING to compare it with. It was
entirely outside their experience. They revered him because he was
wealthy, a successful smuggler, and he could put the fix in for them --
and when he told them his powers came from a "Cuban" religion they'd
never heard of, they joined up. 

> Costanzo was from Miami, not Cuba. The fact that his mother was Cuban 
> born does not make him (or her for that matter) automatically 
> authentic. In any case, the issue is less what his origins were than 
> what he was doing. The sacrifice of human beings is not now nor ever 
> has been a part of Palo nor, with a nod to John, Santer╠a. Remember 
> that these two traditions are Cuban. In the context of this 
> discussion, what may have been practiced in the 19th century or 
> earlier in various parts of Africa really are comparing apples and 
> oranges.

Yes, i understand your point that *Cuban* Santeria and Palo Mayombe do
not engage human sacrifice. But, respectfully, i think that Constanzo
was applying to what he believed was a "purer" or more "historically
correct" form of Afican traditional religion. To put it in a neutral
context, if that is permissible, he was a radical restorationist,  

> What is relevant is to emphasize that what he was doing automatically
> would have placed him outside the pale for any serious palero or for 
> that matter follower of Ocha. A fact that often gets lost in these 
> kinds of discussions is that these are family traditions. They exist 
> and are practiced in a family context. They are not abberant "cults" 
> even if they seem exotic to the average American.

I agree. I did not bother to quote much from Provost's book about Adolfo
Constanzo's mother, Aurora Constanzo, but it seems that interviews with
her neighbors and associates revealed that she was considered to be a
"black witch" or practitioner of malevolent magic and was feared. She
was, like her son, a petty criminal, as well. It is not known whether
she ever practiced human sacrifice (she would not admit to such a thing,
if she did, which is unlikely), but she did sacrifice goats, chickens
and the like. 

> While I have read references to human sacrifice in 19th century 
> Nigeria and earlier - it is worth noting that the accounts come from 
> very dubious sources - the competition (ie missionaries). There is no 
> record of the Kongolese performing human sacrifice as a part of 
> regular religious ritual, even as far back as the 1400's when the 
> Portuguese first had contacts with them.
> 
> The Kongolese often (although not always) killed in the context of 
> royal inaugurations and at funerals in the period prior to the 18th 
> century, but these were more public and royal events than they were 
> religious rituals of the sort you would find in any modern religious 
> context.

But they did use body parts and graveyard dirt of the dead for magical
purposes, correct? 

> Lastly Cat, forgive me - I do not mean to sound rude,  but please read 
> my post a little more carefully. I was not refering to any officials 
> in the case when I made the remark about racism. I was refering 
> specifically (as I stated) to the intentions of those who continue to 
> bring up a very old and atypical court case to condemn an entire 
> tradition that Constanzo was clearly acting outside of.  I realize in 
> rereading that my phrasing might have led to some confusion for which 
> I appologize. Saying "The so-called experts in this case" may have led 
> you to think I meant in the court case when I might have better 
> written "in this instance" refering to the quote of the Texas 
> Anthropolgist  who from his remarks (posted by Dreadcomber), clearly 
> was not at all accurately informed about Palo, or chose to take a
> very unprofessional stance in this context.

I understand. But, in my defense, you did refer to 

> > > institutionalized ignorance and outright racism 
> > > - both against hispanics and people of African origins.

-- which was what i was objecting to, since almost EVERYONE involved,
including the American citizens, was Hispanic. (One victim and one US
police officer involved in the case were Anglos.) 

> It's late and I'm tired, so I will sign out. I hope I have clarified 
> my comments and the position I was making. I don't believe that if you 
> reread my remarks, you will find that they are really at odds with the 
> facts of the case.

Yes, you certainly have -- and i agree that your statement that Cuban
Santeria and Cuban Palo Mayombe do not include human sacrifice was worth
clarifying. No one is contesting that Constanzo was abberrent; i think
we all agree on that! 

cat yronwode 

Hoodoo in Theory and Practice -- http://www.luckymojo.com/hoodoo.html

No personal e-mail, please; just catch me in usenet; i read it daily. 

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   Send e-mail with your street address to catalogue@luckymojo.com
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OmiJuba wrote:
> 
> Yes Cat, I think Ogun would be a perfect example unto whom a human 
> sacrifice would be made. Another Orisha would be Babalu-Aye. 

