Èṣù (other names include Exu, Eshu Eleggua, Esu Elegbara, Eshu Elegbara, Elegba, Legba, Papa Legba and Eleda) is both an orisha and one of the most well-known deities of Yorùbá religion and related New World traditions.
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. Èṣù is involved within the Orisha-Ifá system of Yorùbá religion as well as in African diasporic faiths like Santería/Lukumi and Candomblé developed by the descendants of enslaved West Africans in the Americas, where Èṣù was and is still sometimes identified with Anthony of Padua, Saint Michael or Santo Niño de Atocha, 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) 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. Èṣùs are constantly related to Hermes/Mercury for their heraldic function.
1 Èṣù in different cultures,
2 Best known Exus in the Brazilian traditions,
3 Roads of Eshu-Elegba in Santería,
5 Further reading,
6 External links,
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 is the intermediary between the divine and humanity, while Kalfu is his Petro manifestation.,
Leba: In Surinamese Winti, 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, 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 of Martinique, 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.,
Eshu Blues: A rock and roll song by the Texas band The Black in which Eshu manifests as a trickster to teach a lesson.,
Best known Exus in the Brazilian traditions:
Exu Tranca Rua,
Exu Tranca Rua das Almas,
Exu Sete Encruzilhadas,
Exu Sete Capas,
Roads of Eshu-Elegba in Santería:
Eshu-Elegba in Cuban Santería tradition has 101 different roads, or manifestations. Some of his best known are:
Eshu Wonke 1