Eshu
Overview
Èṣù is both an orisha
Orisha
An Orisha is a spirit or deity that reflects one of the manifestations of Olodumare in the Yoruba spiritual or religious system....

 and one of the most well-known deities of the Yoruba mythology
Yoruba mythology
The Yorùbá religion comprises the original religious beliefs and practices of the Yoruba people. Its homeland is in Southwestern Nigeria and the adjoining parts of Benin and Togo, a region that has come to be known as Yorubaland...

 and its related New World traditions
Afro-American religion
Afro-American religions are a number of related religions that developed in the Americas among African slaves and their descendants in various countries of Latin America, the Caribbean, and parts of the southern United States...

.

He has a wide range of responsibilities: the protector of travelers, deity of roads, particularly crossroads, the deity with the power over fortune and misfortune, and the personification of death, a psychopomp
Psychopomp
Psychopomps are creatures, spirits, angels, or deities in many religions whose responsibility is to escort newly deceased souls to the afterlife. Their role is not to judge the deceased, but simply provide safe passage...

. Èṣù is involved within the Orisa (also spelt Orisha or Orixa)-Ifá
Ifá
Ifá refers to the system of divination and the verses of the literary corpus known as the Odú Ifá. Yoruba religion identifies Orunmila as the Grand Priest; as that which revealed Oracle divinity to the world...

 system of the Yoruba as well as in African diasporic faiths like Santería/Lukumi
Santería
Santería is a syncretic religion of West African and Caribbean origin influenced by Roman Catholic Christianity, also known as Regla de Ocha, La Regla Lucumi, or Lukumi. Its liturgical language, a dialect of Yoruba, is also known as Lucumi....

 and Candomblé
Candomblé
Candomblé is an African-originated or Afro-Brazilian religion, practised chiefly in Brazil by the "povo de santo" . It originated in the cities of Salvador, the capital of Bahia and Cachoeira, at the time one of the main commercial crossroads for the distribution of products and slave trade to...

 developed by the descendants of enslaved West Africans in the Americas, where Èṣù was and is still sometimes identified with Saint Anthony of Padua, Saint Michael  or Santo Niño de Atocha
Santo Niño de Atocha
The Santo Niño de Atocha is a Roman Catholic depiction of the Child Jesus and is popular in the Hispanic cultures of Spain, Mexico, Philippines and the southwestern United States, especially New Mexico.-History:...

, depending on the situation or location.
Encyclopedia
Èṣù is both an orisha
Orisha
An Orisha is a spirit or deity that reflects one of the manifestations of Olodumare in the Yoruba spiritual or religious system....

 and one of the most well-known deities of the Yoruba mythology
Yoruba mythology
The Yorùbá religion comprises the original religious beliefs and practices of the Yoruba people. Its homeland is in Southwestern Nigeria and the adjoining parts of Benin and Togo, a region that has come to be known as Yorubaland...

 and its related New World traditions
Afro-American religion
Afro-American religions are a number of related religions that developed in the Americas among African slaves and their descendants in various countries of Latin America, the Caribbean, and parts of the southern United States...

.

He has a wide range of responsibilities: the protector of travelers, deity of roads, particularly crossroads, the deity with the power over fortune and misfortune, and the personification of death, a psychopomp
Psychopomp
Psychopomps are creatures, spirits, angels, or deities in many religions whose responsibility is to escort newly deceased souls to the afterlife. Their role is not to judge the deceased, but simply provide safe passage...

. Èṣù is involved within the Orisa (also spelt Orisha or Orixa)-Ifá
Ifá
Ifá refers to the system of divination and the verses of the literary corpus known as the Odú Ifá. Yoruba religion identifies Orunmila as the Grand Priest; as that which revealed Oracle divinity to the world...

 system of the Yoruba as well as in African diasporic faiths like Santería/Lukumi
Santería
Santería is a syncretic religion of West African and Caribbean origin influenced by Roman Catholic Christianity, also known as Regla de Ocha, La Regla Lucumi, or Lukumi. Its liturgical language, a dialect of Yoruba, is also known as Lucumi....

 and Candomblé
Candomblé
Candomblé is an African-originated or Afro-Brazilian religion, practised chiefly in Brazil by the "povo de santo" . It originated in the cities of Salvador, the capital of Bahia and Cachoeira, at the time one of the main commercial crossroads for the distribution of products and slave trade to...

 developed by the descendants of enslaved West Africans in the Americas, where Èṣù was and is still sometimes identified with Saint Anthony of Padua, Saint Michael  or Santo Niño de Atocha
Santo Niño de Atocha
The Santo Niño de Atocha is a Roman Catholic depiction of the Child Jesus and is popular in the Hispanic cultures of Spain, Mexico, Philippines and the southwestern United States, especially New Mexico.-History:...

