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3 Stories of Saint Lazarus venerated in Cuba and his syncretism with Babalú

Saint Lazarus Babalú Ayé

In Cuba every year on December 17th, crowds of Cubans go to the San Lázaro Sanctuary or the Rincón de San Lázaro to worship and fulfill promises to old Lázaro as we affectionately call him.

From this precious temple, but also from our homes we offer and ask the merciful saint to work great miracles on our behalf.

En the Santeria or Rule of Osha the cult of San Lázaro joins that of an important Orisha who is the owner of diseases, and thus many wonder why San Lázaro is syncretized with Babalú Ayé.

And it is that syncretism was the result that the Africans who were slaves had to hide their religion, they were brought to this part of the world inhumanly and uprooted from their land by slavery by the colonizers.

They had neither voice nor vote and the means they found to maintain their faith was to cover up their African gods with the Catholic Saints, establishing similarities in what their colonists believed and revered.

The Old Lazarus who is praised in Cuba is present in 3 important stories:

  1. The character of the Bible, brother of Martha and Mary Magdalene of Bethany and friend of Jesus Christ.
  2. In the story of Saint Luke the Evangelist (XNUMXst century), Lazarus the beggar appears.
  3. The syncretism of Babalú Ayé, the Orisha of the Yoruba Pantheon.

Here I tell you about each of these legends about the merciful old Lázaro and his avatars, the Blessed Saint Lazarus venerated by the Cubans and his syncretism with Babalú Ayé.

1. The Story of Saint Lazarus as a biblical character

Lazarus in this legend was a member of a family of great economic power, he had two sisters and they all lived in a castle near Nazareth called Magdala.

Their lands bordered with Bethany and part of Jerusalem.

Among the brothers it was perceived that Lázaro shared his money with the poor, María maintained a life full of luxuries and Marta, on her side, dedicated herself to household chores.

In the New Testament he appears as a friend of Jesus Christ the Lazarus who lived in Bethany.

He is named a lot because of the biblical passage in the Gospel of John (11: 41-44), where Jesus resurrects him, for this reason his name is used as a synonym for resurrection.

When Jesus died, Lazarus and his sisters sold all their lands, fled and landed in Marseilles with other followers of Christ and dedicated their lives to preaching the word of the Lord.

Lazarus also became Bishop, and it is because of his work that the tomb of Lazarus when he died became a place of pilgrimage during the Middle Ages.

2. Saint Lazarus as a beggar

Jesus of Nazareth in the New Testament Gospel of Luke tells the anecdote of two men and the fate of each of them at the end of their lives.

He also narrates how one of these men who was Lazarus the beggar was covered in ulcers, hungry, without help because no one helped him.

It is described in this story how Lazarus was lying on the floor in the rich man's house only receiving the crumbs that fell from the banquet table that that man covered in fine clothes was giving, and without having compassion on the leper only the dogs approached him to lick their wounds.

When the rich man dies, he goes to hell where Hades is (God of the underworld and of much darkness).

And poor Lazarus beggar when he dies, the angels lead him to Abraham (Father of believers, of faith and who blesses).

3. Syncretism of Babalú Ayé with San Lázaro

Its name comes from Lucumí origin, which is really a title because Bàbálù Ayé means the father of the world.

His cult comes from Benin, where he is called Azowáno, King of Nupe.

Pataki Yoruba of the Orisha Babalú

The patakin (legend) tells that Babalú Ayé was a man who was very fond of women, drinks and parties.

He was married to Oshún, the goddess of love and honey, but she abandons him due to his continuous infidelities, although in reality everyone who knew Babalú began to lose respect for him.

Orunmila, the fortune-teller of Ifá one day, coinciding with Holy Thursday, advised him not to drink or hang out with women, because that occasion was a day of respect.

But Babalú Ayé ignored the advice given by Orunmila and went partying with his women.

The next day when he woke up he was covered with purulent pustules and when he went out to the street nobody approached him and everyone fled from him, only the dogs were the ones who were going to lick his sores.

He begged a lot to Olofin to forgive him, but he did not listen to him and after a time, already very ill, Babalú died.

Oshún, upon learning of his death, goes to Olofin and pleads with him for the life of Babalú Ayé.

And Oshún being blessed and protected by Olofin intercedes before his request for Babalú and the great creator grants him the gift of life again.

Then Babalú Ayé, for having suffered in his own skin the pain and suffering after Olofin resurrected him, becomes the shelter of the sick and is merciful to them.

Babalú Ayé in the Yoruba pantheon is the god of leprosy, venereal diseases, smallpox and everything related to skin conditions and both bodily and spiritual ailments.

This Orisha, although highly respected, is also very feared, he only comes out at night and in the mornings.añaNas hides from the sun to protect her skin in the ivy plants and among the cundeamor.

3 Stories and a single cult of Faith

If you have read all three stories you will also find similarities between them.

That is why syncretism was present in the slavery stage as an escape to safeguard the faith.

  • In the first parable Saint Lazarus Bishop was resurrected by Jesus as well as Babalú Ayé by Olofin.
  • In the second Lazaro the beggar walks in rags, he is leper, and he walks on crutches, the dogs also lick his pustules like Babalú Ayé suffered the sores on his body through disobedience and the dogs take care of his wounds.

The truth is that, although syncretism was born in sad and painful times for humanity, it has given us our idiosyncrasy and religiosity, today cults are united in a single mantle of faith.

If you want to venerate the holy Lazarus, we share some offerings in his name:

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