Ochún Transformed Olofi to Be with Babalú-Ayé

Just as we begin in one place but often end up somewhere very different, so it is with the orichas and even Olofi, another name santeros give to Olodumare, the Supreme God. In the odu Ofun-Ocana, the elders tell another tale of the death and resurrection of Babalú-Ayé. It has some similarities to the one where Obatalá told him to keep to himself, but it also has a lot to say about promiscuity and the movement of the orichas.

Olofi gave Babalú-Ayé the aché to sleep with any woman he desired. One day, Orunmila approached Babalú-Ayé and said, “As you know, today is a holy day, and Olofi would like you to control yourself.”

But Babalú-Ayé answered, “If Olofi gave me the aché, it was so I could make use of it as often as I like.”

“Do what you like,” answered Orunmila before leaving. On Thursday evening, Babalú-Ayé went to bed with a woman, and the next day his whole body was covered in sores. In a few days he died as a consequence of the syphilis that Olofi had sent as a punishment. But the women on Earth could not accept such a loss. Even Ochún, the oricha of rivers, sensuality, and love, delighted in the embrace of Babalú-Ayé. Ochún and all the other women pleaded before Olofi, asking him to restore the life of Oluó Popó, another praise name for Babalú. Olofi refused to be indulgent, denying the petition made by the women.

So the women went to Orunmila and asked him to set a trap for Olofi. He agreed and spread sorcery throughout Olofi’s palace. It was based on honey, the aché of Ochún. Having spread it everywhere, Orunmila sat down to wait, but he didn´t have to wait long because Olofi felt possessed by strange and pleasing sensations. Olofi called his secretary and said, “Who has covered my house with this pleasing honey?”

To this, Orunmila responded, “I don’t know,” but Olofi insisted saying, “I want you to get me more of that pleasing honey.” But Orunmila did not answer him, intending to intrigue him even more. So Olofi, almost desperate said, “Who can get more for me?” Orunmila responded, “A woman.”

Olofi called for all women to come together and when they had gathered, he asked, “Which of you has covered my house with this pleasing honey?” and they all responded, “Not me.” Olofi looked carefully at them, and he noticed the absence of Ochún. So he said, “Bring Ochún to me immediately.”

When she appeared, Olofi asked her the same question, and Ochún responded, “That is my oñí, my honey.”

“I want you to get me more,” said Olofi.

“More?” asked Ochún. “You had the power to take the life of Babalú-Ayé, and I have the power to get more honey. If you have the power to take life, you must also be able to restore it. If you want my honey, you must bring Babalú-Ayé back to life." To this Olofi responded, “Deal.” Ochún produced more honey and smeared it on Olofi’s lips. Again he was possessed by strange and pleasing sensations. When Ochún kissed him, they intensified. Because Olofi had not previously known the pleasures of the body, when Ochún made love to him, he was never the same again.

After Olofi brought Babalú-Ayé back to life, Ochún immediately went to him. And in this way Babalú-Ayé returned to the world to enjoy the same privilege he had before.

In this remarkable story, Babalú-Ayé does not respect the limits that are set for him and steps beyond the boundaries of what is acceptable. Olofi punishes him with sickness and then death. But Ochún loves—or at least desires—him so much, that she goes to heaven and drives Olofi crazy with passion. Then she makes love to him, introducing him to the pleasures of the body and expanding his experience of the universe. She does all this so she can be with Babalú again.

(Photo (c) Robert Crandall)