, depending on the situation or location. He is often identified by the number three, and the colours red & black or white & black, and his caminos or paths (compare: Avatar
Avatar
In Hinduism, an avatar is a deliberate descent of a deity to earth, or a descent of the Supreme Being and is mostly translated into English as "incarnation," but more accurately as "appearance" or "manifestation"....

) are often represented carrying a cane or shepherd's crook, as well as smoking a pipe.

Èṣù is a spirit of Chaos and Trickery, and plays frequently by leading mortals to temptation and possible tribulation in the hopes that the experience will lead ultimately to their maturation. In this way he is certainly a difficult teacher, but in the end is usually found to be a good one. As an example of this, let us look at one of his patakis or stories of the faith. Èṣù was walking down a road one day, wearing a hat that was red on one side and black on the other. Sometime after he entered a village which the road went through, the villagers who had seen him began arguing about whether the stranger's hat was black or red. The villagers on one side of the road had only been capable of seeing the black side, and the villagers on the other side had only been capable of seeing the red one. They soon came to blows over the disagreement which caused him to turn back and rebuke them, revealing to them how one's perspective can be as correct as another person's even when they appear to be diametrically opposed to each other. He then left them with a stern warning about how closed-mindedness can cause one to be made a fool. In other versions of this tale, the two halves of the village were not stopped short of extreme violence; they actually annihilated each other, and Èṣù laughed at the result, saying "Bringing strife is my greatest joy".

In Brazil, the female counterpart of Exus are called Pomba Gira
Pomba Gira
Pomba Gira is the classification of an entity, and an entity herself, who is commonly employed and worked with by practitioners of Umbanda and Quimbanda in Brazil. Pomba Gira is viewed as the consort of Exu, who is the messenger of the Orixas in Candomblé...

. Èṣùs are constantly related to Hermes
Hermes
Hermes is the great messenger of the gods in Greek mythology and a guide to the Underworld. Hermes was born on Mount Kyllini in Arcadia. An Olympian god, he is also the patron of boundaries and of the travelers who cross them, of shepherds and cowherds, of the cunning of thieves, of orators and...

/Mercury
Mercury (mythology)
Mercury was a messenger who wore winged sandals, and a god of trade, the son of Maia Maiestas and Jupiter in Roman mythology. His name is related to the Latin word merx , mercari , and merces...

 for their heraldic function.

Èṣù in different cultures

The veneration of Èṣù is widespread in the New World, as well as in Africa, and he is venerated under many different names and attributes:
  • Exu de Quimbanda: The Exu who is the messenger of the deities in Candomblé is not Exu de Quimbanda. Exu de Quimbanda has a few similarities in how he is worshipped, such as in the colours he likes, but he is an entirely different entity, originating among the people of Angola, not the Yoruba of Nigeria. While the Exu de Candomblé is an Orisha, the Exu of Quimbanda is like a Lordly or Kingly Spirit, and unlike the Candomblé Orishas, he can be "bought" or "controlled" by the Quimbanda practitioner to go and do many sorts of deeds, while the Candomblé Exu must only be petitioned. Exu de Quimbanda is a Nkuru, a spirit of the forest, while Exu of Candomblé is a universal elemental spirit, the spirit of the crossroads and the divine messenger. The similarities between the two are that they both respond to red and black, they both are fed on the road, and they both are very tricky. Beyond that, the similarities cease.

