Often ill-translated as "The Devil" or "The Evil Being", Èsù is in truth neither of these. Best referred to as "The Trickster", he deals a hand of misfortune to those that do not offer tribute or are deemed to be spiritual novices. Also regarded as the "divine messenger", a prime negotiator between negative and positive forces in the body and an enforcer of the "law of being". He is said to assist in enhancing the power derived from herbal medicines.
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 the Yoruba mythology and its 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 Orisa (also spelt Orisha or Orixa)-Ifá system of the Yoruba 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 Saint 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.
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