Friday, July 30, 2010

Dogs and Adú Kaqué

Again and again, Babalú-Ayé appears in close association with dogs. But he is not alone, as other orichas also include these universal animals. We deliver scraps to the curbside after major ceremonial meals, where dogs feast, thus placating Echu so “he will give us food,” as an elderly priestess once explained to me. Ochosi, the hunter, also includes two small dogs in his tools, and Ogún is said to eat dog in Nigeria. I have even heard Cuban elders recount a ceremony no longer performed, where Erinle eats dog.

The natural habits of the dog are instructive. Living in the house in close relationship with people, the dog always wants to go into the street. Beyond the street and into the forest, the dog senses what cannot be seen to chase down game or lead its owner back to town. Crossing domains and capable of great aggression when necessary, the dog also licks open wounds on itself and people around it. In many places, people believe that the saliva of dogs actually heals in some way.

When unwanted, the dog is a perfect image of the abject and wretched life on the streets. After all, it is a dog-eat-dog world. Conversely the proverb in Obara-Odí says, “The dog has four feet but takes a single path.” The dog is focused, fierce, and aggressive, and the dog is rejected. The dog heals through contact and is capable of seeing the invisible and guiding people.

In fact, both Arará and Lucumí lineages recognize a road of Babalú-Ayé that is a dog. Called Adú Kaqué or simply Kaqué, elders say he is a dog or has the head of a dog on a man’s body. They say that he lives naked in the forest. When he possesses someone, he nips at the people he encounters. Naturally, he likes to have bones and rubber toys set down in front of him as offerings he can chew on. He takes black beads with white stripes, and his altar is sometimes crowned with a dog skull.

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