> No, I do not believe that ALL the Orisha would be on the relieving 
> end. Orishas  like Ochun, Obatala and Yemaya no, but Olokun yes. 
> Orishas like Ogun, Chango, Oya, Ochosi and Eleggua, I can definitely 
> see  them relishing in human sacrifice, because it is in their nature.
> 
> This is my personal beliefs, I am not trying to "convert" anyone or 
> change your traditions so please, do not send me any hate mail, I had 
> enough over the last few days...LoL

Thanks. You have confirmed what i was thinking, that Coinstanzo was not
operating out of ignorance but by traditional paradigms. 

In this context, it is interesting to note that although Constanzo
himself was dedicated to Ogun / Zarabanda, he gave Sara Aldrete, the
soft-hearted Mexican-American college student who was a vegetarian and
did not want to even sacrifice roosters, a set of Santeria Cristiana
statues for her own use that related to other Orishas entirely, and
helped her set up an altar to these Orishas. 

In her interview, Aldrete said that he had brought her statues of Santa
Barbara (Chango), The Virgin of Charity / Caridad del Cobre (Oshun), The
Holy Child / Nino Atocha (Ellegua), and Saint Francis. I don't know of
any association between Saint Francis and an Orisha, but Aldrete
belonged to the Animal Welfare League and so Constanzo probably selected
Francis for her because of the saint's connection with the love of
animals. (If there is an Orisha connected to Saint Francis, please let
me know, okay?)

cat yronwode 

Hoodoo in Theory and Practice -- http://www.luckymojo.com/hoodoo.html

No personal e-mail, please; just catch me in usenet; i read it daily. 

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and receive our free 32 page catalogue of hoodoo supplies and amulets

This post copyright (c) 2000 catherine yronwode. All rights reserved.

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Sometimes Eleggua is associated with St. Francis but I think the reason that
maybe she had his statue was more because of St. Francis's relationship with
the animals and maybe she thought that by worshiping and making offerings to
St. Francis, he would intercede for her with the Santos and she would be
given special permission to avoid sacrificing animals.
I personally don't see how anyone who is opposed to animal sacrifice can be
involved in Santeria. Afterall it's a necessary part of our worship. That's
like being a Catholic but not believing in the Blessed Sacraments. It goes
hand in hand.
I believe that Coinstanzo was so involved with Ogun that he naturally
offered a human out of devotion. This treads in the role of a sorcerer, not
really a santero. Even though I am a santero, I would consider myself more
of a sorcerer as well, because of the type of magickal arts I practice. The
Orisha will tell you what they want to grant your needs and desires.
Remember...
Powerful medicine takes powerful ingredients...

-OmiJuba

Please come join us in the discussion of Santeria, Vodoun, Palo Mayombe,
Candomble and the many other traditions of the Caribbean dispora.
Follow this link to the "Caribbean Magic" list.
http://www.egroups.com/group/CaribbeanMagic



