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When the Doves Die

March 2nd, 2007 by Jeff Simmermon

This post is part 1 of an ongoing series. Click to read the second and third installments.

It rained on the last of the snow this morning, getting rid of the nasty slush but making a much nastier mess in the meantime.

Me my friend were walking around Adams-Morgan in the rain talking about nasty old snow. Like that one gross black clump you find under an abandoned car in like, June, and you think “DAG — how is that still even there?” Then we came across one tenacious chunk of dirty white slush. “That’s really hanging on there,” he said, and we went to investigate the tough little lump by the curb.

Turns out it wasn’t snow at all. It was two decapitated doves, tied together at the feet:

When the Doves Die

Two chunks of coconut lay nearby, along with the dove’s heads themselves:

Dove Head

Now there’s no getting around the fact that this is kind of nasty to me, as a middle-class cracker from Southern Virginia. Way nastier than some old black snow clump for sure. But it’s not as creepy as it seems to the uninitiated. After the initial rush of heavy weirdness settled, I remembered. I live right next door to a powerful Santero, a high priest of Santeria, a form of voodoo widely practiced across Latin America. Animal sacrifice is a big part of their practice, see.

I sent my friend, the Santero neighbor the first photo above and asked him, “Dude, was that you?”

I’d done a little Googling and learned that Santeros were sacrificing doves to either heal or kill Castro last fall, depending on how they felt about him. Maybe that was it.

It wasn’t. He didn’t do it, he says, and he hadn’t heard anything about the Castro thing. The ramifications are possibly more sinister.

According to what he told me, two doves are a sacrifice to Obatala, the father of peace but also the owner of all heads. If someone were to cast a spell over my Santero neighbor, they’d have to knock his spiritual “crown” off of his head. So he’s going to look into this, as soon as he gets home from work.

It kinda gives me the creeps, all this animal sacrifice going on right outside my house. I’m all for religious freedom and freedom of expression, and I do eat meat … but still. I mean, somebody threw two dead birds in the street out there, and they’re still there right now, just kinda rotting.

On the other hand, pigeons and rats die in the road all the time and I’m used to it. If anything, those doves make for more interesting roadkill than the grey feathered leather we usually get here. And those doves, they mean a lot to a lot of people.

Overall, I’m pretty excited at the situation. There’s a good chance that I am living in the crossfire of an escalating epic battle between two Latin voodoo priests, and how cool is THAT? A bunch of kids came skipping down the street this afternoon, passing a basketball and yelling “y’all play too much” with high spirits and they passed right over that vicious little offering. They moved right through the spiritual warzone, laughing, happy and unharmed.

I just got an email from my friend, who says “I plan to investigate via divination what this all means. and if it is an attack on me, then I am off to war. I have a few enemies in the community, that because of ego do not want anyone to prosper and my house happens to be growing, meaning I just initiated 2 more people into santeria last week…”

All it took was one look in the gutter to see something nasty and fantastic, incredible evidence that the world is full of mysterious magic. It’s all around us, propping up our humdrum lives in ways we barely understand and no matter how it seems at the surface, it’s pretty cool to know it’s there even if you don’t completely believe in it yourself.

There’s more to this story. Click here to see what the doves mean.

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