Here is what the path looked like after Sandy and what it still looks like. The fallen tree is still there - the Parks people have not cleared anything away.
Yesterday, on top of that fallen tree I saw three things: an open bottle of red wine, with about a glass of it poured out; a basket filled with fruit and flowers - pineapple, oranges, apples and small yellow mums; a large black trash bag that was filled with "something." These objects were not here the day before - I walk here at least twice a day and at 4 pm on Thursday, they were not there.
Being curious, I went closer and had the immediate feeling that the items were left as an offering of some sort - their placement seemed deliberate. There are a couple of picnic tables, grills and a little "picnic house" which would have seemed like the places where forgotten items were left - but these objects were placed on the trunk on the fallen tree, as if the tree were an altar.
Santeria?? That was the first thing I thought.
I did peek into the bag to see what was in there and saw what looked like seasonal decorations and something that was wrapped and felt heavy. Since I am averse to putting my hands into places that I do not know and since I felt like I would be interfering with something that did not include me, I left the objects undisturbed, other than placing some of the flowers that had blown out of the basket back into the basket.
I thought it was kind of strange that I would stumble upon this in this particular area - that I know of, there are no Santeria practitioners in our little town (I could be wrong, though!) and usually people come to this area only in Spring and Summer. I do know of some Wiccan folks who use the area for their celebrations - and I have participated in them.
Yesterday afternoon, Kylie and I walked in the same area and, to my surprise, the objects were still there, in the same order. Any doubts that the objects were left as an offering faded. I only hoped that whatever the ritual, it was a peaceful one. I know only a little about Santeria, but I kept getting the feeling that what I was seeing was part of that tradition.
Yes, I admit the stories of ritual goat or chicken sacrifices wandered into my mind - I think if I knew for sure what was in that big trash bag, I wouldn't have thought that - but that bag was just a tad too weird for me and my imagination went to those stories and movies that demonize Santeria, Voudou, Candomble and other "spooky" religions, along with the "if you see something, say something" crusade of fear that permeates the airwaves. So, I did call our local police who have no jurisdiction over County Parks and the guy wasn't too interested in my story. He did give me the phone number for the County Park sheriff; their voice mail was on and I decided not leave a message.
I did call a friend and left a long message on her voice mail because I usually want to talk about something that I can't figure out - talking helps me hear what I am thinking and helps me look at and examine those thoughts with some of the charge removed. She returned my call this morning, waking me out of a deep sleep that had been filled with strange dreams, and suggested that I take my iPhone with me this morning to get pictures if the objects were still there.
And they were.
But not in the same place or condition that I originally saw them. Here are some of the pictures that I took. You can click on the images to enlarge them.
Seeing the candles was really interesting to me - I have heard of Oya, but never Orunmila. Here's some information that I found about them.
Oya (also known as Yansa or Yansan) is a powerful female warrior orisha, one of Shango's wives, owner of the marketplace, owner of the cemetery and the ruler of winds. She, along with Orunmila, are the only two orishas who defeated Ikú, the force of death. She stole Shango's secret of fire and now throws lightning bolts just like him. She raises up the dead and commands them as her armies. She carries a machete and screams as she rides into battle on the tornado.
Oya is often depicted as a muscular, dark, and seductive black woman, dressed in a skirt of 9 different colors, wielding a machete in one hand and a horse-tail fly-whisk in the other. Her shrine is a glazed ceramic pot, usually maroon or multicolored, filled with her mysteries and 18 loose cowries for diloggun, through which she speaks. The pot is topped with a copper crown from which hang 9 different tools. A large, dried seed pod from the red-flowered flamboyant tree (also known as the flame tree or royal poinciana) is used to speak with her by shaking it while praying at her shrine. There is only one road or avatar of Oya. Her ritual number is 9. Her beaded necklace usually features brown beads with white and black stripes, along with coral beads. Her garments are maroon with 9 different colors. Animal sacrifice is used to propitiate Oya within the African Traditional Religions. Sacrifices to Oya include: she-goat, hens, pigeons and guinea hens. She abhors ram, lamb, or mutton, and animal sacrifices of members of this species are strictly taboo for her. altar offerings for Oya include eggplant, chocolate, pomegranate, plums, and multi-colored flowers.
In the syncretic practices of Cuban Santeria, in which African orishas are associated with Catholic Church saints, the representatives of Oya are Our Lady of Candelaria and Saint Theresa and her feast day is February 2. Hoodoo psychic readers, spirit workers, and root doctors who are adherents of the Yoruban and Yoruban-Diasporic Religions and who petition the orishas on behalf of clients may work with Oya when there are pending issues involving money and business, protection and warding off evil, steady work and personal power, mediumship and working with spiits of the dead, breaking jinxes and reversing curses, and spiritual revenge or curing an enemy,
Orunmila (also known as Orula, Orunla, or Ifa) is the orisha of divination. He is the "eleripin" -- the witness of destiny -- who knows everything that awaits us as part of our fate. He has a very close working relationship with Eleggua and together they intercede on behalf of humanity to alter people's destinies, ward off death and other misfortunes, and guide us to cultivate good character. His worship is primarily centered around the Ifá tradition, both in traditional African worship and in the African diaspora in the new world, where his initiated priests, called awos, babalawos, iyanifas or oluwos, act as diviners for the greater community. He is petitioned for help with making wise decisions, opening roads, healing, protection from evil.
Orunmila is typically depicted as a wise, old, black man wearing robes with a diviner's pouch hanging from a long necklace around his neck. His ritual tools include 18 ikin (palm nuts), the okuelé (a chain of 8 shell husks used to divine), and the opón ifá (table of ifa) upon which he makes marks in a ritually prepared dust to determine a person's destiny, in a system similar to that of Geomancy. These methods speak using 256 odu (signs) to describe a person's energy and circumstances as well as how to overcome misfortunes. Orunmila's shrine is typically a small carved wooden vessel (like a covered bowl) containing his mysteries. There is only one avatar of Orunmila. His ritual number is 16. His beaded necklace consists of alternating yellow and green beads. His garments are green and yellow. Animal sacrifice is used to petition Orunmila within the African Traditional Religions. His sacrifices include: she-goats and hens. altar offerings to Orunmila are determined through divination.
In the syncretic practices of Cuban Santeria, in which African orishas are associated with Catholic Church saints, the representative of Orunmila, the "witness of destiny," is Saint Francis, who, in a vision, witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Hoodoo pyschic readers, spirit workers and root doctors who are adherents of the Yoruban and Yoruban-Diasporic Religions who petition the orishas on behalf of clients may work with Orunmila when seeking guidance through divination regarding blessing, healing, protection from evil, cleansing, uncrossing, spirituality, psychic abilities, wisdom and success.
The texts above came from here and here.
I hesitate to try and interpret what the offerings mean for I believe that only the one who made them knows their reason.
May the petitioner find what she/he is looking for. Ashé.