my mother told me
you christen a home
in her island-country
you take a chicken
behead it with a sharpened knife
slit it cleanly across the neck
let blood splatter untainted
earth and burn incense
let the burning bush
stink and permeate the freshly
erected walls, seep into the wood
seep into the tiling
make it your own home
i think that's beautiful
In Jamaica, there is an uncommon spiritual practice known as "obeah." In other Afro-Caribbean islands and in Louisiana, in the states, it is referred to as "voodoo." The mysticism and pantheon of gods of old permeate the historical fabric of this ancient and frowned-upon tradition.
The methodical slaughter of a chicken and the splattering of blood on the earth is believed by some to help bless the land that the home would be built upon. The belief was that the blood would purify the soil...make it sanctified. Additionally, it was also believed that in order to purify the home one would need to burn incense. My mother, when she was recalling this tale to me of the people who still do it, mentioned that she had thought of burning incense in our as-of-yet unfinished home. No incense was burnt. No chickens were slaughtered. It is honestly done with reverence and although the slaughtering is seen as cruel by some or would be seen that way, for an ancient custom that is still respected, one of the few still practiced by some on the islands, it is seen as...a good option. Just a little backstory on the poem's origins.
Also the purification could also denote purifying one's body. As I was writing this, I thought of how we practice certain rituals to do this. We "burn out" certain toxins and cleanse our blood of impurities. We drink detoxifying drinks, hydrate ourselves with water, go one diets, and refrain from eating certain carbs and sugars. Some of us treat our body as a home to be cleansed. Some of us do not.
I think the juxtaposition of the image of blood, earth, the death of an animal...its sacrifice for the sake of blessing a land, a home, a family in relation to one's body is interesting. My hope is that I married the two concepts together in a way that is understandable to you and that you may find a piece of my culture to be interesting. If you don't, at least you learned something new. :D