New York

Prospect Park Nailed Cow Tongue Mystery: Maybe a Warning to Shut Up?


Prospect Park staff were handed the gross job of removing 15 cow tongues
from trees
one morning last

The flesh had been driven into park trees with nails which had to be pried
out. According to the Parks Department, the severed, dangling organs were
spotted by a dog walker who then gave them a call. The Daily News reports:

“The bizarre sighting was made in Peninsula Meadow, just north of Prospect
Lake. The tongues, which appeared to come from a butcher shop, were hanging
about six feet off the ground from 15 different trunks, park officials said.
Parks Department officials said it’s a mystery why the animal parts were
hung, but animal tongues are sometimes used in cult or fringe religious

We talked to a Santeria expert who suggests the tongues may have been offered, not as obeisance to a deity, but as a message to the living:

Though not a “fringe religion” or a “cult,” Dr. Miguel De La Torre — an associate
professor for social ethics at Iliff School of Theology and the author of
Santeria: The Beliefs and Rituals of a Growing Religion in America — says
nailed cow tongues are sometimes used by practitioners of Santeria. Santeria
is a religion with Afro-Cuban roots. It blends Christianity with West
African belief systems, and is often stigmatized. Some devotees participate in
animal sacrifice.

“It’s always difficult to make a direct connection to Santeria, it could be
Palo… It could be a hybrid group,” De la Torre says of the
tongue-spiking. The expert adds the tongues could have been left by someone
who read about a Santeria practice on the internet and wanted to copy it.

“However, if it is related to one of the Caribbean religions like Santeria
the obvious connection is that someone is trying to silence someone’s
tongue.” De La Torre says in that case, the nailed tongue is sort of like
one of those voodoo dolls in old movies — where what happens to the object
happens to the person.

“In their mind they believe that by doing this act they’re going to prevail
over the person who is speaking against them.”

De La Torre, who helped the Brooklyn Paper decipher the meaning behind a
severed pig’s head
found outside the Green-Wood
Cemetery, says that if the tongues in Prospect Park were put up by Santeros trying to
silence someone, there might be clues left behind — like candles and a piece
of paper with a name attached.

The Parks Department says they did not find either.

De La Torre’s mother and father were a priest and priestess who raised him
in the religion of Santeria in Jackson heights Queens. The professor converted to Christianity in his twenties. Photo (cc) foxypar4.

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