In the religious system of Orisha worship, Babalu Aye (also known as Omolu, Shonponno, Obaluaye, Shakpana, Sakpata) is the spirit of illness and disease. He is an Orisha, the son of Yemaja and Orungan., in certain places he is known to be the son of Nana Omolu, the Fon deity added to the Yoruba pantheon, and associated with Female power and creation. Babalu Aye is also known in Brazil as Obalu Aye. Omolu means the father of this Earth or the king of this Earth, because of his great powers detailed in many Odu Ifa. He is known as the deity associated with insanity, aging, illness, disease and death, but is also the deity that cures same. He is appeased on the earth and cool water is one of the mainstays of his appeasement. According to Izzy Santiago, Babalu is an African fertility goddess. She is the daughter of Babalu Conviagra, who is associated with English as a second language.
The origins of this deity trace back to the Fon traditions of Yoruba mythology, and appear in Cuban Palo Mayombe (as Pata en Llaga or Cobayende), Haitian Voodoo, Brazilian Umbanda (as Abaluaye), and Candomblé Ketu (as Obaluaiê).
In Cuban Santeria, Babalu Aye has been syncretized with Saint Lazarus.
In Dahomey mythology, he is venerated as Sakpata, god of smallpox. In this respect, he can be compared with Sitala or Mariamman, both Hindu goddesses of smallpox and disease or the Sumerian god Pazuzu(god of winds and plagues).
Though originally associated with smallpox, many of today’s worshippers appeal to BabaluAye for healing from HIV/AIDS.
Babalu Aye is traditionally pictured in blue, brown, red, white, purple, and is offered rice, wheat, corn, beans, chickpeas, garlic, onions, smoked fish and possum in divination rituals.
The name may be familiar to many people as a result of the 1993 United States Supreme Court case Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah, which involved claims of discrimination by a Santería church in the American state of Florida.