Joined: July 31st, 2010, 9:50 pm

March 31st, 2014, 8:30 pm #11

Chago didn’t mind her following, inquisitive eyes. Now that he knew that she was one of the wise women, it was natural for her to be like this.

”Yes, I am looking for plantain or murdock,” he answered. ”And I have just found them.”

These were plantain leaves, good to prevent swelling. He fixed the bandage quickly, and he received her thanks with a brief:

”You are welcome!”

As they were sitting next to the fire, he searched in his luggage and he found a loaf of bread. He broke it in two, offering her half. A pilgrim’s food was nothing else than bread and water, most of the time. Some sugarcane juice or coconut milk, or fruits found on the way, added to the pilgrims’ diet… but now there were none.

”May I ask you if you are going to ask for a favour or to thank for a received one?” he asked the usual question a pilgrim directed to another.

He might have been a little curious, but mostly interested in having the time pass quicker... at least until they got dry enough to be able to sleep.
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Joined: August 1st, 2010, 9:04 am

April 1st, 2014, 4:28 pm #12

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CONCHA ITALERA, healer[/align]

The man wasn’t bragging, he really had an idea what he was looking for. And this was good, in Concha’s opinion. After tending to her wounds, he was willing to tend to her hunger too, offering her half of the bread he had.

She took it eagerly, as she was hungry. Even hungrier now, that the emotions were settling, the pain got dulled and she started being again herself.

”Thank you very much. It is highly appreciated. And yes, I am thanking for received favours. I come every year to thank San Lazaro for the gift of healing, because I am earning my living as a midwife and healer, to ask for good health, prosperity and skilled hands in continuing my trade, and to give Him a part of my income, because without His help I wouldn’t have succeeded to buy my freedom and to live not exactly in poverty.”

This being said, she remembered that she had a bottle of wine, brought to be put in front of Babalu Aye – as she said San Lazaro only when speaking with a white person, how it was the case now. Given the circumstances of tonight, she could share the wine with the messenger of Oggun instead, and buy another bottle when arriving to Rincon. And yes, Oggun loved more aguardiente than wine, but it made sense. It would give taste to the bread and it would warm them up until the fire succeeded to dry them.

Concha Italera took the wine out of her luggage, uncorked it, spilled a few drops on the ground and a few in the fire, then gave it to the man who was protected by Santiago the Apostle, Oggun.

”And you? You said that you were waiting for a favour. You can ask it also tomorrow morning in Santiago de las Vegas.”

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Joined: July 31st, 2010, 9:50 pm

April 1st, 2014, 5:19 pm #13

Chago listened to her. So, recently manumitted, and a healer, besides being one of the initiated. It made sense, since San Lazaro was the patron saint of healers, to undertake every year this pilgrimage.

”I think I should apologize to you. I didn’t know your profession. I do my best, but I am not a healer like you,” he said with respect in his voice.

He would have never wanted to be on the bad side of a santera and the target of her curses.

He took the offered wine, spilled a little on the ground at his turn, for the dead, and took a swill, after having bitten from the bread. Bread and wine. Exactly what God was feeding the devout Christians – His body and His blood. And he could appreciate the wine’s quality when soaked wet on a December night outside.

He was asked, at his turn, for the purpose of his pilgrimage. He knew that some people wouldn’t tell, especially if the favour had been already granted. But he would. Maybe God had a purpose when sending this wise woman in his path, to remember him that he had another stop to make on the pilgrim’s road.

”Yes, I will ask for it my patron saint as well. With the offerings you have recommended, and some more. And if the night is still young, you may listen to my story and give your opinion of a person with more life experience than me,” he added, avoiding to call her old as he had thought it.

He was ready to tell Hermione’s story, even if he hadn’t made the ballad yet. It was on his list of priorities, but Micah’s appearance and his news had thrown him back on the old tracks, as he couldn’t leave alone the young mercenary in his predicament.

