Images by Danilo Lejardi at Lejardi.com
Elegua is the orisha who opens and closes all paths to mankind. He is the divider of heaven and earth. He travels between heaven and earth letting Olofi and Olodumare know what goes on in this realm. Elegua is a child orisha in some aspects that loves to play tricks and tests the faith of man. He walks between night and day searching for mankind to test their faith for the great Olofi and the orishas. There is said to be 121 paths of Elegua. He ranges from a young child to an old man with lots of knowledge. There is also a path of Elegua where the essence is of a woman. In more than half of Elegua’s paths, he is a young child that sits on corners, mountain tops, seashores, hospital entrances, cemetery gates and so on. He has many names as he has been called Elegba, Elegbara, Legba, Eshu or Exu. Elegua is seen all around the world. From continent to continent Elegua’s presence is felt, praised and heard. Inseparable friend of Ogun and Ochosi who the trio makes up the “The Warriors” first set of orishas to receive in Santeria. Elegua is any and everywhere.
Elegua is the guardian of the dead also as thru him he unlocks the door for the deceased to walk through to reach Olofi where they will rest. In this path he is called Eshu Alagwana. In other religions or beliefs you can associate him with the Egyptian god of the dead Osiris, who leads the dead through the underworld.
Elegua is the one that makes you play at your own risk. In that I mean, he is the one that if your stuck at a crossroad and you don’t know which way to go, its him that testes you and watches you make your decision. If you make the wrong decision, Elegua will open the door with his garavato (hook stick made from the guava tree) to make you pay your consequence. While you are paying for your mistakes, he testes you again to see if you will continue to do wrong or take the right path. If you succeed and take the right path he will unlock the door to happiness and fortune. If you’ve heard of a maze then you can associate it with Elegua. Our lives are shaped into mazes to see which path we go. Elegua is the guardian that sits at every corner and turn of the maze. If you make the wrong move, he will open the path to the wrong outcome. If you take the correct path, he will open the path that you are seeking.
Elegua knows and sees all. There is nothing that Elegua doesn’t know. He is the messenger of Olodumare and Olofi, alongside with the orishas. Which means, he is the one that takes the messages from humankind to the orishas and the messages from the orishas to Olofi. This is why he is the first and last orisha to be praised to in every ceremony done in Santeria.
A Pataki on Elegua
One day Olofi was greatly ill and depressed on situations among the universe. He was doing so much in the universe and here on Earth as in still creating life, giving orishas their ache (powers) and so on. He was so tired that he grew frail. All of the orishas were summoned to see if they can help cure Olofi from his dilemma. All of the orishas gathered in the great hall of Olofi where the supreme being sat on his throne with a lost look in his eye. You can tell his mind was going a mile a minute and due to this he wasn’t feeling very good. As he sat slumped on his throne, the orishas gathered around and were conversing amongst each other. Obatala tried to clean him with his white cloth, Olofi remained the same. Orula prepared him a tonic to drink, and Olofi remained the same. Ozain tried to rub a medical herb and the great Olofi stayed the same. Inle tried to clean Olofi with his staff and still the same action. Every orisha tried and tried but were unsuccessful.
Elegua was amongst the orishas but since he was a child the other orishas out stood him. He shrugged on Yemaya’s skirt to get her attention. He asked Yemaya if he could try, Yemaya told him to behave and be quiet. He then shrugged on Oya’s skirt and with the look that Oya gave him he ran under the legs of the other orishas that were standing nearby. He then shrugged on Agallu’s pants and Agallu told him to go outside and play that this was for the elder orishas and his presence is not needed here. Elegua grew upset and ran to Obatala and asked him why he couldn’t try to help and revive Olofi. Obatala looked at Elegua and began to tell him in a soft voice that the ache that Elegua contained had no match to heal Olofi. He went on to tell Elegua that all the other orishas are trying their best to do what they can for Olofi. Elegua looked at Obatala and asked him to please let him try. If he is also an orisha then he should be able to try as well. He said if the others are trying, why cant him. Obatala who contains the ashe of peace and knowledge raised his staff and ordered silence among the orishas. He told them to step aside and let Elegua try and revive Olofi. All the orishas began to whimper under their breath not to make Obatala hear them since he was the eldest and father figure to all the orishas.
