A severed pig’s head left outside the Green-Wood Cemetery was apparently a gift to the gods, but neighbors said the swine shrine was simply an assault on their senses.
The festering pig cranium was spotted — and smelled — by passersby who discovered the decaying braincase surrounded by colored candles, coconuts, a glass of rum, cigars, flowers, and other offerings alongside the graveyard fence on Sixth Avenue between 23rd and 24th streets earlier this month.
“It creeped me out to be honest,” said Teresa Taylor, who stumbled over the rotting sacrifice on her way home from work. “There was a head of a pig, almost skeleton-like, and a lot of flies around it. Some of the candles were still lit!”
Taylor had no idea why someone would leave the decomposing boar and trinkets beside the cemetery, but Aaron Brashear — known to most as the Mayor of Greenwood Heights — placed the blame on practitioners of Santeria, a widely misunderstood Caribbean religion that merges African faiths with Christianity.
Santeria expert Miguel A. De La Torre was hesitant to definitively link the sacrifice with the regional and ever-changing faith, but he gave Brooklyn Paper readers a few clues about what the sacrifice might mean if it had been left by practitioners of the mystical faith.
By offering a pig instead of another animal, worshippers might be trying to appease the gluttonous thunder god, Chango, or by placing the offering at a cemetery they may have been attempting to convince the goddess of the dead, Oya, to put a curse on an enemy.
“You want the person to end up in the cemetery so you do the sacrifice at the cemetery,” said De La Torre, an associate professor at Iliff School of Theology in Colorado, a western state.
But the cigar and rum discovered at the site might mean that the hog head was a gift to Elegua, a god of the “crossroads,” who is known as a trickster and is often affiliated with death and cemeteries, he added.
Whoever the sacrifice was for, the pig probably didn’t die in vain — it’s likely that worshippers celebrated with a big pork dinner before leaving the offering.
“There is one form of sacrifice where you sacrifice the animal and then you consume it as a community meal, and there is another where you transfer your bad vibes to the animal and you don’t eat it,” said De La Torre, author of “Santeria: The Beliefs and Rituals of a Growing Religion in America.”
“I see this as more of an offering for thanksgiving for something that occurred, or an offering to appease the orisha to do something — not a transferring of bad energy.”