”I am asking for the forgiveness of my sins, for good health and prosperity like any other man, but I am also asking for the healing of my heart following the loss of the woman I loved. Not to forget her, but not to ache as much. Just to honour her memory as she deserves. And I am praying for the rest of her soul, as she died without a candle and in violent conditions,” he said simply, taking another sip from the bottle, then passing it to the woman.

The night and the fire were witnesses to the story he was telling. A summary of Hermione's story, avoiding to say the name of a place or a country, just "enemy territory". Which given the situation of Spain in this war, all the islands around, be they British, French or Dutch, were enemy territory.
Last edited by Santiago Moreno on April 1st, 2014, 5:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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April 1st, 2014, 7:11 pm #14

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CONCHA ITALERA, healer[/align]

When a whiter man apologized to her, admitting that he wasn’t a healer like her, Concha smiled and replied quickly:

”Of course not, you are a warrior. A man of the arms, I saw you with the machete, one would have said you were the Apostle in person, your patron saint. But you know what to do with the plants too, you hadn’t bragged in vain.”

It was her turn to be bewildered of his politeness and way of treating her as an equal.

She was curious to listen to his story, and she did it in silence, pleased that her words were taken into account.

”I understand better your quest now. And besides the two saints’ help, I will offer mine too,” she said.

It was not a thing a santera would have said lightly to a foreigner. But she owed him her life, and Oggun and Babalu Aye had chosen him to bring him in her path for a reason. She was ready to offer him as much as he could understand and accept. Starting with her own story in exchange for the one she had just heard.

"I loved two men, and I lost both to death. One, the father of my children, went to dance for Mani. The other, years later, got killed by thunder - maybe he had angered San Elias, what can I know? I am still alive, having survived them and learnt to cope with the loss. You will too. My twins got separated from me and sold, at ten, each one to a different master, far away that I don't know anything about them ever since..."

Her voice broke in sadness. She took a deep breath, then she continued:

"You'll overcome your grief too. You'll learn to think of her just to be inspired to attain greater achievements. I became a healer because I lost people to Death and I thought I could learn to negotiate with San Lazaro and Santa Maria Candelaria," she said the saint names the white man would know. "You should pray for the rest of her soul, later, in a novena to Santa Maria Candelaria, she advised further, without saying openly that she meant Oye, the Death.

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Last edited by NPC on April 4th, 2014, 7:34 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Joined: July 31st, 2010, 9:50 pm

April 4th, 2014, 8:03 am #15

He raised a brow, sort of wondering how she knew that he was a warrior, and a bit flattered to be compared with his patron saint. But since she was a wise woman, one who knew, it was somehow logical to be perceptive, he mused.

”I think I shouldn’t refuse any help,” he answered honestly, wondering what kind might be hers.

Chago listened carefully to the woman’s life story. Yes, she was strong. He knew what meant for a slave he went to dance – it meant he ran away and joined the maroons. Probably killed by slave hunters, a terrible death that she was near to find it today too.

The mercenary made, respectfully, the sign of the cross and told her:

”May they rest in peace.”

When hearing about ten years old children sold, though, he protested loudly:

”I know the laws say families shouldn’t be separated from their children.”

He wasn’t born yesterday; he had never owned slaves, but he had heard about the laws.

Her encouragement that he’d overcome his grief and Hermione’s name would help him to attain greater achievements made him smile. This was what Old Garrick and dona Mariana had told him, at their turn, with different words.

The advice to pray to Santa Maria Candelaria made sense to him as well. He hadn’t told her that this was the feast day he intended to go to La Cachita in the last of the pilgrimage rows.

”I guess you are right, I will make that novena and go to Cobre on that feast,” he answered receptively.
Last edited by Santiago Moreno on April 4th, 2014, 8:06 am, edited 1 time in total.
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April 4th, 2014, 8:09 am #16

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CONCHA ITALERA, healer[/align]

If she had been pleased first, when he accepted her help with no restraints, the old healer laughed bitterly at hearing him cite laws.

