My plane left Baltimore late, so I had missed my connection and spent three extra days in Jamaica trying to be patient. When I finally arrived in Havana, the customs officials interviewed me at length about why I was in Cuba, who I was visiting, what I was carrying. After forty-five minutes, they searched my two small bags and found exactly what I said they would find.
I went straight from the airport to Calle Guasabacoa in Luyanó where the ceremony was to take place. The dramatic throne was already up, and Asojano was waiting for me with seven jaces. Fifteen minutes after I arrived, we started the ebó by feeding the ancestors with a rooster, a hen, and a dove. We gave cocos, they said Eyeife, good to go.
Forty-five minutes later, as we prepared for the awán, I quietly asked Pedro Abreu—Asoyanye if I could take a picture of the baskets and the plates of food. “It’s not a good idea, because this is a tremendous awán.” Secrecy maintained.
Asonyanye and two of his godchildren ritually moved Asojano from the throne in the next room to the base of the basket. Down on all fours, they pushed the cazuela with their foreheads, singing
Aforo foro, Asojano aforo foro yawe, Owe mina mina we.
Then we all pressed our heads to the ground in front of Asojano. Asonyanye invoked the ancestors again along with all the Arará fodunces (as they call the deities). He prayed for a long time in Arará and then threw the cocos to determine if Asojano was ready to proceed. No. We could have predicted that, given the major obstacles to getting there. Asonyanye asked if something was missing. No. Asonyanye asked if I should get a reading with Ifá after the ceremony to guide me. Yes.
The awán was enormous, more than fifty plates, concentric circles of plates with different kinds of grains, cut-up fruits and vegetables, cooked meat, and pureed sweet potato and cooked cornmeal. I stood barefoot on a piece of sackcloth. After each person had cleaned themselves, two priests of Asojano—godsons of Asonyanye’s—cleaned me. Then they presented the plates to their heads, kissed them and tossed the remaining ingredients into the basket. Then they went to the innermost circle of plates, which were reserved for me. They took a steak and wiped me down with it. They took a pork chop and again wiped me down. They cleaned me with dried corn on the cob, a red onion, a cigar, and two eggs. They wiped me down with the pureed sweet potato and they cooked cornmeal. At this point I was filthy. Then came the ebó to the awán: They offered a goat, a speckled chicken, and a guinea hen. They cleaned me with those as well.
Asonyanye led me to the bathroom, where my clothes were cut off, I was be washed clean with omiero and dressed in sackcloth. I emerged again for the offerings to the fodunces. Elegguá Echu Afrá, Hevioso, Nanú and Asojano all ate well. The goat for Asojano was so big that it took five men to hold it.
As Asonyanye said, it was like receiving Asojano again.