Meet the Gods: Babalú–Ayé
Babalú–Ayé, the God of Healing in Santerian practice and Yoruba religion, is an Orisha. God checker.com describes an Orisha as “a spirit cocktail with a slice of saint and a tiny dash of divinity for flavor.” A few – including Babalú–Ayé – were worshiped as gods. Babalú-Ayé translates to “Father, Lord of the Earth.” What began with a single tribe in Nigeria spread to many tribes all along Africa’s western coast.
He is closely associated with infectious diseases, and healing the physical body, wealth and possessions. In West Africa, smallpox, Ebola, leprosy, influenza and HIV/AIDS epidemics are affiliated with him. He works to combat infections and epidemics, making him well respected. But as much as he can cure these diseases, he can also strike someone ill with them, making him greatly feared.
This god, with his magical healing powers, makes him one we can turn to during the Covid-19 pandemic. Some no doubt see the virus as a testament to Babalú Ayé’s fearsome power
According to Wikipedia, “His worship is widely associated with the Earth itself, and his shrines are often separated from commonly traveled areas. His ritual tools include a ritual broom for purification, a covered Terra-cotta vessel, and abundant cowrie shells. Usually considered hobbled by disease, he universally takes grains as offerings.”
Some traditions say Olofi, the Supreme God, gifted Babalú Ayé with “the ache” to have sex with any woman he desired. The story goes that Olofi asked Babalú Ayé to refrain from promiscuity for one holy day. When Babalú Ayé did not, Olofi punished him with syphilis and he died days later. Women who had delighted in his embrace pleaded with Olofi to restore his life. He refused. A trap was set and sorcery was used so a woman was able to drive Olofi crazy with passion, showing him the pleasures of the body. The god ended up returning Babalú Ayé to the living. One tale has Babalú Ayé being given all his same gifts and another has him stricken with smallpox.
The latter fits with the many descriptions of him being a man – sometimes muscular, sometimes sickly – walking with the help of a staff, and covered in straw to hide his smallpox sores and scars. He is typically depicted wearing a necklace of cowrie shells that can also adorn his headpiece. Often he is accompanied by two dogs, which has also made Babalú Ayé the protector of all animals, especially dogs.
“Sometimes when people suffer from life-threatening diseases, they wish for death for peace,” mojosiedlak.com states. “Babalú Aye helps grant them their wish and helps to guide those souls over to the other side. Babalú Aye is often found in hospitals, hospices, places where people are cured, gyms and the desert as well.”
Because he is the lord of many diseases, he is the patron deity of those who are sick or infirmed.
According to mojosiedlak.com, “The ceremony for worshiping Babalú Aye is known as the Awan in the Santeria tradition. Burlap is sacred to this Orisha and is often offered as a sacrifice to him. Babalú Aye’s sacred number is 17 and his sacred colors are purple, brown and yellow [the colors of a bruise]. December 17th is Babalú Aye’s [feast] day. His favorite food offerings are a roasted ear of corn, popcorn, black-eyed peas, rum, tobacco, and beans.”
An article on originalbotanica.com suggests when praying to him for compassion and mercy, offer some of his favorite foods, and that in addition to rum, a dry white wine is also appropriate. His gemstones – tanzanite, bloodstone, jasper and snowflake obsidian – can help set the altar, along with candles in white, yellow, or purple, and an image of Babalú Aye.
A shrine to him was described as a Terra-cotta pot decorated with cowrie shells, kept someplace dark and quiet where he will not be bothered. Eighteen loose cowrie shells kept for divination – a tradition to get advice and guidance from the Orishas and departed ancestors.
About the Author:
All my life I have known magic was real. As a child, I played with the fae, established relationships with trees and “just knew things.” In my maiden years I discovered witchcraft and dabbled in the black-candles-and-cemeteries-at-midnight-on-a-fullmoon magick just enough to realize I did not understand its power. I went on to explore many practices including Zen, astrology, color therapy, native traditions, tarot, herbs, candle magic, gems, and, as I moved into my mother years, Buddhism, the Kabbalah and Reiki. The first man I dated after my divorce was a witch who reintroduced me to the Craft, this time by way of the Goddess. For 11 years I was in a coven, but with retirement, I have returned to an eclectic solitary practice. When accepting the mantle of crone, I pledged to serve and teach. This is what I do from my skoolie – a 30-year-old school bus converted into a tiny house on wheels that I am driving around the country, following 72-degree weather, emerging myself into nature, and sharing magic with those I meet. Find me at thewitchonwheels.com, Facebook and Instagram.