I usually prefer finding photo opps rather than setting them up. It just seems more interesting to me to find the unexpected. I visited a nature preserve last Saturday, hoping mostly to find tiger beetles and maybe some butterflies and rare plants. I won’t mention the specific location, for reasons that will become clear soon, but it’s a nowadays rare pinelands area in South Florida.
I was completely alone, listening to the rustling pines, walking the slow, methodical walk of a photographer hunting prey. Besides a few butterflies and spiders, I didn’t see much in the way of new or different creatures. Then just as I was exiting, I spotted what looked like a shredded white plastic shopping bag. I don’t exactly know what attracted me to it, but I wandered over and poked around. Suddenly I spotted what appeared to be a small conch shell. Thinking it might be a cast or fossil I turned it over to see this:
It was indeed a small conch shell, but the open part of it was filled with concrete, and extended to make a base. Embedded into the concrete were cowrie shells to form a face, as well as a red feather at the top.
I recognized it as something related to Santeria, a religion practiced around the Caribbean area with clear roots to Africa. Santeria, as well as Voodoo, in my opinion get a bad rap, probably from too many Hollywood interpretations. They are religions, after all, like dozens of others in the world.
Next to the conch shell figure there was a toppled iron cauldron, about six inches across. It was filled with iron objects, like a horseshoe, railroad spike, and various nails. I do recall reading that iron is especially significant in certain aspects of Santeria.
I looked briefly into the possible meanings of what I found, but rather than try and interpret a subject I’m not really familiar with, I’ll leave that for you to do.
I think it’s amazing to live in a place where this can even happen. Where else in the U.S. would I just stumble on something outside the mainstream like this? Well, in an effort to be as respectful as possible, I left these items precisely as I found them. Diversity in the natural world is unendingly fascinating; it seems increasingly harder to find in human culture in the 21st century.