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editorials | poetry & writing | Feasts of Fire

Pregnancy by Act of Faith
by Bakka Bushiyama; Sibylline Healing Priest and Elder

The wind whistled through the cracks in the windows and doors. The work area was cold but the Santero did not appear affected. The petitioner shivered as she waited for the Santero to finish the ritual of calling the Orisha into him. She was a mixture of terrified and hopeful. She had heard, from a friend of a friend whose sister had visited this man, that he had the ability to work miracles.

The woman who had lead them here had been barren for 11 years; she was now pregant 3 months after visiting the Santero. The petitioner hoped that the same thing would happen to her. She and her husband had been trying for 4 years. They had been to doctor after doctor and they all said that she never be able bear a child because of a fold in her uterus. This man was her last hope.

As she watched his preparations, she recalled how difficult it had been to see him. First, her friend called a friend who said that she would call back when she had an answer. The waiting had been the hardest part. After a few hours the friend called back and gave them an address. They went to the address and were met at the door by a kindly older woman who asked them to sit down in the front room. They sat on a comfortable sofa and looked around at the pictures on the walls. There was your normal amount of family pictures, but there seems to be an unusually large amount of pictures of the Saints. The woman then began asking questions. "What are your expectations? How long have you been trying? What methods have you used?" The questions seemed to go on for hours. Finally the woman nodded to herself and said, "He will see you, but you must understand, there are no guarantees. If you follow his instructions to the letter, then there is a very good chance that you will be pregnant within a couple of months. If you do not do as he says, then you will not get pregnant. It is as simple as that."

She and her husband then heard the footsteps of someone coming down the stairs. For the first time she saw the Santero. She thought to herself, “This is the Santero?” He was a tall thin man with a jovial smile and as he talked she felt that he was more like an uncle, and that she had known for years. He was nothing like the huge fire breathing image she had pictured in her mind. This man was going to help? How? After a few minutes she started paying attention to what he was saying. “You have a fold in your uterus, an adhesion that makes it impossible for you to conceive.” She was taken aback at this since she knew that he had not been in the room when the woman had asked her questions. “Well, maybe they had some sort of code or he was listening somehow, this was the 21st century. There were a lot of electronic ways they could have done this,” she thought to herself. He suddenly stopped speaking and looked at her in a way that made her feel as if he was looking deep into her. “No signals or hidden devices are used here. If you truly believe that then you are free to leave. I demand nothing of you and you are under no obligation. I do require some faith on your part, but if you do not have any then I can not help you. I do not expect total trust, but I would like to be given some benefit of the doubt.” With that he turned and walked away to the far side of the room.

She was stunned. He had just answered all her unspoken questions without hesitation. He did so with such certainty that it was difficult to fault him. In her mind a tug of war raged between skepticism and desire to believe. Finally a spark of hope. With that spark the Santero turned and smiled. “I think that we can continue now,” he said with a slight air of satisfaction. Again, she was amazed at his seeming ability to view her thoughts as easily as someone reading a book. He chuckled and gave a little shake of his head. “Don’t worry, many people react the way you did. I am used to it.” With that he turned to his wife and said, “I’ll call for her when I have prepared the ritual space. Until then, maybe they would like a cup of tea.” He left the room.

“How did he do that?”, she asked the woman. The older woman smiled and shook her head a little then answered, “I have known him for years and been married to him for a long time, yet I still don’t understand him. He constantly amazes me. I gave up trying to figure him out and just accept things as they are. I find this helps preserve what little sanity I have left”, the Santero’s wife said with a twinkle in her eye. The woman thought that she would probably have learned to do the same if she were in the other woman’s shoes. The Santero’s wife walked out the room, presumably heading for the kitchen to get the tea service that he had told her to get before he left. “Do you want to leave?”, the young woman’s husband asked. “If you do, just say so and we are out of here.” “No, I think that this is the place we need to be. This feels right, no matter how bizarre it seems”, the woman replied. The husband said,” Well, if you ask me, I think that they must be running some sort of scam. How could he have known that stuff otherwise?”, he said. “They have to be passing information between them.”

