EṢU

One of the most enigmatic figures of the Yoruba spiritual landscape is a spiritual power called by many names but commonly known as Eshu. He is perhaps the most controversial and mysterious of entities called orisa in the Yoruba pantheon. If there’s anything definative to be said about him, it is that we really don’t know him. He is for the most part unpredictable. Perhaps that’s why he is called the trickster. What we do know about him is that he resides at the crossroad and junctures of our roads and lives.

 

When Europeans first learned of him in Africa, they called him the devil. Others call him the "Devil at the crossroads." But he is no devil, yet he is in league with and can control the negative forces. This is one of the reasons why we appease him, to keep the negative forces at bay. It is through Eshu that the Yoruba used to protect themselves from the negative forces. One of the worse things Eshu can do is turn his back on you and ignore you. It's as if he is telling the negative forces: "this person is fair game. I don't know him." Eshu is also the modulating energy between two forces. He can influence the dynamic and the communication. He is the messenger of the orisa fast enough to circuit the world 7 times in the blink of an eye. He can control all connections and interactions between people and even between the synapses between nerve cells.

 

Following is an excerpt from a Yoruba poem about Eshu:

Eshu turns right into wrong, wrong into right.

When he is angry, he sits on the skin of an ant.

When he is angry, he weeps tears of blood.

Eshu slept in the house, but the house was too small for him.

He slept on the verandah, but the verandah was too small for him.

Eshu slept in a nut, and at last he could stretch himself!

He throws a stone today and kills a bird yesterday!