Crutches and Joto Sojuca

Most Lucumí lineages give Babalú-Ayé with very simple “tools” inside his vessel. Usually, he takes two metal dogs and two metal crutches. These items are washed along with the other fundamentos and stay inside the vessel, forming an important part of the altar. Although most Arará lineages seal their Asojano vessels, they too see the crutches as one of his most common attributes. While the imagery seems to come directly from the chromolithograph of Saint Lazarus, it does open up a new way of understanding the deity.

The road, or manifestation, of Babalú called Joto Sojuca is said to be responsible for illnesses in the legs. Elders say he is the ancestor of the güira, a kind of gourd tree, and he lives in two closed gourds. Naturally, he takes crutches too.

Unable to move unassisted, Babalú-Ayé must support himself externally to stay upright and mobile. He can march forward confidently. Casting the crutches forward, his shoulders ache as he lifts his weight up. His feet drag as he swings them forward. He cringes as he shifts his weight back onto his feet. He props himself with external supports because otherwise he would fall.

This inherent weakness is inescapable in Babalú.

(Special thanks to and David H. Brown for the image at the top.)