Murder! Mayhem! And…Chickens?

Here’s a sad story that all begins with my trip to the Lower Ninth Ward.

This afternoon I went with my S.O. to one of his rehearsals down in the Holy Cross, which is a pretty little area in the Lower Ninth Ward here in New Orleans. I generally tag along to these things because I enjoy listening to the music, I enjoy the company, and I always enjoy an opportunity to sit in a back yard on a pretty evening somewhere and maybe…just possibly, get to see feral chickens.

See, I have a confession to make to you all. For all of my Wiccan, gothy, black-hearted tendencies, at heart I’m a country girl from Ohio with a thing for chickens. Seriously, if I didn’t studiously watch myself, my house wouldn’t hold a witchy air. There would be chickens EVERYWHERE. I know, I know…its an addiction. One that I’m ashamed to admit to, but there you have it. I laughed over the Bloggess’ five foot metal chicken post for days.

Hi, my name is Owl, and I am a chicken addict.

I love the fact that I live in a city where you can actively find not only domesticated chickens in people’s yard’s, but where wild fowl roam freely in the streets and alleys. It makes my whole day every time one of those ridiculous birds comes flapping over one of the neighbor’s fences and scares off the feral cats. (You do NOT want to mess with a feral chicken, they’re a tough sort of bird.)

But, as I’ve mentioned before, I always forget that I also live in a magical town. A town where chickens have SIGNIFICANCE.

In Voodoo, chickens and their various and sundry bits and pieces are used for many things: chicken feet are used for protection, the whole chicken is used in sacrifices to various members of the loa, eggs are also used as offering and symbols, chicken heads are cut off as a threat or retributive magic, feathers are used for all sorts of things, chicken blood is used for spells and magic and of course, Chicken is always just plain old good eatin’. (Though I don’t know that Voodoo in and of itself has anything to do with that aspect).

In more mainstream witchcraft, chicken bones are used a lot, for both spells and to divine. Eggs also play a large roles in holidays such as Ostara. (In my particular tradition we throw eggs into the river to send them back to the Underworld as a reminder for the dead crops and game to be reborn.) As the article “Some Notes on the Folklore of Poultry” by L. F. Newman states, “One of the oldest and most respectable survivals met with is the belief in the efficiency of ceremonial magic in love affairs. Eggs take a prominent part in such divinations and, especially among gypsies, have generally formed the material for divination rites as to the future, particularly as regards the birth of children.” (Folklore) I mean, seriously, what culture doesn’t have chickens? (Ok, maybe some of the island cultures, but even they have slowly been overrun with chickens.)

And let’s not forget to mention all of the superstitions that involve chickens. A chicken crossing your path will bring you bad luck. If your chickens gather together on your porch you have company coming. Roosters crowing before midnight is an ill omen. If you bring eggs into the house after dark, you’re bringing bad luck into the house. Keep a black chicken in your front yard and you’ll never have bad luck. (It seems like luck and chickens are pretty intimately acquainted…)

So, having no other plans than maybe getting to see A feral chicken, we made our way down to one of the most superstitious neighborhoods in NOLA. (We stopped and got fried chicken on the way too…what else do you eat in the South?).

I had no idea though, that there was CHICKEN DRAMA occurring in the Lower Ninth Ward!

Apparently it started out with someone actively sitting up in one of the abandoned schools in the neighborhood and assassinating the neighbor’s chickens. (It’s  been six, nearly seven years, since Katrina, and it seems that the city has only just now started rebuilding our public schools. If you have children, they generally go to charter schools or Catholic schools…which all probably have a feral chicken infestation.) Apparently this personal attack wasn’t enough though. Now, as our friend put it, there happens to be a chicken serial killer running around Holy Cross, and people have gotten really touchy about any attention paid to their chickens by outsiders. Whoever this is, they are no longer content to passively pick chickens off from a great distance. Now s/he sneaks into people’s yards and sneaks off with the chickens, which are later found mutilated and thrown under the Lower Ninth canal bridge. The neighbors think it’s someone with a grudge against them and have taken to staking out their yard all night to watch their chickens. But no one can decide if it has any magical significance or not. Now think about that, a place where the whole neighborhood is actively contemplating the fact that their chicken murderer might be using chickens for black magic against them. Is this a great place or what?! (Not that I’m condoning the murder of marvelous chickens, but I think you see what I mean.)

Also, I now have this image of a chicken Jack The Ripper stalking though the Lower Ninth Ward cloaked in the fog from the Mississippi. Apparently even the ASPCA has become involved, actively investigating whatever is going on with the Lower Ninth Ward’s feral chicken population, sending ASPCA agents to investigate the chicken-knapper.

Will the chicken murders stop? Who knows, but needless to say, I am delighted by the things that people are coming up with.* Maybe my inner country girl was goth all along, but sometimes my morbid sense of humor just can’t stay hidden.


*To clarify, I’m not delighted by the senseless killing of helpless animals, I am however delighted by the response of the neighborhood that immediately turns its mind to a magical explanation. And by the fact that we have feral chickens.

Lost Chicken

Actual sign found on a corner near my house.