2020: The year of Eshu

A good reason to pay attention to the ancient African religion of Yoruba.

Frederick Bott
8 min readAug 7, 2020

In Yoruba, a variation of which is known as “La Regla de Ocha”, or “Santeria” in Cuba, one of the lesser known characters, is Eshu.

He remains lesser known for a reason.

Yoruba is based on a collective of deities, “The Orishas”.

By Yoruba:

The head of the collective is the deity Oludumare, also known as Obatala.

Obatala depiction (Brazil) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E1%BB%8Cbatala#/media/File:Oxal%C3%A1.jpg

Between Oludumare and humans, are all of the other deities.

Each deity has a character and a purpose enacted by the character manifesting in human behaviour, and vice versa.

All humans at different times are characterised by the behaviours of the Orishas, acting singly or in some combinations or another.

The spirits can be summoned by various ceremonies and rituals, especially including rhumba music and dance.

When we look up Eshu (also translated to Esu), to find out more about his character, and his purpose, we find conflicting information.

By some accounts, he is the messenger.

By others he is the trickster.

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…