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Sfrthomas wrote:
> 
"John M. Hansen" jmhansen@erols.com wrote: 
> >
> 
> (( cuts ))
> 
> 
> >        The person who performs a human sacrifice must have the
> >'Right of the Knife,' and also be approved by divination through Ifa
> >for that particular sacrifice.   The rest of the rules are too
> >complex to type here, and I would probably be revealing some of the
> >'Secrets of the Santeros' if I did.
> >
> >    However, it is woth noting that the first five catagories of
> >'choice,' or 'very acceptable' human sacrifices include those who
> >voulenter to be sacrificed, from (1) priests who voulenter to be
> >sacrificed to the Orisha of their head to (5) slaves purchased from
> >miscelanious contributions who voulenter to be sacrificed.
> 
> Very interesting information. I am not privy to secret teachings 
> involving human sacrifice. However, I find it telling that in both 
> examples you cite, the sacrifice must be voluntary on the part of the 
> victim. Common-sense tells me that if it's not voluntary, it's not a 
> proper sacrifice; in fact, it would be murder. The book by J. Olumide 
> Lucas, "The religion of the Yorubas", which I cited in a previous 
> post, contains some discussion on the subject. From what I recall, the 
> victims would always be volunteers, although Lucas questions just
> how voluntary certain of the victims really are. For example, he 
> relates a category of victim who would be young women raised in the 
> Oba's palace expressly to become a sacrificial victim. They reportedly 
> would go willingly and indeed exultantly to their fate, but Lucas 
> ascribes it to "brainwashing".
>
> The Hindu practice of sati, in which a widow is expected to throw 
> herself on her dead husband's funeral pyre, is also attributed to 
> brainwashing when she does it voluntarily. Lucas also relates as 
> standard practice the honoring and celebration of sacrificial victims, 
> who would themselves be venerated almost as gods in the days before 
> the event. The Aztecs reportedly would do the same for their human 
> sacrificial victims. As also related by Lucas, human sacrifice
> among the Yoruba was always a _public_ affair, and the victim would be 
> paraded about before the event. The idea was that by merely touching 
> the victim, one could obtain expiation for past sins, which would "go" 
> with the victim at his/her death. This idea is not incidentally echoed 
> in Christian theology, which promises that Christ died for our sins. 
> It is not incidental because the key concepts of Christianity come out 
> of Africa, but that's another story. What is relevant here is that if 
> human sacrifice is carried out in private somewhere, chances are that 
> it would not pass muster under the strict traditional rules. Chances 
> are also that it would be sorcery, not at all sanctioned by 
> traditional religion. The Matamoros killings rather obviously fall 
> into that category.
> 
> But to respond to something that Cat  said in another post (thanks btw 
> for the complimentary remarks at the end of that post, Cat), it is not 
> sufficient that Constanzo attempted to placate, or becalm his victims 
> prior to the ritual, to make the offerings voluntary on the part of 
> the latter. Constanzo was proceeding according to a certain logic that 
> suggested familiarity with the tenets of the traditional religion, but 
> his application of it remained misguided, and put it therefore in the 
> realm of sorcery for private gain, rather than in the realm of
> the traditional religion which is concerned with the cultivation of 
> iwa pele.
>
> Some discernment is necessary. To the extent that the priest and the 
> sorcerer, both, work with energy, or ase, the ritual logic of the two 
> would share features that are indistinguishable. It is the same with 
> science or engineering: the same facility that is used to build 
> tractors to help grow food can also be used to build tanks; the same 
> technology that can be used to save lives, can be deployed to take 
> lives, as we see every time the state of Texas takes the life of 
> another sacrificial victim on death row.
> 
> I would add something else that bears on sacrifice and iwa pele. I 
> remember being taught by an authoritative source in the Akan religion 
> the following: He said that some people get into the religion with the 
> wrong, and wrongful, idea, that they can keep on doing bad things, 
> trusting that they can keep sacrificing another chicken, goat, or 
> what-have-you, to wash themselves of sin, and/or to receive protection 
> even while they habitually do bad, eg. run a criminal enterprise. He 
> said it doesn't work that way. Think of the sacrifice as giving you a 
> fresh start. The deal is that you must then apply yourself to the task 
> of perfecting your spirit, ie. work at developing iwa pele (good 
> character). If you don't, then the orisha or the abosom will 
> eventually not only ignore your sacrifices, but even bring down their 
> wrath upon you. Nana Tigare, in the Akan tradition, is particularly 
> wrathful, and not to be messed with. He is known as a "witch-catcher". 
> In the Yoruba context, Eshu will toy with you, and set you up for a 
> fall, and Ogun and Sango would strike you down without mercy. If
>
> Constanzo felt he could keep on doing wrong, while calling on the 
> protection of Ogun/Zarabanda indefinitely, he was sadly mistaken, and 
> actual events proved that his protection ran out, in accordance with 
> the traditional teaching. This is a teaching that should be heeded by 
> those drawn to traditional African religion seeking personal gain 
> rather than spiritual growth.
> 
> In this same context, I have some misgivings about Palo Mayombe. I do 
> not know enough about it to form any firm opinion. But the idea that 
> one would enter into an alliance with the spirit of a deceased person 
> who was of less than noble character suggests to me sorcery as the 
> intent, not the development of iwa pele. Such deceased spirits can no 
> doubt do evil bidding, but the protection that they can offer is 
> limited, and certainly can offer no protection from the trickery of 
> Eshu, or the wrath of Ogun or Shango. Constanzo might have had more 
> protection, and a greater run of "luck", had he made his offerings to 
> the same lower 4th dimensional (reptilian) beings that for the time 
> being keep the Western elites in their world-dominant position. 
> Sorcerers who seek to work with the orisha of traditional African 
> religion should not expect long-term "success".
> 
> Having said that, let me add that I know for a fact, having had two 
> Kikongo teachers, that the idea that I gained of the traditional 
> religion of the Kongo is far removed from what I could gather from 
> this discussion as defining Palo Mayombe. The teachings on which I 
> rely are mostly oral, but for those who like written sources, see 
>
>      Kimbwandende Kia Bunseki Fu-kiau, 
>     "Self-Healing Power and Therapy: Old Teachings from Africa". 
>
> Fu-kiau is Kikongo, and he represents his teachings as coming from a 
> larger Bantu tradition, of which the  Kikongo are a part. See also 
>
>     Patrick Bowen, 
>    "Ancient wisdom in Africa", in the 
>    Journal of Comparative Religion (1969), 
>         and my comment on it on the web at 
>    http://TheAfrican.Com/Magazine/MagAncWis.htm .
> 
> Finally, see 
>
>     Credo Mutwa, 
>     "Song of the stars: Lore of a Zulu Shaman." 
>
> Baba Credo Mutwa is not Kikongo, but as a
> Zulu, he comes out of the larger Bantu tradition of which the Kikongo 
> form part. 
> 
> There is not a hint of sorcery in these teachings, and plenty of 
> wisdom for those whose aim is the perfection of spirit, and the 
> cultivation of iwa pele. Therefore, any essentialist criticisms 
> that may be aimed at the Palo Mayombe tradition, whether based on 
> prior principle, or based on a sort of ex-post inductive inference 
> from the terrible example of Matamoros, should not be generalized to 
> include the entire Kikongo tradition.
> 
> But it does raise a question that I am hoping some Palero may answer: 
> Does Palo have an explicit concern for the development of iwa pele in 
> its practitioners? I would already grant, I think, that the sorcerer's 
> path, as distinct from the religious tradition, is available for those 
> practitioners of Palo that seek it, as I would grant that the 
> sorcerer's tradition, in Africa as elsewhere, runs pretty much 
> parallel to religious tradition wherever the latter has developed a
> "technology" for tapping into real spiritual or psychic power. The 
> difference is that sorcery proceeds without the moral restraints that 
> attend a conscious concern with the development of iwa pele.
> 
> Peace,
> Grisso
> "An offering of ... an unassailable inner peace ... is superior to the 
> [ase] of blood..." -- Ra Un Nefer Amen

