Maryland: A cauldron found with a human skull and some bones inside may be part of an African religious ritual
Residents discovered the cauldron last week in a wooded area near Conowingo. Inside the cauldron were a human skull, two human femurs, toy handcuffs, turtle shells, a cross, feathers, a plastic skull, animal jaw bones, purple and red cloth and two small statues.
Police said they were contacted by Jennifer Rose Emick, an expert in alternative religions, who told them the items were similar to those used in an initiation ceremony by practitioners of the Palo Mayombe, a religion originally from the Congo region of Africa and brought to the Americas by enslaved men and women.
The cross is not representative of the Christian faith but signifies positive energy, Emick said. She said the handcuffs suggest that the ceremony involved the warrior god Sarabanda. That god is associated with industry, iron and technology. The items also might have belonged to a Palo follower who died. After the practitioner died, friends or family could have placed the objects in the woods, said Emick, who conducts an internet Web site and blog on alternative religions.
Sheryl Walker, a spokeswoman for the coroner's office, said criminal activity has not been ruled out and examinations are being done on the bones to determine cause of death. An anthropologist also is examining the bones.
Skull, cauldron thought to be spiritual