Babalú-Ayé in the Public Eye, Babalú-Ayé in Private Life
Many people in Cuba have told me that after Changó and Ochún, Babalú-Ayé is the most popular oricha in the religion; it is true that those who know him definitely love him. Still I am always surprised by quickly people will simplify this complex character. I recently found a website about Cuban culture that suggests that “he has simple tastes and does not expect much.”
This contradicts directly what I know about Babalú-Ayé, both from my elders and from my experience. My elders have said over and over—and I have repeated it like a chorus to my own godchildren, “You can negotiate with any other oricha, but you cannot play with Babalú-Ayé.” With this, the elders imply that there is simply too much at stake: to play with Babalú is play with your health, and only a fool—a “moron” as one of my beloved godparents might say—would do that! I was taught that we have to be extra careful when we do ceremonies for Babalú-Ayé, because he is so demanding, exacting, what Cubans call “majadero.”
I once had a very vivid dream: in the darkness, I could feel the heat of a body close to me. I could feel this figure breathe on the side of my face, and the breath smelled foul. Then the figure spoke, “I am Babalú-Ayé, and I could possess you, but possession is the death of the ego.”
Here Babalú-Ayé reminded me of his true power. He could possess me, literally or figuratively, and he could destroy the me I know. He could kill me—in fact, when we sing Osain for Babalú, there is a special step in the ceremony so that death will always be present. The god appeared and reminded me you that he could take me out, kill me. But he didn´t. He just put me on notice.
He doesn´t expect too much? Really?