  • Eleggua: Eleggua is another name used among Lukumi for Èṣù. His divine number is 3.
  • Elegba or Elegbara: in Nigeria and the West of Cuba
  • Legba: In Vodou, Papa Legba
    Papa Legba
    In Haitian Vodou, Papa Legba is the intermediary between the loa and humanity. He stands at a spiritual crossroads and gives permission to speak with the spirits of Guinee, and is believed to speak all human languages...

     is the intermediary between the divine and humanity, while Kalfu
    Kalfu
    Kalfu, Kalfou or Carrefour is one of the petwo aspects of the spirit Papa Legba. He is often envisioned as a young man or as a demon; his colour is red and he favours rum infused with gunpowder...

     is his Petro manifestation.
  • Leba: In Surinamese Winti
    Winti
    Winti is the Afro-Surinamese traditional religion that resulted from the coming together of different elements of the religious beliefs of the slaves that were brought to Suriname from different west African tribes . Similar religious developments can be seen elsewhere in the America's and the...

    , leba is the spirit of the streets and crossroads. This spirit cleans the path clean for other spirits. And also cleans the path clean for the believers.
  • Lucero: In Palo Mayombe
    Palo (religion)
    Palo, or Las Reglas de Congo are a group of closely related religions or denominations, which developed in the Spanish colonies of the Caribbean amongst Central African slaves of mostly Bantu ancestry...

    , Lucero (also Nkuyo\Mañunga\Lubaniba) is the deity of balance and guidance through paths.
  • Esu: In Yorubaland, this is an energy that rose out of the Yangi (sacred red rock) and allows people to communicate with the Irunmole, Orisa, Orunmila, and so on. This is essentially the oldest Esu. Also important in the African diaspora.
  • "Èṣù": in the play A Tempest (1969), by Aimé Césaire
    Aimé Césaire
    Aimé Fernand David Césaire was a French poet, author and politician from Martinique. He was "one of the founders of the négritude movement in Francophone literature".-Student, educator, and poet:...

     of Martinique
    Martinique
    Martinique is an island in the eastern Caribbean Sea, with a land area of . Like Guadeloupe, it is an overseas region of France, consisting of a single overseas department. To the northwest lies Dominica, to the south St Lucia, and to the southeast Barbados...

    , Èṣù is the virile trickster who comes to sing defiant songs laden with sexual innuendo and add humor to this highly political rewriting of Shakespeare's classic play, The Tempest
    The Tempest
    The Tempest is a play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1610–11, and thought by many critics to be the last play that Shakespeare wrote alone. It is set on a remote island, where Prospero, the exiled Duke of Milan, plots to restore his daughter Miranda to her rightful place,...

    .

Best known Exus in the Brazilian traditions

  • Exu Rei
  • Exu Tranca Rua
  • Exu Tranca Rua das Almas
  • Exu Sete Encruzilhadas
  • Exu Sete Capas
  • Exu Tiriri
  • Exu Veludo
  • Exu Marabô
  • Zé Pelintra
  • Exu Mirim

Roads of Eshu-Elegba in Lukumi

Eshu-Elegba in Cuban Lukumi tradition has 101 different roads, or manifestations. Some of his best known are:
  • Eshu Añiki
  • Eshu Laroye
  • Eshu Alagwana
  • Eshu Modubela
  • Eshu Kilalu
  • Eshu Bararaki/Bararikikeño
  • Eshu Ocuboro
  • Eshu Afra
  • Eshu Mike
  • Eshu Bi
  • Eshu Tulu
  • Eshu Agosole
  • Eshu Alabode
  • Eshu Beleke
  • Eshu Onibode
  • Eshu Myulu
  • Eshu Otole
  • Eshu Miwa
  • Eshu Osika
  • Eshu Araibode
  • Eshu Yemi
  • Eshu Aye
  • Eshu Ocholforo
  • Eshu Wonke http://www.tratadosifasanteria.com

Further reading

  • Charles Spencer King
    Charles Spencer King
    Charles Spencer “Spen” King was a significant figure in the Rover Company and, after their takeover, in the British Leyland Motor Corporation.After leaving school in 1942, he was first apprenticed to Rolls-Royce...

    , "Nature's Ancient Religion: Orisha Worship & IFA" ISBN 1-44041-733-4
  • Charles Spencer King
    Charles Spencer King
    Charles Spencer “Spen” King was a significant figure in the Rover Company and, after their takeover, in the British Leyland Motor Corporation.After leaving school in 1942, he was first apprenticed to Rolls-Royce...

    , "IFA Y Los Orishas: La Religion Antigua De LA Naturaleza" ISBN 1-46102-898-1

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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