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Babalú-Ayé and a Theology of Multiplicity

Babalú-Ayé’s world is rife with multiplicity. He is called by many names. Some people say he has 77 different roads, or avatars. He is honored by an enormous number of groups, and they make altar objects for him with many different forms. Even the secret medicines that go into these objects vary widely.
Babalú-Ayé is called by many names. In the Cuba countryside, some people call him Ayanu, and there are songs from Matanzas Province that reiterate this name as a generic praise name for him. The Ararat usually call him Asojano. In a common shorthand, many people simply refer to him as “the Old Man” or San Lázaro, the Catholic saint with which he is strongly associated. As I have explained elsewhere, these names are all really meant to protect us from speaking is true name, Shakuaná. To utter that name is to call sickness and death into your immediate surroundings.
My godfather Ernesto Pichardo taught me that Babalú-Ayé is like a surname for a group of deities, each of which has its own…

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