In Forest Park there is a place atop a little glacial hill where the ground levels out briefly into a small platform; many decades ago, probably before the park was owned by the city, a small concrete basin was poured there, which was never removed. It made a convenient pit for fires, and became the reputed scene of devil worship in the park: as a kid we would go visit the pit (daytime hours only of course) and find occasional animal bones in there along with the more predictable beer cans and Colt .45 bottles. I remember the place being called “Riders” by us kids, though I don’t know where the name came from, and it is such a dim memory I don’t know if it is accurate anymore. Perhaps the name “Riders” was painted on a nearby rock?
I passed by it today and found that it was still living up to its old reputation: there was a black garbage bag just a few steps from the pit, with flies buzzing around it on this warm December day, and inside the bag was the torso of some dead animal: from its size I thought at first it was a dog, but its short tail and long neck suggest to me that it was an adult goat. The head – I mean, obviously, this is Queens – was removed. The feet had also been cut off. I thought at first that the absence of head and feet might be due to animals gnawing them off (they did stick out of the bag) but they appeared to have been cut by something sharp. And animals generally go for the organs, which are far more nutritious. The body had not yet been ripped open and was not bloated.
Any lingering suspicion that this was just an unceremonious tossaway of Woofers the family dog was quelled by the fact that the garbage bag was filled with potatoes and corn, including the husks. The corn had been gnawed, presumably by mice and squirrels.
Does anyone know if there are specific Santeria rituals combining goats, potatoes, and corn?