Eshu is a trickster god of west Africa, and a messenger god of the Yoruba peoples. He is both loved and feared by worshippers, because besides making mischief, he also rewards generously and punishes harshly. While he knows all things and is justice personified, at the same time he is chaotic and unpredictable. Financial losses, accidents, incarceration, and theft are all considered punishment by Eshu for some wrongdoing. He is the force behind the Power of the Three-Fold Law.
Eshu’s main purpose is acting as mediator between humans and the gods (both the orisha and the creator god). He carefully listens to all of the prayers, wishes and sacrifices put forth by humankind, and then translates them, delivering the message to the gods. Because of this important roll, it is vital that humans remain in favor with Eshu. Tradition requires that he be honored before any other divinity (orisha). All ceremonies begin and end with him and before a worshipper can make a sacrifice to any other deity, part of the offering must be given to Eshu.
This deity is depicted as a young, handsome mulatto man. On his cheek he has three tribal scars representing himself and his children. He holds his sacred "Garabatto", a three-pronged wooden branch which is covered with red and black beads. Over the other shoulder, he carries a knapsack that holds the keys to the universe, as well as toys, candies and pranks. Sometimes he is shown wearing a jester’s costume in red and black with a matching three-pointed hat.
He rules over the doorways and pathways of the universe. He holds the keys to the universe as well as the key of the Mysteries of the Ashe. Eshu lives in the center of the cosmos, at the crossroads, and thus crossroads are particularly sacred to him. It is at these crossroads that his presence can be felt strongly on earth. When Eshu manifests himself on earth, he likes to keep to the shadows and to play pranks on non-believers.
His image appears on many ritual objects such as divinitation boards, wands and staffs. In the worship of Eshu, devotees carry amulets and staffs called opa. The altar of Eshu in the home is kept at ground level behind the front door, or outside, directly to the left of the door. The alter must never be higher than any human height. Eshu’s sacred days are Sunday and Monday and his feast days are on January 1, June 13th, and November 2. This deity enjoys offerings of coconuts, hard candies, cigars, tobacco and hard liquor. His favorite animal sacrifices are black and white hens, and female goats.
Eshu has many, many aspects. Some of these are:
Osika – child-like and playful, this aspect likes candy and toys. Osika is the cause of bumped toes and elbows.
Wanleke – an old man, this aspect can summon the soul of the dead.
Agodo – Eshu of the Four Winds, the messenger aspect.
Baralayiqui – this aspect receives and transfers food and blood sacrifices to the other orishas.
Kakasa – the Eshu of two faces, one positive and one negative. This aspect brings chaos and strife to enemies.
Barana – the aspect that enjoys parties, feasts and celebration. He causes the lame to dance.
Aruda – the Eshu of invention, he is playful like a child. He is the aspect of divine inspiration and invention.
(For more of the aspects of Eshu, visit: http://nananburuku.homestead.com/Eshu.html)
One prayer to Eshu is spoken as follows:
To You, Oh Great Lord of the Roads.
Glorious Warrior, immortal Prince.
I raise this humble offering.
Keep Evil away from my home.
Keep me, and all that I hold dear to my heart, safe,
in my presence as well as when I am away.
Protect and watch over me,
when I am awake, as well as when I am asleep.
Ashe Ashe Ashe