Thanks again for a very interesting post. I have no comments, but i am
following the disucssion with interest, as always. Thnalks for the
references, too. 
 
cat yronwode

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Sfrthomas wrote:
> 
> >From: eballard@sas.upenn.edu  (E. C. Ballard)
> >Date: 8/12/00 2:21 AM EST
> >Message-id: 
> 
> > While I have read references to human sacrifice in 19th century 
> > Nigeria and earlier - it is worth noting that the accounts come from 
> > very dubious sources - the competition (ie missionaries). There is 
> > no  record of the Kongolese performing human sacrifice as a part of 
> > regular religious ritual, even as far back as the 1400's when the 
> > portuguese first had contacts with them.
> >
> 
> I don't know about the Kikongo, but the Yoruba and the Akan do not 
> deny, in fact affirm without defensiveness, that ritual human 
> sacrifice is/was part of their traditional religious practice.[1] To 
> the modern mind this is an abhorrent practice, and, for many, 
> sufficient to put traditional African religion beyond the pale 
> (forgive the pun). For those, such as myself, who would seek to defend 
> traditional African religion on this score, the proper defense is not 
> indignation, still less is it denial. The proper defense lies,
> as always, in Truth.
> 
> I will go out on a limb here and say that there is nothing wrong per 
> se in human sacrifice, although I hasten to add that there is clearly 
> something wrong in the "human sacrifice" recounted in the Matamoros 
> affair. It depends. There is an aspect of human sacrifice that can be 
> heroic. In the Akan tradition, there is the story told of the priest 
> who, when the gods required a human sacrifice to end the suffering of 
> the people, offered himself. The Christian crucifixion story is seen 
> by the traditional African as a story of human sacrifice, of the same 
> noble sort exemplified by the traditional story of the Akan. In the 
> African warrior tradition, indeed every warrior tradition, it is
> understood that the essence of warriorhood lies in his willingness 
> of the warrior/soldier to sacrifice self for the good of the larger 
> collective. So, to the mind of the traditional African, you cannot 
> believe in the rightness of Christ's crucifixion, yet condemn human 
> sacrifice per se. A more nuanced judgment is required.  The 
> traditional African also considers that the bellicosity of the West 
> (WW I, WW II, Korea, Viet Nam, etc., not to mention the Jewish 
> holocaust, and the African holocaust) represents a very special kind 
> of ongoing human sacrifice to appease the insatiable appetite of the 
> gods that the West really worship. There is therefore again reason to 
> question the sincerity of Western condemnation of human sacrifice, 
> given the staggering scale on which the latter, from one viewpoint, 
> appear to practice it.[2]
> 
> Be all that as it may, it is also clearly the case that pure and 
> simple murder, motivated not by the greater good of the collective, 
> but by the wrongful seeking of private monetary advantage, is simply 
> wrong. When such murder is committed in a ritual context it is 
> especially abhorrent.

