Tonight I was going through my volumes and volumes of diloggún notes looking for patakís appropriate for my new manuscript: Osogbo, the Spirit of Misfortune in Lucumí Belief. I found a patakí in the odu Unle Ogundá that I long ago forgot about. It seems I’m always forgetting, and always remembering. I’m so glad I’ve kept notebooks and journals my entire life.
I’m not sure where I got it from, and while some of this reads like my writing some of it does not. I think this is a story I was given back in the early 90s that I kept and worked on for quite some time before I put it away.
But it’s called “Blood, Weeping, Laughter, and Patience.” We often speak of menstruation as a curse; men, sadly, are afraid of vaginas and the power they hold. This story takes us well beyond the superstitious nonsense we hear about the reason for menstruation and what it means; and as you will see from the story, it is a series of blessings that were bestowed on the world by Olódumare.
Enjoy it. It is from the odu Unle Ogundá, 8-3, the odu in which Ayala learned to carve heads (and Ayala plays a huge role in this story as well). If anyone knows of any other versions of this patakí, I’d love to hear them.
While the first humans were molded of clay from the earth, given life by Olódumare’s sweet breath, once creation unfolded it was decreed that the race of mortals should recreate themselves, male and female, to populate the earth. Spirits waited in heaven for the gates of life after life to be opened; none knew, however, what this gate was to be. Olódumare unfolds all mysteries in his own time. When the time was ripe for the first soul to incarnate, there was both fear and excitement until one brave soul went to God’s palace to be sent down. All heaven was quiet in anticipation. The first life sent down thus was of utmost importance, and Olódumare and all the bright Spirits in heaven counseled her on what she must do. “Choose, choose your destiny wisely” they cautioned. Before God, this gentle soul pondered the fate awaiting her, and asked only that she be accompanied by four principles into the world: Blood, Weeping, Laughter, and Patience. All waited as Olódumare considered this; he gave consent. The sound was sent to earth.
All the spirits of heaven marveled as the mystery of conception and pregnancy was revealed. They watched the soul descend into the womb, sleeping; they felt her memories of life in heaven melt away, making her mortal mind a blank slate for new experiences. Heaven was filled with souls waiting to incarnate, and each went to Olódumare’s palace to beg their chance. The four principles chosen, Blood, Weeping, Laughter, and Patience marveled at these mysteries as well, but could not fathom why they were chosen as companions. They each went to the diviners to have their future on earth divined. “New mysteries unfold,” they said, “and each of you will play a role in their creation. Your purposes will only unfold as you make ebó, and ire will come when the child matures and you make ebó once more.” Odu was closed, and with its closure came the cries of the Mother. So great were her pains that all in heaven heard the screaming. Blood quickly made his sacrifice while others were stunned by this sound; immediately, he found himself beside the Mother. It was then that his mystery unfolded.
The Mother bled from her womb as it contracted, blood heralding the emergence of new life. Some women who watched bled as well, but their wombs were dry, lifeless, for there was nothing therein. Others held their blood; their wombs were full with the newly born mysteries of conception and pregnancy. They knew that soon, they would issue new life. All watched in awe as the first girl-child was born with the mystery of Blood. Olódumare saw these things and knew that they were good. She decreed that without blood, no mother would give birth. There was the blood of the menses telling a woman her womb was barren, but would soon be ready again for new life. There was the blood withheld to nourish the conceived infant. There was the blood that came with the pain before new life could come into the world. These blood mysteries were born with the first sacrifice in Obeyono, and this blood is always watched for, always caught, and always measured. It is feared by men and prayed for by women. It is life, the giver of life, and the cleanser of life. Weeping watched all these things unfolding on earth from heaven in awe; once the girl-child began to emerge from the womb, she quickly made her sacrifice.
It was then that she joined both Mother and child on earth. The Mother no longer screamed dryly, she cried tears of pain as Weeping came to her side, helping the infant with her birth. Women began to cry in fear, for they knew not how to help with the mystery. Some cried because they knew that they, too, would suffer the travails of labor, while others who bled cried that their own wombs were barren. The baby was born, and she, too, cried in pain and fear while the Mother wept in joy. Tears flowed freely that day. Olódumare saw these things, and knew that they were good. She decreed from that day forth without tears, mortal offspring could not live. With the second sacrifice in Obeyono was born the honor of weeping. Having arrived in the flow of blood, the child cries, starts to wail, and those in attendance hear the cries ascending to heaven. They, too, begin to weep in joy. The Mother cries tears of joy and pain with the arrival of her offspring. Devoid of tears, the infant is spanked to make it weep; if it does not, all there cry tears of sadness for there is no life. Thus were the predictions of odu fulfilled: Blood and Weeping followed the birth of children everywhere.
With the arrival of humanity’s first child came a flood of new births as women everywhere had begun to conceive and ripen. Laughter and Patience watched in awe as each new child came with Blood and Weeping. So powerful was the mystery unfolded that they could not bear to look away; it overwhelmed them. Wanting the same blessings as they, once the first girl-child reached her fortieth day of life, Laughter realized he had not yet made ebó. Quickly, he went to the diviner’s to make his offering, but was told that because he took so long to come back, his ebó was doubled. Laughter did not care; he made ebó and immediately found himself on earth. Before him was the girl-child, the one who requested that the principle be her companion. When she saw him, a faint memory flickered in her mind, but was gone; still, she smiled. The smile grew into a short giggle. The sound was pleasing, and she laughed. Her parents were the first to hear this, and the sound was contagious. Soon, the entire household was caught up in laughter. Olódumare saw that this was good, and gave her blessings to Laughter. As each child on earth came to the fortieth day, each was accompanied by laughter. The spirits of heaven looked down at this new mystery, and saw that it was good: they gave their own ache to the blessing. Soon, the entire world was caught within Laughter’s grasp.
For nine months, Patience watched these blessings unfold throughout the earth, and saw the goodness created by Blood, Weeping, and Laugher, for each had ache and purpose in life. She wanted to be a part of these mysteries as well. Having been overwhelmed by what she saw, and having been the most patient of the four, she was slow in offering ebó. The diviners told her, “Patience, you waited far too long. Your ebó must be offered five times over.” Wanting to go to earth, she made the sacrifices. It was then that she saw the girl-child face to face for the first time. When Patience arrived, the toddler looked at her and smiled. She then stood, reaching out for the principle. She fell. She tried again, and fell again. Wanting to reach her new companion, she stood again; for a moment she had balance, and then tried to take her first step. She fell. The child’s Mother saw these things, and sensing Patience in the room, she said, “Have patience, my child.” With that principle as her guide, she learned to walk; to talk; to run; to skip; to jump. Laughter came with each new sill mastered while Patience helped her learn slowly. Children everywhere learned new skills and grew into maturity with Laughter and Patience as their guides. Olódumare saw that these things were good, and all the denizens of heaven increased his blessings.
Because the sacrifices of Laughter and Patience were larger, their blessings were greater; and when earth’s first child matured into an adult, they made the final ebós prescribed by Obeyono. Blood and Weeping became bitter over the years, for while they were the first mysteries to unfold they were always less desired. Bitterness led to anger, and they refused to make ebó. The odu was sealed. Humans over the earth knew that they came to this world amidst blood and weeping, but they prayed for laughter and patience, looking for goodness and joy among the finer things in life. Their prayers were sincere, from the heart, “let us not leave this world as we came to this world, through blood and weeping. Let us leave this world through laughter, and with patience.” Olódumare saw that this was good, and gave her consent. So has it been since then.