Was Human Sacrifice Part of Religious Ritual?

When police in Brazil found 16 human skulls and other bones buried beneath the home of a leader of an Afro-Brazilian religion, the priest said he bought the bones from a worker at the local cemetery.

Investigators back in 1999 thought otherwise. They arrested him for not only robbing graves, but also for making human sacrifices.

Jose Augusto dos Santos, 40, allegedly sacrificed a child and a man in a rare religious ceremony aimed at winning favors from the devil, police in the remote Brazilian state of Mato Grosso said.

“This man had pictures of Lucifer, Satan, all over the house. He had statues of him as well,” said homicide investigator Marcio Peironi. “He says he bought all these bones from a worker at the cemetery, but we have reason to believe he may also have committed human sacrifice.”

Black magic rituals

The investigator said dos Santos admitted to paying a local grave digger for skulls and skeletons for use in black magic rituals at his home and “terreiro,” Portuguese for house of worship. Dos Santos is known as a “pai-de-santo,” head priest in Afro-Brazilian worship.

He told authorities his home was used for “condomble” ceremonies in which West African gods possess followers’ bodies during frantic moments of dance and drumming.

But the condomble religion, like most other Afro-Brazilian religious practices, does not involve human sacrifice or the worship of evil spirits, experts say.

Evil spirits summoned

Police think dos Santos was paid by followers of the darker “quimbando” religion, where the priest summons evil spirits to gain favor with them.

Along with the remains of a child buried beneath dos Santos’ terreiro, police said they found a photograph of a baby with the words “para morrer” or “to die,” written on the back. Dos Santos denied allegations of murder and said the photo was of his child.

Cops also said they may have found the remains of a man who had been missing since 1995 at the priest’s house.

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