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
“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
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.”