Religious studies professor offers possible explanation for meat left outside Chicopee cemetery

Packages of meat that have been left outside the gates of a Chicopee cemetery several times in recent months is stirring up chatter in the city
Published: Nov. 17, 2023 at 6:43 PM EST
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CHICOPEE, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - Packages of meat that have been left outside the gates of a Chicopee cemetery several times in recent months is stirring up chatter in the city and theories on why it’s happening.

The packages of raw meat have been left outside of St. Rose de Lima cemetery and while our crews did not see any meat this week, we did find the empty packaging. Apparently, it’s attracting bears and people online. Some have commented on our earlier story and have expressed shock, but others offered possible explanations. One person commented, in part: “Apparently, it’s a belief for some putting meat at a cemetery is an “‘offering...’”

“It’s definitely possible,” said Onaje Woodbine, a religious studies professor at American University in Washington D.C.

We discussed the situation Woodbine. He told us that it sounds like practices from Yoruba derived religions, which spread as a result of the transatlantic slave trade. The religion and its rituals are still practiced by many.

“Within those traditions, it’s often to give offerings to ancestors and some other spirits in nature that assist communication with the living and those that have crossed over,” woodbine added.

Woodbine said that if the person involved was practicing Yourba traditions, it’s possible the offering was left for a figure named Oya, an ancestral leader.

“Oya deals with transformation and the cycles of death and rebirth and Oya assists human beings on our journey from having a physical body to returning to the world of the ancestors where energy and consciousness, but no physical form,” Woodbine explained.

He told Western Mass News that the offering could anything, including a package of meat, and the placement matters.

“She opens the gate, so to speak, to allow that transition to take place between the world of the living and the world of the dead,” Woodbine noted. “People will often place offering to them at the gate as a symbolic representation of that kind of opening or the job that she does opening the gateway between the two worlds.”

Why were these offerings left? Possibly for guidance.

“It’s usually done when there’s problem in the community or an individual family or an individual person that requires intervention from the ancestors,” woodbine said.

He emphasized that people don’t have to worry about being in danger if people are practicing that faith.

“This is a spiritual practice like any other religious tradition,” Woodbine added.

We did check in with the Chicopee Police Department on Friday and we’re told no one has reported any meat-related incidents at the cemetery.