Elegua walked slowly to Olofi’s throne and looked at him from head to toe. Olofi still with a weak look in his eyes didn’t even pay attention to Elegua’s presence. Elegua put his garavato on the floor, reached into his nap sack and pulled out 3 herbs. See Elegua was always roaming the woods and he has seen Ozain work with the different herbs of the forest. So with the herbs that he picked up he grabbed a leaf from each branch and placed it gently in the mouth of Olofi. Now all of the orishas are seeing this young child on the lap of Olofi and are wondering how long Obatala is going to make this mockery last. Elegua grabs the mouth of Olofi and manually moves it so the supreme being can chew and swallow what he has placed. After Olofi has swallowed the herbs, Elegua takes out a feather from his nap sack and passes it over the body of Olofi. After he is done he jumps off Olofi’s lap and starts to walk down from the throne. Obatala has grief in his eyes as Olofi is still the same.
All of the orishas start to talk again on how Elegua’s tactics was unforgivable and he should be reprimanded for it. While they are talking, there’s a slight glow from Olofi’s chest. The glow gets brighter and brighter until the great Olofi is standing tall and mighty on his throne with a light so powerful that all of the orishas fall to their knees in respect. A loud deep voice calls Elegua to the throne .Olofi thanks Elegua for what he has done. He tells him that all have come and tried to revive him, but they all have failed. He then asked Elegua how did he know what to use. Elegua looked at Olofi and told him that he studied every part of the forest and its secrets. He has seen how every orisha works differently with their elements. He went on and told Olofi how he wanted to try but none of the orishas would let him, only Obatala. Olofi smiled and told Elegua that from this day forward he would have the virtue to open all gates and doors and pathways. He gave Elegua a gold key that unlocked Olofi’s house and every door in the universe. He also blessed his feather and told him with this feather you are able to walk through time forward and backwards, through light and dark, through evil and good. Then Olofi proclaimed in front of the orishas and the universe that Elegua would be his personal messenger, since he knows and has seen all what the orishas are doing on Earth. He told them that they will always have to count first with Elegua in all that they do. If Elegua wasn’t appeased, then their work and messages would not reach his castle. He then went on and told him that Elegua would also be the first to eat in every ceremony. The first to be prayed to in every ceremony. With that said and done, Olofi touched Elegua’s head and a inner light shined from within Elegua.
Elegua as a kid at heart turned and faced the court of orishas and stuck his tongue out at them as to say ha ha. Olofi smiled at Elegua and sent him on his way to maintain order in the crossroads of humanity and the orishas.
Elegua’s feast day is June 13th. His colors are red and black. In certain paths white is also given to him. Elegua loves to play and dance. He loves candies, cakes and all types of sweets. He watches over children of all ages and races. He loves games and doing mischievous stuff. Even as a child orisha, Elegua loves to drink oti and smoke cigars. I guess since you have the key to everything given by Olofi, you can do as you please. Elegua is a glut when it comes to food so he is never turns down any type of food. His sacrificial foods are male goats, chickens, roosters and possum rat. Elegua does not eat pigeon in the majority of his paths. Only in a handful does he. Elegua does have children that he crowns. His children are very intelligent, driven individuals. They are kids at heart. They love children and are infatuated by adventures. In Palo Mayombe Elegua is associated with Lucero Mundo, the door opener in Palo.
The difference between Eshu and Elegua
Eshu and Elegua are 2 different entities that form a bond. Eshu is the force that brings the trickster out and the negative energies. Eshu is consecrated through Ifa and he is used to send the different offerings to the orishas. The difference you can say between these 2 are simple. Elegua always resides inside of the house behind the door and Eshu resides outside of the house. And this is because Eshu is so complicated that every time he comes inside a house he brings torment and arguments. Elegua was an orisha and Eshu was not an orisha. Eshu would walk the streets to see what torment he could do to humans because they did not pay him any homage. Elegua who is always attended to would always be seen eating because that’s what he loves to do. He saw Eshu one day and gave him some of his offerings. Eshu and Elegua sat and ate and made fun of the people in the streets. It was time for Elegua to go inside and Eshu to continue to roam the streets. Eshu would always try to go inside the house of the humans but when he did he would cause havoc until one day Oshun saw him and devised a plan. She saw how Eshu would be controlled when he was fed so she made a pact with him. She told him that as long as us humans put a plate of food for him outside the house he promised he will not come in to cause havoc. Eshu agreed to the pact and they shook on it. Elegua who was there said that he would walk alongside Eshu and that’s where the bond grew in between them. Obatala came down and gave Eshu and Elegua a white bead so that they can wear together to overpower the havoc and torments Eshu had. From that day Eshu Elegua would walk together side by side as one. Eshu is given by babalows in Ifa and Eshu is not allowed on the head of an initiate in the Yoruba belief. You must receive Elegua who is allowed to go to the head of an initiate. Eshu will eat alongside Elegua and the table scraps will go outside by the front door or by a tree in the front yard for Eshu. You should place a wooden bowl (jicara) with the table scrappings, a tabacco or cigarette standing up in the center and place it for Eshu so he will be content and not come inside the house of the priest/ess.
