Sunday, January 17, 2010
Another Story about Ochún and Babalú-Ayé
The first time I ever got a reading in the religion, it was with Santiago Pedroso-Cálves, an Obatalá priest and orí-até who worked out of Philadelphia in the 1970s and 1980s. He told me a story about Ochún and Babalú-Ayé that I have never heard anywhere else.
Babalú-Ayé was sick and covered with open sores from smallpox. When he arrived in the land of the Arará, he arrived at the bank of a river, the sacred realm of Ochún. He wrapped himself in a special cloth and entered into the water. He came out and he sat by the bank until he was dry. When he unwrapped himself, his sores were gone. Pleased with this new development, Babalú rested in this place.
(At this point in the narrative, Santiago pointed to his Babalú-Ayé and said it was the same kind of cloth hanging over it--a square of sack cloth with a thick edging of purple cloth and four cowries in the middle, sewn in the shape of a cross.)
After a few days, a child appeared covered in same sores that had plagued Babalú. He explained that the town nearby was suffering from a terrible outbreak of smallpox. Crying out in pain, the child asked if Babalú could help him. Babá wrapped him in the same cloth and told him to bathe in the river. Then he sent the child home to his parents with instructions to unwrap himself in the morning.
When he arrived home, the child told his parents what had happened. In the morning, when they removed the cloth, he was cured. Together they went to find Babalú, and as they walked through town to the river, their friends and neighbors saw the healthy child and began to dance in celebration. By the time they found Babalú, the whole town was following the boy and his parents. They asked Babalú to heal them all, and when he had finished, they asked him to be their king.
As I said, I have never heard this specific story anywhere else, but like the other story, it shows a very intimate relationship between Ochún and Babalú--after all, he enters her. Here Babalú wanders into this other kingdom of his own accord, and led by his own wisdom, he is healed by the cleansing waters of Ochún.