”The law says one thing on paper. I heard this. I can’t read. But people do what they want, white people I mean. One can’t force a plantation owner to buy two children and a mother when one child is cheaper and what he needs. I cried all my tears, then I accepted what I couldn’t change and I needed to find my path forward. So will you.”

She looked at him with interest at hearing that he would go to another pilgrimage after a novena, inquiring directly:

”What can you do best? What can you do so that she would be proud of you? And what can you do for the saints? Not only San Lazaro, but the others as well.”

In santeria, this was the best approach to prayer, doing something for the saints. And finding an inspiration in the deceased's spirit was the best path for healing.

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Last edited by NPC on April 6th, 2014, 4:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Joined: July 31st, 2010, 9:50 pm

May 30th, 2014, 10:54 am #17

Chago knew she was sort of right. One couldn’t force anyone to do what they didn’t want and to spend much more money than they had available for something. And he understood the mother’s grief.

”I think I am on the right path, I started accepting what I can’t change. I am not sure yet which is the path forward, neither if I succeeded to make peace with myself. I think San Lazaro and La Virgen del Cobre will show me. And la Candelaria too, if this is what you have recommended to me,” he said on a hopeful tone.

The next question surprised him a lot, even if dona Mariana had sort of asked him something similar. How on Earth these women, of different ages, social, cultural and ethnic backgrounds, were thinking so closely one to the other in this respect?

”I don’t know what is the better way to channel my grief into more constructive deeds of love. Singing is what I can do and something she liked listening to. I want to write her a ballad... one last hommage and a sort of posthumous recovery of her reputation, tarnished by the scandal which led to her death. This might make her proud of me. I don’t know what else.”

He couldn’t answer dona Mariana either. He simply didn;t know anymore what was for him to do.

”And what would the saints expect from me? I can fight in their defense, I can sing, I can read prayers, including in Latin. I can light candles and bring offerings as you taught me,” he said, looking at her sheepishly.

Would this old woman whom God and San Lazaro had brought into his way have the answers to any of his life questions?
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June 4th, 2014, 10:31 am #18

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CONCHA ITALERA, healer[/align]

It was already late for philosophical discussions, when tomorrow they would have a long path of walking in front of them, Concha mused, while listening to him. Not knowing was normal, and awaiting for an enlightening. It was a good reason to do a pilgrimage to Babalu Aye, to ask him for healing a broken heart.

”Tomorrow you’ll ask for help from your patron saint as well,” she said.

A ballad sounded interesting. Orishas liked songs and dance. She nodded approvingly.

She knew what else she could further do to help him. La Italera felt if she could do anything and she didn’t, just because this man Oggun had sent to save her happened not to be one of them, the orishas would deny helping her in the future. Everything had a meaning and a purpose – he was sent to her in order to be taught by her as much as he could understand. Which might be only a little – but did it really matter how much?

No wonder that he didn’t know how to pray either.

Santeria had taught her that every person had a destiny from God, fulfilled with the aid and energy of the orishas. It was up to her to show this confused young man how to create and nurture a personal relation with the orishas – or, given the limitation imposed by his origins, he would understand it as a personal relation with the saints.

”Good night, then. Sleep well, as we have still a long way in front of us,” she told him, before falling asleep under the thin blanket she was carrying in her luggage.

At least the fire was still bright, and the clothes on them had dried already.

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June 5th, 2014, 8:55 am #19

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Chago had known before that circumstances involving saving somebody’s life were prone to help building a friendship between people who didn’t have much in common. Now, to these, the common faith in San Lazaro and the pilgrim’s way helped too. Concha and him had joined another group of pilgrims, early in the morning.

In the afternoon, they stopped for a much deserved rest in Santiago de las Vegas, a little town not far from their destination. There were only a little less than 2 miles left to El Rincon. The town bearing the name of Chago’s patron saint was built by tobacco merchants, who bought from the plantations around and processed it further for being shipped to Spain from the Port of Havana – assuming, of course, there was no blockade like now.

The church, only about 25 years old, had a beautiful statue of the saint, similar with the one he had seen in Compostela. Inside, he suddenly felt home. The warmth of the other pilgrimate - the one ten years ago - and the peace of the innocent youth he had lost long time ago enveloped him.

