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?


  1. Ashé Michael,

    My ocha name is Ochún Funké, and we'll leave it at that. I was made ocha over 10 years ago, by Babá Funké, Carlos Jiménez and my oyubona, Olomidara, Arturo Sardiña in Sylmar, California.

    San Lázaro bendito, had been sooo special to me since before my asiento, that I had to chose in between coronating ocha or receiving him. This is how it happened, do you have time for a story? Well...My mother's health was at stake, she had tumors growin in her body and had two surgeries already.

    Oché-Ojuani was the sign and I will never forget it since it was such a turn of my entire life. I had not yet decided to enter fully in this religion. But my momther's health has no price. But her, being such a latina, catholic woman would never agree to what San Lázaro asked of her, just to wear her necklace. It just was out of the question, it would never happen!

    So, my padrino asked Him what to do instead of my mother's necklace, and He answered for me to fully receive Him. So, I did. Then, everything would work out for me to make full ocha, a year later.

    And here is where I come to my point: Yes, I heard that San Lázaro bendito, doesn't expect too much! In my mother's case it was just to wear His necklace. But at the same time it is true, because she was a "majadera" then the worst happened to her, according to her principles: her son became a santero. So, when people ask me the same question, I always give the same answer; but I remember the face of the elders while saying: "He doesn't expect too much", there was always a faint smile in their lips.

    This had been my own experience with Asojano, the Love of my life, my most beloved companion.



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