The woman did not reply. She was starting to feel that maybe there was something more here. The Santero had not told them they had to stay, nor did he demand any money from them. The woman had said that she would tell them the price after the Santero decided whether or not he would help them. She felt that they were about to find out as the woman entered the room with an odd looking tea service. “I hope you don’t mind green tea. My husband has studied in many places and one of those places was the Orient. I have spent many years learning various oriental customs from him. One of which is the Japanese tea ceremony.” With that she began preparing the tea in front of them. It was a precise and tranquil sort of preparation that was both soothing and exciting to watch. From the first movement of putting the tea leaves into the cup to the last precise spin of the cup, her movements looked like a dance. “Here you are my dear. Take a sip and tell me what you think.” The young woman accepted the bowl-like cup as the older woman prepared a similar cup for the young woman’s husband. The tea was bitter and biting at the first sip yet the flavor seemed to blossom on the tongue change. In all it was interesting and she was amazed that in what seemed like only a short time she had finished the whole thing. The older woman took her cup and placed it on the service then took the cup from the young woman’s husband, as he too had finished his.

There was a moment of silence then the Santero’s wife said,” Now I suppose we should speak of the price.” The young woman’s husband seemed to tense as if he had been expecting this and was prepared to hear her tell them some outrageous sum. “The price will be $250 now, refundable if the treatment is unsuccessful. And another $500 after you have been confirmed to be with child” The young woman’s husband let out his breath in a great whoosh, as if someone had hit him in the mid section. “Refundable if it doesn’t work and $500 more when she is CONFIRMED with child”, he said with a voice full of disbelief. “That's unusual! How can you possibly be making any money at this with those terms!”

The older woman looked at the husband and a slow smile crept up on her face. She chuckled, not unlike the chuckle of the Santero, then said, “Young man, we make money because the treatment works. I have no doubt in my husband. He will help your wife, she will have a child and you will pay the remainder of the fee without a single moment of regret. Of this, I am certain. I have seen many couples like yourselves over the years and maybe two out of one hundred have ever left unsatisfied, that is how sure I am.” With that the older woman folded her hands in her lap and looked at the two of them expectantly.

The young woman exchanged a glance and gave a slight nod to her husband. He took out his wallet and passed over the money to the older woman. She took it with an unreadable sigh and placed it in the book where she had written down their information. The husband waited for a bit and took a breath as if to ask a question, but before he could utter a word there was a loud Saturnine voice that echoed through the house. “I am ready.”, was all that was said, but that was enough for the older woman. “My dear, go up the steps to the very top and he will tell you what you must do.”, the older woman said as she led the young wife to the foot of the stairs. “Don’t worry, he doesn’t bite.”, she said with an attempt at humor to sooth the nerves of the young woman.

And that is how she came to be sitting in this hard wooden chair, watching the Santero make his preparations to do whatever it was he was going to do. She remembered everything he had told her when she had reached to top of the steps. “You will sit here and wait, then I will lead you into the work space and you will sit down. That is all you have to do. Don’t be afraid and don’t worry, nothing is going to happen to you that is unseemly or improper.”, he had said. Then he went to a low table on which sat icons of different saints and candles, the seven-day kind that had more images of saints silk-screened on them.He then proceeded to pour liquids and intone words that seemed familiar. After a few moments, she realized that they were Latin! He was praying! This was far from what she expected, but yet, it seemed so very correct on many levels. She slowly relaxed into the rhythm of the words. They took her back to the days that she spent in mass with her family.

The Santero stopped and turned to her. She was shocked by the change in him! Gone was the jovial man that mystified her down stairs with his seeming ability to see her very thoughts, and in his place stood a being that was what she had first expected to see when she first heard his tread upon the stair. As he stood towering there in front of her looking every inch the figure of legend and myth that she had heard whispered of by her mother and aunts in the kitchen of their home back in Mexico, he exuded a feeling of compassion that was timeless and other-worldly in texture. Slowly, he raised his hands and said, “Take my hands, child, and come freely into this most sacred of spaces.” She rose up off the chair in a manner that felt like she was floating. She was lost yet safe in the hands of this being that stood before her with outstretched arms. She walked slowly forward and, as she took his hands, she felt a sensation similar to electricity at the first contact of their palms. Then, like a phantom or ghost, he drifted backward pulling her forward into the area he called sacred space. After a walk that seemed to take forever and no time at all he helped her into another wooden chair. “Relax”, he said in a manner that virtually enveloped her with compassion. “The rest is up to me”, he said. “All you have to do is sit, breath ,and have faith.” With that he smiled a smile of someone ancient beyond that of any mortal man.

