Miami officials discovered the remains of 20 stolen horses Wednesday that were likely slaughtered for an underground meat market and as blood sacrifices for black magic.
A woman made the gruesome discovery early Wednesday morning when she spotted a chihuahua chewing on a horse leg on the edge of a secluded gravel road in the northwest area of Miami-Dade county, according to 7News Miami. She alerted authorities, who discovered the hooves, tails and bones of 20 horses stuffed in bags and discarded in the brush on the side of the road. Authorities said the horses were most likely stolen and slaughtered not only to supply a black market for meat, but also killed as blood sacrifices in Santeria rituals.
“It’s like this whole area is a graveyard,” Rachel Taylor of Animal Recovery Mission (ARM) told 7News. “That’s what’s alarming to me.”
“They’re taking every bit of meat, horse meat for human consumption. It’s also that they’re being used for rituals and ceremonies. This one was killed for its meat, but it’s also killed for Santeria,” Taylor added as she sifted through remains.
The unnamed woman, who was bringing food to stray dogs when she made the discovery, found the horse remains the C-9 Basin, which is mainly used for agricultural and industrial purposes, but is also known as the site of frequent cases of animal sacrifice and illegal slaughterhouses.
“It’s ridiculous that they do this to these animals,” Ruben Ramirez, who works near the area, told 7News. “I noticed yesterday the bags and all the turkey vultures and was like, ‘Wow, I hope it’s not horses again.'”
The slaughter of stolen horses for meat and use in black magic has been an ongoing problem in Miami for at least seven years, especially in the C-9 Basin, but Wednesday’s find was more extensive than most other instances authorities have seen thus far.
“In seven years of doing this, we’ve done hundreds of horse slaughters, but in one day, we’ve done 20 already,” Taylor said.
Illegal slaughterhouses remain a problem for the C-9 Basin, but the use of horses for Santeria sacrifices is not uncommon either.
Santeria is a form of witchcraft native to Cuba that evolved from the Yoruba religion of southwestern Nigeria, retaining many of the same deities and supernatural entities, such as Orisha — spirits believed to reflect specific manifestations of the religions’ highest deity. Santeria beliefs dictate that Eyebale, or blood sacrifices, are required to summon the presence of the Orisha for any initiation rituals, of which there are five.
Orthodox Santeria, however, commands followers to treat sacrificial animals well before they are killed and to sever their carotid arteries to ensure that the animal passes out quickly. Miami locals and officials have found that the aftermath of horse sacrifices showed that in some cases occult practitioners intentionally made the animals suffer for as long as possible, indicating that they sacrificed the animals not in tradition of Santeria, but in the practice of Palo Mayombe — an occult religion sometimes referred to as “Santeria’s evil twin.”
Palo Mayombe rituals are used not only for blessing, but also for hexing and for cursing, sometimes to kill the intended target. Horse sacrifices feature prominently in Palo Mayombe’s darker rituals, as the religion dictates that the sacrifice of large animals is required for the most deadly curses, according to ARM. Palo Mayombe practitioners in Miami are known to steal pets and farm animals and to subject the animals to intense suffering before sacrificing them.
Richard Couto, a real estate developer who compiles evidence of illegal horse slaughter in Miami-Dade county to help law enforcement, said in a 2011 interview that he discovered evidence of animal sacrifice consistent with Palo Mayombe practices.
“Some of these animals had their eyes missing, their genitalia missing. Most people think that Santería sacrifices are mainly goats. They don’t know that dogs are also tortured. With the Haitian population, the longer that the animal suffers, the quicker that the evil spirits will come forth,” Couto told Miami New Times.
Couto found his evidence in the C-9 basin. ARM in 2012 also discovered Miami’s largest Palo Mayombe sacrifice site thus far in the C-9 Basin. Authorities discovered not only animal remains at the 2012 site, but also a human skull in a cauldron, or pendra, that is central to Palo Mayombe cursing rituals.
“I think people think this has gone away, but clearly it just doesn’t. It hasn’t gone away,” Taylor told 7News.
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