From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Trickery, Crossroads, Misfortune, Chaos, Death, Travelers, Messenger
Member of Orisha
Carybè, rilievi degli orixas, 1968, axù.JPG
Eshu in a carving by Carybé
Other namesEchú, Exú
Venerated inYoruba religion, Santería, Candomblé
RegionNigeria, Benin, Latin America
Ethnic groupYoruba people

Eshu (Yoruba: Èṣù, also known as Echú, Exu or Exú) is an Orisha in the Yoruba religion of the Yoruba people (originating from Yorubaland, an area in and around present-day Nigeria). As the religion has spread around the world, the name of this Orisha has varied in different locations, but the beliefs remain similar.[1]

Name and role[edit]

Eshu partially serves as an alternate name for Eleggua, the messenger for all Orishas, and that there are 256 paths to Eleggua—each one of which is an Eshu. It is believed that Eshu is an Orisha similar to Eleggua, but there are only 101 paths to Eshu according to ocha, rather than the 256 paths to Eleggua according to Ifá.[2] Eshu is known as the "Father who gave birth to Ogboni", and is also thought to be agile and always willing to rise to a challenge.[3]

Both ocha and Ifá share some paths, however. Eshu Ayé is said to work closely with Orisha Olokun and is thought to walk on the shore of the beach. Eshu Bi is a stern and forceful avatar, appearing as both an old man and young boy, who walked with Shangó and Oyá (the initial two Ibeyi), and Eshu Bi protects both of these, as well as all other small children. Eshu Laroye is an avatar believed to be the companion of Oshún and believed to be one of the most important Eshus, and the avatar of Eshu Laroye is thought to be talkative and small.[2]

Other names[edit]

The name of Eshu vary around the world: in Yorùbáland, Eshu is Èṣù-Elegba or Laolu-Ogiri Oko; Exu de Candomblé in Candomblé; Echú in Santería and Latin America; Legba in Haitian Vodou; Leba in Winti; Exu de Quimbanda in Quimbanda; Lubaniba in Palo Mayombe; and Exu in Latin America.[1]


Exu is known by various forms and names in Afro-Brazilian religions. They include Akessan; Alafiá; Alaketo; Bará, or Ibará; Elegbá, or Elegbará, Inan; Lalu, or Jelu; Laroiê; Lon Bií; Lonã; Odara; Olodé; Tamentau, or Etamitá; Tlriri; and Vira, a feminine manifestation of Exu. The most common forms or praise-names of Exu are Exu-Agbo, the protector and guardian of houses and terreiros; Exu-Elepô, the god of palm oil; Exu lnã, the god of fire; Exu Ojixé, a messenger god.[4]


A shrine dedicated to Exu is located outside of the main terreiro of a Candomblé temple, usually near the entrance gate. It is, in general, made of rough clay or a simple mound of red clay. They are similar to those found in Nigeria.

Ritual foods offered to Exu include palm oil; beans; corn, either in the form of cornmeal or popcorn; farofa, a manioc flour. Four-legged male birds and other animals are offered as sacrifice to Exu. In each offering made to an orixá, a part of the food is separated and dedicated to Exu.[4]


On the Syncretic religion of Umbanda, Exu may have a different meaning.[5] Usually in Umbanda Exu is not considered a single Deity, but many different spirits may be Exu's. Some of the most popular venerated types of Exu are Exu Caveira("Skull Exu", represented as a skeleton), Exu Tranca-Rua("Street Locker", opener and closer of spiritual ways) and Exu Mirim ("Little Exu", a spirit that resembles the personality of a child or teenager). In Umbanda, a Pombagira (female consort of Exu) may also be considered a kind of Exu, commonly venerated in the practice of Brazilian Love magic.[6]

Controversy on English translations and on Google[edit]

From the time of the first English translations of Yorùbá words in the mid nineteenth century, Èṣù has been rendered as "devil" or "satan".[7] The first known instance of this came from Samuel Ajayi Crowther's "Vocabulary of the Yoruba" (1842) where his entries for "Satan" and "Devil" had Eshu in English. Subsequent dictionaries over the years have followed suit, permeating popular culture and Yorùbá societies as well. Lately, many online campaigns have been set up to protest this, and many activists have worked to correct it.[8] There have also been quite a number of academic work examining the mistranslation.[9][10]

The translation on Google Translate took up the same earlier mistranslations. This led to a number of online campaigns[11] until 2016 when Nigerian linguist and writer Kola Tubosun, then an employee at Google, first changed it back to less derogatory connotations. And when the changes were reverted, he changed them again in 2019.[12] The translation for Èṣù to English now remains "Èṣù" while 'devil' and 'satan' translate to 'bìlísì' and 'sàtánì' respectively.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Names and worship of Esu. Roots and Rooted. Retrieved 1 August 2015.
  2. ^ a b Ócha'ni Lele (24 June 2010). Teachings of the Santería Gods: The Spirit of the Odu. Inner Traditions / Bear & Co. p. 251. ISBN 978-1-59477-908-4.
  3. ^ Robert D. Pelton (1989). The Trickster in West Africa: A Study of Mythic Irony and Sacred Delight. University of California Press. p. 161. ISBN 978-0-520-06791-2.
  4. ^ a b Lopes, Nei (2004). Enciclopédia brasileira da diáspora africana. São Paulo, SP: Selo Negro Edições. pp. 266–267. ISBN 9788587478214.
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Esu is Not the Devil: How a Yoruba Deity Got Rebranded". OkayAfrica. 2017-12-14. Retrieved 2020-05-11.
  8. ^ "ÈṢÙ IS NOT SATAN; WHO ÈṢÙ IS AND WHO HE IS NOT". Alámọ̀já Yorùbá. 2019-01-04. Retrieved 2020-05-11.
  9. ^ Adefarakan, Temitope (2008). "'At a Crossroads': Spirituality and The Politics of Exile: The Case of the Yoruba Orisa". Obsidian. 9 (1): 31–58. ISSN 2161-6140. JSTOR 44489275.
  10. ^ classicfm973. "The Discourse with Jimi Disu - Professor Sophie Oluwole". Mixcloud. Retrieved 2020-05-11.
  11. ^ "Is Esu really satan?". TheCable. 2018-12-25. Retrieved 2020-05-11.
  12. ^ ""Èṣù" isn't "the Devil"; But You Knew That Already". Yoruba Name. 2016-12-16. Retrieved 2020-05-11.
  13. ^ Túbọ̀sún, Kọ́lá (2019-05-09). "Once again, Èṣù no longer translates to 'devil' or 'satan' or 'demon' on Google". @kolatubosun (in French). Retrieved 2020-05-11.