Here is where another incident recounted in Provost's book about he
Matamoros killings is very telling: 

It seems that one of the victims, a Mexican man, who was kidnapped and
taken to the ranch to be sacrificed, happened to have a gun hidden on
his person, When he was released and told to lay face down in the shed,
he jumped up and shot at his would-be killers. They in turn pulled guns
and shot him dead. At this point, Adolfo Constanzo decalred that his
death was a murder, NOT a sacrifice, and that his body was not to be
offered to Zarabanda or bled into the nganga. His body was taken out and
hastily buried. 

Constanzo then instructed two of his group members to go out at once and
bring back the first person they could find, to use as a sacrifice,
because the signs were now ominous. They did so, overtaking a young boy
in the road nearby, throwing a blanket over his head, and dragging him
to the ranch. He was sacrificed at once. As soon as he was dead, one of
the participants, Elio Hernandez, recognized the boy as his own cousin,
much to his horror and sorrow. But, as Hernanndez said later, when
explaining this event to the authorities, by then it was too late, the
boy was dead. 

The point of this tale is that in Matamoros, human *death* was not
sufficient for a *sacfrifice* -- the victim had to be quiet and subdued,
and had to be dispatched in a ritually proper way, or Constanzo did not
deem that his brains, blood, or bones could be placed in the nganga. 
 
Again, i am not making excuses for Constanzo here, simply pointing out
that his premises were apparently in agreement with traditional concepts
about human sacrifice -- or ANY kind of animal sacrifice -- in which
quiet acceptance on the part of the victim is perceived by the
officiator as a tacit agreement to be killed. In fact, in describing the
other killings, some members of the group noted that Constanzo quieted
both animals and humans before killing them by touching them gently and
talking to them. 

> The question it legitimately raises is whether the tradition from 
> which it derives is also, in an essential way, abhorrent. That would 
> be an unwarranted conclusion I think. All power is ultimately morally 
> neutral. Moral judgements must attach to the _use_ of  power rather 
> than to power itself. In the case at hand, it is clear to those who 
> _know of_ (as opposed merely to reading) these things that a certain 
> power derives from sacrifice -- the offering of the ase of minerals, 
> plants, animals, and indeed of humans. In my opinion, human
> sacrifice may only be justified when the victim volunteers, which was 
> a condition clearly not met in the Matamoros affair. I also expect 
> that much of the traditional practice in Africa did not satisfy this 
> condition. But the real issue at hand requires us, not so much to pass 
> judgment on the morality of specific acts of human sacrifice, but to 
> pass judgment on the whole religious tradition from which it derives.
> 

> My own take on this is that religion, in the true sense, involves (and 
> literally means) a tying back to oneness with Prime Creator. This 
> endeavor is essentially spiritual, since that is the true essence
> which we share with Prime Creator. Thus a true religion ultimately 
> will involve the manipulation of spiritual power or ase. However, not 
> all manipulation of spiritual power serves a religious purpose, and 
> indeed, the wrongful exercise of spiritual power, indeed of any power, 
> will take us even further away from a reyoking to oneness with Prime 
> Creator. Traditional African religion is very clear on this point, as 
> we see from the wisdom inherent in the proverb "what goes around, 
> comes around", the functional equivalent of the Golden Rule. At
> the same time, sorcerers often wear religious garb for the cover it 
> provides. We must not be deceived by them, nor should we throw the 
> baby out with the bath-water when we honestly confront aspects of the 
> traditional African religion that a modern sensibility finds 
> abhorrent.
> 
> Peace,
> Grisso
> 
> "An offering of ... unassailable inner peace ... is superior to the 
> [ase] of blood..." -- Ra Un Nefer Amen
> 
> [1] I rely here on oral teaching from authoritative Yoruba and Akan 
> sources. For those who want written sources, see J. Olumide Lucas, 
> "The religion of the Yorubas".
> 
> [2] In this context, see also David Icke, "The Biggest Secret", in 
> which it is argued that Western world domination has as its spiritual 
> basis the ritual appeasement of lower 4th-dimensional reptilian beings 
> whose appetite for human blood sacrifice is appeased through recurrent 
> warfare among other means. It is alleged there that the British Royal 
> Family are reptilian, also George Bush and many others of the 
> "Establishment".

Thanks for a very thought-provoking post, Grisso. 

cat yronwode 

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