Giant African Land Snails, an invasive species, have infiltrated Florida, ravaging crops and having an overall devastating effect on agriculture. Robert Coolman at The Daily Beast explores the theory that the infestation was started by a cult leader.
Via The Daily Beast:
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Living up to nine years and growing upwards of 8-10 inches long, they’re not quite the stuff of illuminated-manuscript margins, but their effect on Florida agriculture has indeed been legendary. Last year the eradication program had cost the state of Florida more than six million dollars.
It’s theorized the infestation traces back to a Miami-based religious leader named Charles L. Stewart, described by court documents as “El Africano” or “Oloye Ifatoku,” practicing the traditional African religion of Ifa Orisha (which is often confused with the Cuban Santería). According to an interview conducted by theMiami Herald back in 2010, a witness described the ritual thusly: he would “hold [the snail] over the devotee, then cut the [snail] and pour the raw fluid directly from the still live [snail] into the mouth of the devotee.”
The snail ritual was supposed to cure worshipers with medical problems, but instead they went to the authorities complaining it was making them violently ill.