Saturday, December 24, 2011

Eshu/Elegua /Exu etc

Eshu (other names include Exú, Elegua and Elegba) is an Orisha, and one of the most respected deities of the tradition. He has a wide range of responsibilities: the protector of travelers, god of roads, particularly crossroads, the deity with the power over fortune and misfortune, and the personification of death, a psychopomp. Every magical ceremony or ritual begins with an offering to Eshu; failure to do so guarantees failure in the intent of the ceremony. Eshu is revered within the Orisa-Ifá system of the Yoruba as well as in syncretic faiths like Santeria/Lukumi and Candomble developed by the descendants of enslaved West Africans in the Americas, where Eshu was identified with Saint Anthony or Saint Michael, depending on the situation. He is identified by the colours red and black, or black and white and his caminos, or paths (compare: avatar) are often represented carrying a cane, shepherd's crook, as well as a pipe.

Eshu is a trickster-god, and plays frequently tempting choices for the purpose of causing maturation. He is a difficult teacher, but a good one. As an example, Eshu was walking down the road one day, wearing a hat that was red on one side and black on the other. Sometime after he departed, 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 half. They nearly fought over the argument, until Eshu came back and cleared the mystery, teaching the villagers about how one's perspective can alter a person's perception of reality, and that one can be easily fooled. In other versions of this tale, the two tribes were not stopped short of violence; they actually annihilated each other, and Eshu laughed at the result, saying "Bringing strife is my greatest joy".

The cult of Eshu is widespread in the New World, as well as in Africa, and he is worshipped under many different names and attributes:
  • Exu: Although connected with the Orisha Eshu or Elegba of the Yoruba-based traditions of Candomble and Santeria, the exus and exuas of Umbanda and Quimbanda are in fact spirits of the dead.
  • Eleggua: Ellegua is another name used among Lukumi for Eshu.
  • Legba: In Vodou, Papa Legba is the intermediary between the divine and humanity, while Kalfu is his Petro manifestation. Eshu also resembles the voodoo loa simbi who is both the god of magic and the intermediate between humanity and papa legba.
  • Lucero: In Palo Mayombe, 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. Is the oldest Esu. Also important in the African diaspora. All Esu live in consecrated sacred rocks.
FROM: Wikipedia, Eshu.
When we think of tricksters, we generally imagine folk characters and culture heroes, not gods. Tricksters either tend to be associated with animal spirits (such as Coyote), or are Promethean figures, archetypal "humans" who interact with and upset the world of the gods. But one of the world's greatest and most interesting trickster figures is not only a god, but a god of high metaphysical content. He is Eshu-Elegbara, one of the orisha, the West African deities that are worshiped in many related forms across African and the African diaspora in the New World.

While he embodies many obvious trickster elements-- deceit, humor, lawlessness, sexuality--Eshu-Elegbara is also the god of communication and spiritual language. He is the gatekeeper between the realms of man and gods, the tangled lines of force that make up the cosmic interface, and his sign is the crossroads. In the figure of Eshu-Elegbara, the West African tradition makes a profound argument about the relationship among spiritual communication, divination, and the peculiar chaotic qualities of the trickster. But before we investigate Eshu-Elegbara's character, we must first place him in the general context of orisha worship.

FOR MORE: West Africa's God of Messages, Sex, and Deceit
The Divine Trickster born of ancient myth and found in many cultures across the face of the world, is sometimes known as the Coyote, Raven, Rabbit or Fox. His form changes depending on language and culture. The Yoruba peoples of West Africa, however, know him as Eshu, the divine messenger, who is both loved and feared for his mischief, generosity and hard lessons.

Eshu is considered the most important of the four warrior gods called the Orisa. Travelling through time in the hearts of the slaves taken to the Americas, the Orisa became known to the Portuguese as the Orixa and to the Spanish as the Orisha1. The ancient religion which devotes prayerful worship to the Orisa is properly known as Regla de Ocha, meaning "The Rule of the Orisha".

The name Santeria or "The Way of the Saints", was a colonial term introduced by the Spanish yet is a description commonly used today. Eshu himself went through a variety of changes as he travelled from culture to culture, being called Eleggua in Cuba and Exu in Brazil. No matter what his name, he is a powerful deity whose dual nature flickers with the nuances of day and night, light and dark, cruelty and kindness, creation and destruction - the Divine Trickster.

The Trickster Eshu can be a teacher most kind and cruel. One old story tells of him undertaking a mischievous journey wearing a tall hat, red on one side, white on the other. Making not a sound he walked between two friends, one seeing the white side of his hat, the other seeing the red. Later in the day the two friends spoke to one another about the mysterious man in the hat. Surprisingly, they began to bicker about the colour of the hat. White! Red! The bickering turned to blows, as each man professed to know the right answer and demanded to be acknowledged as the victor in the violent discussion. The Trickster Eshu chuckled at the sight and walked over to the men, now bloodied and angry, and showed them his hat - red on one side and white on the other. He was delighted by the fact they would fight about something as ridiculous as the colour of another man’s hat, ruining their long-standing friendship in the process.
Taking pleasure in testing the strengths and weaknesses of mankind, he provides the lesson of making the right choices in life. He can be found at the crossroads and can see in all directions, watching carefully those who do wrong. His punishment is swift but he can be kind as well, sitting judgement and viewing all sides of a situation.

FOR MORE: Eshu, An Afro-Caribbean Divine Trickster by Susanne Iles
Other Links:
Mythic Imagination Institute - Elegua
Chapter Five --Correspondence, symbolism, info
Eleggua Head Statue
Papa Legba - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
SevenAfricanPowers.html -- Legba
The Lwas: Legba
Lucumí - Altar Statues - Muñecos (Elegba Doll / Muñeco de Eleguá)
(more possibly coming...)

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