An Earth Deity for Earth Day
One Matanzas lineage I know focuses on travel and Earth as they prepare to give Babalú-Ayé . They take Babalú out to a cemetery and feed him with a guinea, white wine and cigar smoke. Then they pick up Earth from cemetery and continue to the foot of a ceiba tree, where they do the whole ceremony again. The Earth from both locations ends up in the osain.
The Arará-Dajomé lineage of Armando Zulueta—Omí Toqué actually starts the ceremony by doing a simple cleaning over an open hole. The fundamento goes into the hole wrapped in sack cloth and is fed with a rooster. The following day, just before being washed, the fundamento comes out of the hole. A priest proceeds to transport the fundamento from the hole to the oricha room, led by someone burning incense and others throwing toasted corn.
This last ceremony recollects the relatively common ceremony of feeding the Earth. Here a hole is opened, the person is cleaned with an animal—usually a rooster—and the animal is fed to the Earth and then buried in the hole. The ceremony ends with the person standing on top of the closed hole. If the hole is an analogy for the grave, the person thereby stresses her standing upright and reaffirms her victory over death. You can imagine that every step they take on the Earth in some way reconnects to that place and time, since the Earth is ubiquitous.
These ritual reminiscences only index one aspect of Babalú as an Earth deity. His praise names and roads reveal his link to wilderness. In Nigeria he is called Olodé, the owner of the wilderness. He is also called Ilé Gbona, the hot Earth, to underscore his vengeful character. In Cuba, elders say that Asojano-Agrozumeto rules the untamed places of the Earth. They say that Adu Kaqué lives in the middle of the forest and Lumue rules the spirits of dry forests.
As the ubiquitous witness of human acts, as the ground on which we stand and make our journey through the world, as source of our firmeza or solidity, and as the unknown wilds within us, Babalú is an Earth deity extraordinaire.