Elegua, Eleggua also known as Eshu is an orisha, and one of the most known deities of the Yoruba and New World traditions.
He has a wide range of responsibilities:
the protector of travellers,
deity of roads, particularly crossroads where 3 roads meet,
the deity with the power over fortune and misfortune,
Eshu is involved within the Orisha-Ifá system of the Yoruba as well as in African diasporic faiths like Santeria/Lukumi and Candomble developed by the descendants of enslaved West Africans in the Americas.
Eshu is sometimes identified with Saint Anthony, Saint Michael or The Child of Atocha , depending on the situation or location. He is often identified by the number three, and the colors red & black, white & black, or White Red and Black
Eshu is a trickster-deity, and plays frequently tempting choices for the purpose of causing maturation. He is a difficult teacher, but a good one. As an example, Eshu was walking down the road one day, wearing a hat that was red on one side and black on the other. Sometime after he departed, 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 half. They nearly fought over the argument, until Eshu came back and cleared the mystery, teaching the villagers about how one’s perspective can alter a person’s perception of reality, and that one can be easily fooled.
The veneration Eshu is widespread in the New World, as well as in Africa, and he is venerated under many different names and attributes:
Exu de Quimbanda: The Exu who is the messenger of the deities in Candomble is not Exu de Quimbanda. Exu de Quimbanda has a few similarities in how he is worshipped, such as in the colours he likes, but he is an entirely different entity, originating among the people of Angola, not the Yoruba of Nigeria. While the Exu de Candomble is an Orisha, the Exu of Quimbanda is like a Lordly or Kingly Spirit, and unlike the Candomble Orishas, he can be “bought” or “controlled” by the Quimbanda practitioner to go and do many sorts of deeds, while the Candomble Exu must only be petitioned. Exu de Quimbanda is a Nkuru, a spirit of the forest, while Exu of Candomble is a universal elemental spirit, the spirit of the crossroads and the divine messenger. The similarities between the two are that they both respond to red and black, they both are fed on the road, and they both are very tricky. Beyond that the similarities cease.
* Eleggua: Ellegua is another name used among Lukumi for Eshu.
* Legba: In Vodou, Papa Legba is the intermediary between the divine and humanity, while Kalfu is his Petro manifestation. Eshu also resembles the Voudon loa Simbi who is both the god of magic and the intermediate between humanity and Papa Legba.
* Lucero: In Palo Mayombe, Lucero (also Nkuyo\Mañunga\Lubaniba) is the deity of balance and guidance through paths.
* Esu: In Yorubaland, this is an energy that rose out of the Yangi (sacred red rock) and allows people to communicate with the Irunmole, Orisa, Orunmila, and so on. Is the oldest Esu. Also important in the African diaspora.
Elegua, or Eleguara (Elegua-Bara), often called Esbu, is the same phallic divinity who was described in the volume on the Ewe-speaking Peoples. The name Elegua seems to mean, “He who seizes” (Eni-gba), and Bara is perhaps Oba-ra, “Lord of the rubbing” (Ra, to rub one thing against another). Eshu appears to be from shu, to emit, throw out, evacuate, The propensity to make mischief, which we noted as a minor characteristic of the Ewe Elegua, is much more prominent in the Yoruba god, who thus more nearly approaches a personification of evil. He is supposed always to carry a short knobbed club, which, originally intended to be a rude representation of the phallus, has, partly through want of skill on the part of the modellers of the images, and partly through the growing belief in Elegua’s malevolence, come to be regarded as a weapon of offence. Because he bears this club he has the title of Agongo ogo. Ogo is the name of the knobbed club, and is most probably a euphemism for the phallus; it is derived from go, to hide in a bending or stooping posture. The derivation of agongo is less easy to determine, but it seems to be from gongo, tip, extremity.
The image of Elegua, who is always represented naked, seated with his hands on his knees, is found in front of almost every house, protected by a small hut roofed with palm-leaves. It is with reference to this that the proverb says: “As Eshu has a malicious disposition, his house is made for him in the street” (instead of indoors). The rude wooden representation of a phallus is planted in the earth by the side of the hut, and is seen in almost every public place; while at certain festivals it is paraded in great pomp, and pointed towards the young girls, who dance round it.
Elegua, in consequence of the bargain he made with
Ifa, receives a share of every sacrifice offered to the other gods. His own proper sacrifices are, as among the Ewe tribes, cocks, dogs and he-goats, chosen on account of their amorous propensities; In ancient time on very important occasions a human victim was offered. In such a case, after the head has been struck off, the corpse is disembowelled, and the entrails placed in front of the image in a large calabash or wooden dish; after which the body is suspended from a tree, or, if no tree be at hand, from a scaffolding of poles. Turkeybuzzards are sacred to Elegua and are considered his messengers, no doubt because they devour the entrails and bodies of the sacrifices.
There is a noted temple Lo Elegua in a grove of palms near Wuru, a village situated about ten miles to the east of Badagry. The market of Wuru is under his protection, and each vendor throws a few cowries on the ground as a thank-offering. Once a year these cowries are swept up by the priests, and with the sum thus collected a slave is purchased to be sacrificed to the god. A slave is also sacrificed annually, towards the end of July, to Elegua in the town of Ondo, the capital of the state of the same name. Elegua’s principal residence is said to be on a mountain named Igbeti, supposed to be situated near the Niger. Here he has a vast palace of brass, and a large number of attendants.
Circumcision among the Yorubas, as among the Ewes, is connected with the worship of Elegua, and appears to be a sacrifice of a portion of the organ which the god inspires, to ensure the well-being of the remainder. To circumcise is dako (da-oko) da, to be acceptable as a sacrifice, and oko, the foreskin. Circumcision is ileyika, or ikola, the former of which means “the circular cutting” (ike, the act of cutting, and ikeya, a circuit), and the latter, “the cutting that saves” (ike, the act of cutting, and ola, that which saves). Except among the Mohammedans there is no special time for performing the rite of circumcision, it being fixed for each individual by Ifa, after consultation, but usually it is done early in life. No woman would have connection with an uncircumcised man. A similar operation is performed on girls, who are excised, by women operators, shortly before puberty, that is, between the ages of ten and twelve years.
As is the case in the western half of the Slave Coast, erotic dreams are attributed to Elegua, who, either as a female or male, consorts sexually with men and women during their sleep, and so fulfils in his own person the functions of the incubi and succubi of mediaeval Europe.