Turning once more to the table full of saints, he took a dagger and with a lightening quick flick, pierced the palm of his hand. “With this, my blood, spilled freely of mine own I invoke the power of … .” He said a word that was in a language that the young woman did not understand, though it seemed almost familiar. Then he dropped three drops of his blood into a chalice. With each drop, he said another word that almost but not quite made sense. He then added an amber liquid that smelled faintly of alcohol to the chalice. Turning to the woman, he raised his hands and intoned a simple Latin prayer. The young woman was startled to see that his hand looked as if it were several weeks healed instead of freshly cut. It continued to change before her eyes as he finished the prayer and before he dropped his hands, she saw that the wound had completely healed as if it had never been cut.

He then turned and raised the chalice to the saints and then drank. The last drops he poured onto the largest icon of the saints on the table. It was the icon of a woman, flaming sword in her right hand and a chalice similar to the Santero’s in her left. “Siguaraya! Hear me, guide me and aide me!” With that the Santero set the chalice down and moved to the young woman. She felt a touch that seemed as if she had been brushed with a feather. Then she heard the most amazing and beautiful music she had ever heard in her life. It came from everywhere! Floor, ceiling, walls, the wind and nowhere, all combined. Then she realized it was coming from the Santero! He did not appear to breath nor did the music stop and start as if one were singing. It just continued to issue forth from the Santero. She looked hard, yet could not see him breath. It was not from any tape recorder or device that she could see, since he was wearing a loose white cotton shirt and snug fitting white cotton trousers. He was bare footed. She wondered why she could see him so detailed yet the rest of the room was in shadows.

Then she felt movement in her mid drift! There was a tiny tug and a sensation of release. A sharp pain, then blessed relief of a discomfort that she never realized was there until it was suddenly gone. Then, slowly, the music began to fade and the Santero moved for the first time since he started. He backed away and turned to the table of the saints. “Thank you”, he whispered.

Then he turned to the young woman and beckoned for her to rise. As she did so, he took her hands and led her toward the first chair. There he bade her to sit once more. After she did, he entered the work area and intoned once more in Latin. There was a feeling of something or someone leaving. Then there was only her and the Santero. He looked older and his eyes had a pinched look to them as if he were experiencing some sort of pain. “Come child, let us return down stairs.” He helped her up and motioned for her to precede him down the stairs. She glanced back at him as she was walking down and took note of the fact he seemed to be moving slowly, as if in pain. He noticed her glance and gave her a wan smile. “Do not worry, child, it will pass. It always does.” She turned her attention back to the stairs and did not look back again.
Downstairs, her husband was waiting and after a short polite bit of conversation, they bid the Santero and his wife good bye. In the car, her husband asked her what happened and try as she might, she could not give a coherent response. It was as if she had woke from a dream and the dream was fading with each passing minute.

Several weeks later, she began to feel sick in the morning. She made an appointment with the doctor, thinking that she may have the flu. She was shocked when the doctor told her, “You’re not sick, you’re pregnant!”

She could not wait to tell her husband the great news. He looked at her in disbelief at first, then he was just as excited as she was. Several months later, an amniocentesis confirmed that they were going to have a perfectly healthy baby girl. The husband followed the doctor out and taking him aside asked about the DNA test results. The doctor smiled and assured him that the child’s DNA and the young couples matched perfectly. The father-to-be sighed and returned to his wife’s side.

A few days later, the young couple found themselves once more seated in the parlor of the Santero’s house. The Santero’s wife was overjoyed at their good fortune and was bustling around making the young woman comfortable when the Santero came down the steps. He gazed at the woman and said, “She is going to be a big, healthy girl.” Then he turned to the young husband and gave a wry smile, “And I see that you received the answer you sought. You need not have worried, but I am glad you’re satisfied.” The young woman looked at her husband puzzled, but he just shook his head and told her that it was a question that was not important any more. The young father took an envelope from his pocket and handed it to the Santero’s wife. “I doubled it”, was all he said.

They stayed and talked with the Santero and his wife for a couple of hours. Plans for the baby, and other such talk. Then they got up and the older couple walked them to their car. As they drove away the wife looked at the Santero and said, “Another life you have helped bring into the world.” The Santero answered, “I did nothing but direct the energy. Beings greater than I created the life.”


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