Dead chicken + money + cigar = ?
September 30, 2009 4:55 PM   Subscribe

What cultural or spiritual practice involves an alter or offering incorporating a dead chicken and money?

Twice in the last few years, I've come across similar assemblies of objects that have intrigued me. The first was in a fairly undeveloped woodsy park in Oakland, California. It included a behead chicken - feathers still on, a half-smoked cigar, a few one dollar bills, and some coins. That was several years ago.

Then recently I was walking near my East Oakland home and found on the edge of the sidewalk, in front of a vacant lot, a box containing a dead chicken and a a handful of loose change. The chicken was somehow eviscerated, with intestine spilling loosely into the box.

I'm curious to know what religion, tradition, or culture uses this kind of alter or offering or whatnot. I'd love to hear any details you might know about it! Thanks.
posted by serazin to Religion & Philosophy (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Santeria involves live animal sacrifice. Yes, it is legal.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 4:59 PM on September 30, 2009

This sounds like Vodou. Sacrifice ceremonies can involve chickens, money and cigars. Is there a big Haitian community ?

A bit more here :-

(On preview - could be Santeria - definitely sounds African diasporic).
posted by plep at 5:00 PM on September 30, 2009

Here's another link on their beliefs and rituals :-
posted by plep at 5:02 PM on September 30, 2009

Indeed, most likely Vodou (Haitian), Santeria (Cuban), or Candomble (Brazilian)-- one of the Caribbean syncretic religions.
posted by dersins at 5:05 PM on September 30, 2009

Image of Baron Samedi smoking a cigar. Baron Samedi is one of the loa (spirits) of Vodou.
posted by plep at 5:06 PM on September 30, 2009

As far as I know, there is not much of a Haitian community here in Oakland, although we have sizable Latin American immigrant communities and not insignificant African immigrant communities.
posted by serazin at 5:06 PM on September 30, 2009

Yes, it could very easily be Candomble. I live in the "home" of Candomble, Salvador, Brazil, and that sort of thing is fairly common. There are also large clay dishes of whatever god's favorite food.

My personal favorite was the time I saw a bottle of booze, a pack of cigarettes and a box of matches. Because I'd really want a god that can't light his own smokes. (And it totally reminds me of this story.)

People who aren't even spiritists say that if you touch the offering you will develop a large boil on whatever body part touched it. YMMV.
posted by wallaby at 5:13 PM on September 30, 2009

Well, Haitian Vodou is just one of a family of African diasporic religions which have were developed by people descended from African slaves in the New World; they all combine elements of traditional West African religions with Roman Catholicism.

Link :

There are also some interesting historical pieces in the 'African Religion' section at :
posted by plep at 5:13 PM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

It could be Palo, Voodoo or Lucumi. It's most likely an offering to the spirit that lives in the woods. I would highly recommend that you don't touch these when you come across them.
posted by Attackpanda at 5:38 PM on September 30, 2009

I used to have a friend that practiced a form of Santeria; his sacrifices to the orisha Chango would typically involve a cigar. Animal sacrifice wasn't his thing, but is common enough in Santeria practices. He often related tales of stumbling across similar offerings in the Angeles National Forest.

I'm no expert, but all of these offerings seem common to the various syncretic African/New World practices. I'm not sure you can ascertain which one, much as it would be difficult to determine which Christian denomination would be represented if you happened across a crucifix.
posted by malocchio at 5:52 PM on September 30, 2009

Both the Latin American and the African populations will definitely have some practices that cross over with Santeria and Voudon. The diaspora are very use-what-you-have religions, and the offerings were based on relevant luxuries from days dating back to the slave trade: lots of cigars, chickens, rum and molasses.
posted by medea42 at 5:58 PM on September 30, 2009

That's from an orthodox jewish practice for yom kippur called kaparot. Some people have tried to replace the chicken with money.
posted by mdn at 6:15 PM on September 30, 2009

Ha, MDN beat me.

My first two guesses were Santeria or Judaism.... and then I fell over laughing at how I didn't ever expect to connect those two things in the same sentence.
posted by rokusan at 7:31 PM on September 30, 2009

Interesting about Kaparot: I'm a (secular) Jew and I'd never even heard of it. But I found the little box a week or so before Rosh Hashanah, so I don't think that was what it was for.

Thanks for all the answers everyone. I guess I figured these were somewhere on the Voodoo, Santeria continuum, but knowing little about those practices I didn't realize that there were so many flavors of them or that nailing down exactly who left these would be difficult.

And thanks for the warnings but don't worry: I wasn't tempted to touch or take anything from the offerings!
posted by serazin at 8:14 PM on September 30, 2009

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