In Oché-Osá, the elders tell this story that introduces yet another little-known companion of Babalú-Ayé.
Once, in the land called Osun Irawo, there lived a powerful royal couple named Oduaremu and Ekubijegan. These two indicated to the citizens of that land how to adore the ancestors. They had a child who was born deformed and with rickets, and so they named him Ason, meaning “sickness.” Ason was always wandering through his parents’ kingdom, but no one wanted to recognize him. But one day he happened upon Death who said, “Since no one understands you, why don’t you ally yourself with me and then you will be great in my kingdom?
So Ason dressed in Death’s clothes, and with his black suit he visited Death’s kingdom, where he received honors, including the title “Keleyewe Kuto,” a secretive man recognized in the land of the dead. When Ason returned to his parents’ kingdom, it was racked with calamities, and Death began to dominate its residents. Oduaremu and Ekubijegan visited the king of Ifá in that country, who was called Babá niye Awó. The diviner saw Oché-Osá, and said that they would see the loss of a great secret, and about the nature of the curse that had been sent upon them in the form of their son. They explained that Ason has left years before and that they did not know where he was. Babá niye Awó responded that only Changó and Alawama knew where Ason could be found.
Babá niye Awó marked the ebó and sent them to the river to finish their ceremony so Changó and Alawama could show them the way to find Ason. When Oduaremu and Ekubijegan arrived at the river, they saw how Alawama and Changó did their ceremonies, in which a man dressed all in black emerged when they offered food and sang. When the king and queen approached, the dark shadow hid itself. After the royal couple explained their situation, Changó and Alawama agreed to help return their kingdom to prosperity. But to accomplish this, they would never meet Ason again, because he was not longer of this world. Rather, he lived with Death, where he was made king and had the name Keleyewe Kuto, he that can live among the dead and be felt among the living. So the king and queen agreed.
When Ason appeared dressed in black and his parents paid homage to him, they swore on a great secret, bojomonosi, and a castrated goat, which they fed to him and thus formed a pact. Ason returned to their kingdom but never revealed his true name. As he entered the kingdom, he began to touch everyone, returning them to health, and so everyone called him “Asojano,” meaning “medicine that heals.” From this time forward, which was the birth of Asojano, Ason and illness are gathered in a vessel to protect people, and Asojano together with Ekubijegan and Oduaremu are the three rulers of the land of Osun Irawo, which is also the land of Oché Osá.
The elders say children of this sign must receive Ekubijegan, and I have seen recipes for constructing this oricha, who is sometimes referred to as the mother of Elegguá in Arará. What fascinates me most about the direction to consecrate this power is that she plays such a small role in the story. I should add that here is another power that I have never knowingly seen, nor have I heard others talk about making her. Moreover, the same elders have said that you have to receive the vessel of Asojano in the sign and call it by yet another special name to indicate that it is the one that lived in the land of the dead.
On the other hand, I know Pedro Abreu—Asonyanye (yes, it’s the same Ason as in the story) does confect Keleyewe Kuto for his godchildren, and I have heard him describe the process in great detail: after charging a piece of cactus with medicine, it must spend the night in bed with a blind man. To add veracity to the story, Pedro even told me the blind man’s name. In fact, I once heard Pedro’s first godson tell a story of using Keleyewe Kuto to get a stolen object returned, and I have seen tratados that state that this power is most effective at identifying thieves.