Honest Myth:Yoruba- Eshu

Yay, this is our fourth day of the Mini Death Deity Marathon. Today’s mythological character comes from the Yoruba people in Western Africa. Eshu is the God of Death in the Yoruba religion. He plays many roles in the Yoruba ‘pantheon’, but primarily serves as a trickster, the messenger, and psychopomp. He is very similar to the Greek God Hermes (who shares all those responsibilities), and like him is also the protector of travelers and deity to crossroads. He can also be consulted for divination.

Eshu Statue

Eshu Statue

As a God of Chaos, Eshu is often shown tricking gods and mortals alike. Though he can play cruel jokes they are always with good intentions. His trickery is usually meant to lead people into tribulations and temptations so that they can mature and change. He is very cunning and unpredictable, using chaos so as to teach moral lessons. If a misunderstanding occurs between people, which leads to arguments and anger, Eshu is often attributed as the cause of it. In one myth, Eshu baited the sun and the moon into switching position, causing disruption in the cosmic order. His tricky nature also leads to Eshu being the God of Change and Uncertainty. In another myth, Eshu walk down a road wearing a hat that was half red and half black. The villagers who saw him started to argue whether his hat was red or black (because they could only see the color that faced their side of the road). They soon used physical violence when they found that neither agreed on a color for the hat. When he returned he showed them that both sides were right, and that every argument has two perspectives (that every argument does not have a purely right answer and a purely wrong answer). He left them with the warning that being close-minded will make them wrong in the end (and can cause unnecessary problems).

Eshu is the God responsible with being a messager between Earth and the Gods. He actually gained this job through one of his many trickery. In this myth, Eshu stole a yam from the High God’s garden, and used the God’s slippers to leave footprints in the garden soil. When the High God accused him of stealing a yam, Eshu suggested that the High God was the true thief, siting the footprints as his proof. Annoyed by Eshu’s trickery, the High God order Eshu to visit him every night to recount the happenings on Earth. Eshu is said to know all the languages on the earth so he can easily relay messages between beings. He carries all sacrifices from the people and complaints to the Gods.

As a deity of the crossroads, Eshu is kind and protects people on their journeys. This is what attributes his benevolence and caring for man. He can be identified by carrying a cane and smoking a pipe.

The birth of Eshu is an interesting myth. In the Yoruba mythology, each god is identified as having a certain number of paths or ways. These paths are like the different forms or versions of each of teh gods. Eshu has 201 paths, and each path is considered a child of Orunmila, primordial goddess of wisdom. Olorun, one of three manifestations of the Supreme God, and Orunmila wanted to have a child, so they asked Obbatala, father of all people, to help them create the first life. He sculpted a molding of the first man and explained that they must place their hands on the figure and wait 12 months. When twelve months had past, the son was born, and they named him Eshu. Eshu was born with the ability to speak, and he ate everything he could possibly find. When there was no more life on earth, no animals or vegetation, Olorun consulted n oracle that told him to arm himself with a machete. That night, Eshu entered his parents bedroom intending  to eat them. Olorun chased after him and cut Eshu into 200 more pieces, each of which was born a new Eshu. Eshu promised that each of his forms could be consulted for divinations, and he vomited all the life he had in his stomach.

Check it out here: https://sites.google.com/site/theyorubareligiousconcepts/eleggua

-Blog Barista




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