December 17th Feast of Babalu Aye

December 17th Feast of Babalu Aye December 17, 2014

Sonponno display at Smithsonian Museum of Natural History photo by Lilith Dorsey, all rights reserved.
Sonponno display at Smithsonian Museum of Natural History photo by Lilith Dorsey, all rights reserved.

Babalu Aye is the La Regla Lucumi, or Santeria, Orisha of healing, of sickness, death and infectious disease. He is frequently honored on December 17th which corresponds to the traditional Catholic feast day for Saint Lazarus of Bethany. According to Catholic doctrine Lazarus was the brother of Martha and Mary Magdalene, better known for her colorful history and relationship to Jesus Christ.

It is said the Babalu Aye travels with two dogs, that some believe were borrowed for him by Eleggua from Ogun, the Orisha of Iron. Like the Orisha Oya, the wind is one of the magickal tools he uses to accomplish his work. Various images depict Babalu Aye as being covered in wounds or sores, and in some cultures he is shown cloaked completely in raffia and straw. Among the Yoruba traditionally he is known as Sonponno, but he is also known by the names Omolu and Sumbu. Palm trees are especially sacred to this deity. The book Healing Grove by Stephanie Rose Bird talks about how Palm wine is sprinkled about outside peoples’ homes to ward off disease. Brooms made of palm leaves are also crafted to trap illness and keep negativity in the hands of it’s owner.

The virtues of Babalu Aye are those of supreme discipline and patience. The blog River of Honey tells his pataki, or ritual story, about his youth and maturity.

IMG_2030 by Roly Chang licensed by CC 2.0
IMG_2030 by Roly Chang licensed by CC 2.0

“He disregarded the rules and customs of his time and did things his own way, which was often very reckless. His careless lifestyle caused him to become stricken with smallpox and other diseases (hence his connection to disease). He was eventually shunned by all of the orishas except for Elegba, the orisha of the crossroads. Elegba had pity on him and took him to see Orunmila, the orisha of divination. Orunmila consulted Ifa and told Babaluaye that he was living the result of his lack of discipline. Babaluaye thanked Orunmila and Elegba and traveled to Dahomey (present day Benin). At the sight of Babaluaye, the king of Dahomey who was a very reckless king himself, bowed and asked Babaluaye for forgiveness. It was through this that Babaluaye was able to establish himself as king over the land.”

Babalu Aye Offerings and Herbs

If you would like to connect with the ashe, or divine energy, of Babalu Aye these herbs can be made into an infusion and used as a bath, or added to a candle for extra potency.

  • Beans
  • Cascarilla
  • Peas
  • Raffia
  • Sesame Seeds
  • Basil
  • Bergamot
  • Copal
  • Carnation
  • Cinnamon
  • Camphor
  • Eucalyptus
  • Frankincense
  • Lime
  • Myrrh
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Yarrow

For more information about this Orisha of healing check out my post  Babalu Aye- The King Who Hurts the World.

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