Who is Lukumí Babalú-Ayé, Santería's San Lázaro, Asojano Arará?
Monday, December 27, 2010
Babalú-Ayé and the Santo Parado
The elders say that Babalú-Ayé can possess anyone, because he is compared to an ancestor, and anyone can get possessed by an ancestor. Similarly, they say it is because all human beings are subject to illness. So it is no surprise that many people seem to pass Babalú-Ayé or ancestral spirits who serve him.
In fact, in Matanzas City, Chino Pérez is widely known as a horse of Babalú-Ayé, even though he is the keeper of the house of Ferminita Gómez, the home of one of the original Olocuns in Cuba. While he has received Babá’s fundamento, when last I visited him, he had not undergone the full initiation known as the asiento, nor was he inclined to. It seemed unnecessary as Babalú-Ayé came and went quite fluidly in possession, and he frequently did miraculous things when he did appear. In fact, when Saúl Fernández—Babá Ni Beleké made Lucumí Babalú-Ayé direct in Havana in the late 1990s, he called upon El Chino to create the secret that went inside. Justly or not, many people in Arará houses use this fact to disparage that initiation.
There is a long tradition in places outside of Havana of what people refer to as santo parado. Those people with santo parado usually get possessed quite easily, and the orichas who mount them give good, reliable information to the people they encounter—and often do reliable work as well. However, these individuals have not undergone any formal ceremony. This tradition contrasts sharply the asiento, so essential to modern practice in Havana. This tradition was reported to David Brown by Oswaldo García Villamil (Santería Enthroned, p. 142) as the oldest form of oricha worship in Matanzas. William Bascom found similar attitudes in 1948 in Jovellanos, where many people were mounted by orichas, but only about 40 had undergone the full initiation ceremony. Like El Chino, many in Jovellanos considered the asiento to be an unnecessary expense and entanglement (Bascom Papers, Bancroft Library, UCLA, Carton 26, Folder 3, p. 301). The well-documented reality of santo parado provides another example of the diversity of practices in the worship of the orichas.
The idea of santo parado is intriguing. García describes it as having the oricha “by your side,” but the word parado has a wide range of meanings. It also implies having the oricha “standing up,” an expression that is also used to describe a man’s sex organ at important moments. Oddly, it can also imply being “stopped,” "stunned," or “standing on end.” I particularly like this last one as it compares the oricha to your hair after a shower: it’s a little crazy because it´s still in process.