As his new friend, Concha, had advised him, he brought to his patron saint an offer of aguardiente, corn flour, tobacco, spices, sweets and three candles, all bought there in town. He gave the priest a list for the mass, both the one for the living and the one for the dead, with enough money. He did the same favour, writing a list for the mass for Concha too.

He lighted the candles, then he kneeled respectfully in front of the statue, praying fervently:

”Saint James, who got victorious from the battle against legions of demons and against all the powers of darkness, pray for us. Saint James, comforter of the distressed, Saint James, who is praised and thanked with great devotion in the whole world, pray for us. Your humble servant Juan Santiago is praying for the rest of the soul of Hermione, may God give her the needed forgiveness. I am also praying to You, my revered patron saint, for good health and good luck in life, for the healing of my tormented soul and I bring to You my grief about losing Hermione. I know that it was meant to be... I am asking only for the power to accept and to surpass it. To go forward, with Your help, and fulfil the purpose my life has... a purpose I don’t know yet about. So, please help me, protect me and reveal me what I need to do further, what is God’s will for me. For my nephew Santiago, whom You protect too, for my sisterJosefa and all her family, I am praying for good health, prosperity and good luck in life.”

He added some more prayers. Somewhere to his left, the black woman was praying too.
Last edited by Santiago Moreno on June 5th, 2014, 11:42 am, edited 1 time in total.
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June 5th, 2014, 12:58 pm #20

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CONCHA ITALERA, healer[/align]

To Concha, the last part of the pilgrimage road, between Santiago de la Vega and El Rincon, seemed the most difficult. But with her strong willpower, with prayers to Babalu Aye and with Chago’s encouragement and help, both of them arrived safely.

The road to the church was swarming with people, some walking in silence and praying, some getting their last steps on their knees, or with stones on their backs, others merely rejoicing to have arrived to their destination. Here one came to fulfil promises, to pray for wellbeing and for San Lazaro’s help, but most of the pilgrims were praying for the health of family, friends and loved ones. The ones who have already received the saint’s miracles had to do penitence as promised. Concha and Chago did no penitence, but they had come with offerings.

One effigy of the saint was placed outside the church, next to a spring with holy water streaming from a little cave offered its small stream, which the pilgrims used to take in little vials, and to wash there the parts of their bodies most aching. Concha washed her hands, her face and her head, knowing that she was more purified than others, due to the unexpected bath last night.

The statue had a white sheet in front of it, ready to receive the offerings. It got quickly covered in a golden cape of coins. Another statue, of the Saint Lazarus of Betania, was inside the church, receiving the same treatment.

Beggars with effigies of the saint sat on the floor just inside the church, waiting for the vigil mass to start, while hundreds more believers pushed their way toward an altar and handed candles, cigars and flowers to priests and deacons, who placed them near a statue of the saint.

Chago and Concha were with them to depose their offerings. They had, each, 17 candles. Now Concha took the leadership, as she had been here before and Chago had said it was his first time in El Rincon.

Suddenly, the church's bells began ringing. It was midnight.

"Viva San Lazaro!" a priest shouted. "Viva!" the crowd roared.

The crowd began to pray, then listening, in silence, heads bowed, to the mass. Concha’s prayer list was rather long, to hold for the whole mass. She didn’t notice the passing of the time.

After the vigil mass, the priests took out the statue of San Lazaro for the first procession, dancing in triumph on the streets of the town of Rincon, saluted by the locals who watched from their windows and by those who joined them enthusiastically. Torches were everywhere, transforming into day the long night of December.

Drums, guitars, fiddles and fifes appeared from nowhere in the hands of certain men, others started dancing in the procession accompanying the saint. By Chago’s side, Concha Italera seemed to have rejuvenated and to have forgotten age and wounds, dancing frenetically and singing with the others, convinced that the African dances were the way to honour the saint. When their gazes met, she asked him silently to do the same.

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