Some paths of Elegua
This path is one of the youngest of the Elegua’s. He sits behind every door. He loves to play jokes and be mischievous. He is the good friend and messenger of Oshun. He loves to walk the streets and he is very useful in money problems. He can cause you to loose everything or gain everything. When Laroye comes down to earth, he goes around and plays with the children, eat cakes and dances alongside with the orishas. You have to keep an eye on him as he likes to take to the streets to find who he can play a tick on.
This path is a very strong Elegua. This Eshu is said to be the overseer of the egungun which are the spirits of the dead. Alagwanna sits at the cemetery gates guarding and maintaining order of the dead that pass through the gates. Close friend and messenger to Oya. Chains are very essential to him When Alagwanna comes down to the earth, he is very stern and does not like foolishness. He enjoys to dance and loves to consult about family or ancestors that have passed on.
This Eshu is known to be seen at crossroads. He is an Eshu that causes distruct and misfortune to those who deserve it. He gives painful and dangerous lessons in which if you don’t learn the lesson, he will instruct another one that would be more terrible. He can be best friend or your worst enemy. When Eshu Bi comes down he likes to talk stern to his followers. He gives good advices and expects you to listen to them.
This path is said to be one of the paths that Elegua is represented as a female. It is said that Anaki is the one who keeps order among the Elegua’s. She is the one that sends each path out to do what is needed to be done among humans.
This Eshu is said to walk closely and the messenger of Chango. He is said to open the paths for Chango when he goes to battle. Eshu Aina wears a thunderstone on his head and alongside with his garavato, he holds a double axe like Chango. This Eshu is said to also cause fire as one of his punishments.
This Eshu is said to be the path that walks alongside Ogun. When Ogun is in the forest its Eshu Arerebioko that accompanies him and keeps him company and he also sits at corners. It is said that when an accident happens at a corner, it is Arerebioko who caused it so he and Ogun can eat.
This path of Elegua is said to walk the seashores. Aye is the conch shell that lives in the salt waters accompanied by Yemaya. This Eshu knows all what we want. Aye also means mundo (world). So he is the one that knows and contains riches to all.
This path of Eshu is from the land of Ketu. He brings good fortune and blessings to his followers. One can attend him outside of your house by the dumpster. He loves to smoke and drink.
This Eshu sits on the outskirts of the town of Ketu in Africa where Eshu is praised. He is a wise man that brings fortune to the town.
This path of Elegua is from Arara, the land of Dahomey . Afra is the close and personal friend of Asojano. He is received when one receives Asojano. He is said to be a middle age and loves to smoke cigars. This Eshu does not like rum nor corojo. He likes dry wine to be placed to him. He is the one that opens the roads for Asojano to take or dispel epidemics on the land.
This Eshu is the owner and path owner to the sacred drums. He is the one that opens the path for communication between the sacred drums and the orishas. When Eshu Ana comes down, he loves to dance.
This path lives at the entrance of the marketplace. He is a great negotiator and can be used for money resolutions. He loves a good bargain.
Eshu Bara Layiki
This Eshu loves to dance and party. He loves to drink and play just as Laroye. He is called to make the party happy and blissful.
This path is always in the forest. He knows the secrets to many herbs and the secret also to the hunt. He likes to dress in animal skin.
This Eshu lives high in the moutains. Very close to the heavens and guards those doors. Close to the orishas of the white cloth.
This Eshu is the messenger of Ifa. He works closely and guards the Ifa and its babalows.
This path guards the entrance to Olofi’s castle. He stands near the entrance and through him you have to pass to get to Olofi.
Eshu Ode/Ode Mata
This path of Eshu walks alongside Ochosi in hunt. He is the one that opens the path and trees so Ochosi can aim in on his prey. He likes his rum or anisette. He takes a crossbow and arrows cemented on him in which he uses to hunt with his friend.
This Eshu is the one that guards all the riches of the world. One keeps him happy so he can bring abundance to the home. He will always maintain you with money in your pocket if you attend to him correctly.
He loves to play as a child. Loves to dance and brings good fortune to ones who deserves. If not he will bring the opposite and until you are ready, he will not bring you happiness.
This is an old and wise Eshu. He doesn’t like to be disrespected under any circumstances. This Eshu can for see all.