Èṣù (other names include Exu, Echu, Elegua, 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 and Candomblé developed by the descendants of West Africans in the Americas, where Èṣù was and is still identified with Anthony of Padua, Saint Michael or Santo Niño de Atocha, depending on the situation and/or location. He is often identified by the number three, and the colors 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".
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:
- Esu-Elegba: In Yorùbáland, 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 Orisa.
- Exu de Candomblé: In Candomblé, Exu is the Orixa of crossroads and is the divine messenger.
- Eleguá and Echú: In Santería, Eleguá is an Orichá, and Echú is like his shadow, considered to be more wild and unpredictable. However, Echú can be tamed by Eleguá.
- 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.
- Exu de Quimbanda: In Quimbanda, Exu is a spirit. Exu de Quimbanda can be "controlled" by the Quimbanda practitioner to go and do many sorts of deeds.
- Lucero: In Palo Mayombe, Lucero (also Nkuyo\Mañunga\Lubaniba) is the spirit of balance and guidance through paths.
Best known Exu avatars in Portuguese traditions
- Exu Rei
- Exu Tranca Rua
- Exu Tranca Rua das Almas
- Exu Sete Encruzilhadas
- Exu Sete Capas
- Exu Tiriri
- Exu Veludo
- Exu Marabô
- Exu Mirim
Best known Echú avatars in Spanish traditions
- Echú Aye
- Echú Laroye
- Echú Alagwana
- Echú Laborni
- Echú Añiki
- Echú Bararikikeño
- Echú Baraliyiki
- Echú Yemi
- Echú Beleke
- Music & Book of Esù
- Attributes and Music of Eshu
- Cleansings and Ewe Orisa Esu (Sacred Herbs of the Orisa Esu)
- Two webcomics depicting Eleggua as a superhero