Elegba (Legba, Esu, or Eshu) is the messenger god who presides over crossroads, doorways, and transformation. He is a protective, benevolent spirit who serves Ifa, the chief god, as a messenger between heaven and Earth. Elegba also stands for change and uncertainty.
Story of Elegba
Elegba is a trickster who is unpredictable, sly, and fond of pranks. He became a messenger god because he tricked the High God, who was then living on Earth. Due to his tricks, the High God decided to reside in the heavens and ordered Elegba to fly to him through the sky every night and report everything that happened back on Earth. Because of his trickster characteristics, he is often paired with Ifa, the God of Order.
One infamous story of Elegba was about his red hat on one side and black on the other. The story is told that one day, he was walking down a road wearing a hat that had a red colored side and a black colored side on the other. The townsfolk then started arguing whether his hat was black or red because each side saw a different color. On one side of the road, the villagers only saw the red side, while the villagers on the other side had only seen black. They began fighting over the disagreement. Elegba then returned and rebuked them, telling them that one’s perspective can be as correct as the other’s even when they appear different. He then left them with a warning about how closed-mindedness may cause one to be made a fool. In other versions of this tale, the villagers killed each other, and Elegba laughed, saying, “Bringing strife is my greatest joy.“
Characteristics of Elegba
He is unpredictable, a liar, and fond of pranks which can be cruel and disruptive. Elegba also knows all the languages spoken on Earth and is known to enjoy confusion. Many stories tell tricks he plays, leading to causing an argument between friends and husbands and wives. In one myth, he lured the sun and moon into changing places, which upset the cosmic order. Nonetheless, he is said to lead mortals to temptation and possible tribulation, hoping the experience will ultimately lead to their maturation. His contrasting and confusing nature makes him a tricky teacher, but he is usually found to be good.
Elegba is said to protect travelers and is the deity of roads and crossroads. Mainly, he is the deity with the power over fortune and misfortune and the personification of death, a psychopomp. Like all Orisha, he has superhuman physical attributes like strength, stamina, reflexes, and immortality. Elegba is also highly skilled in combat, as he is a member of The Guerreros. He is identified chiefly by the number three and the colors red and black or white & black.
Ritual foods offered to Elegba include palm oil, corn, beans, popcorn, farofa, cornmeal, or manioc flour. Additionally, four-legged male birds and other animals are offered as a sacrifice to Elegba.
The Yoruba people have a rich mythology with many interesting characters. Elegba is one such figure who plays an important role in the story of life. However, this entity is imperfect because he has his personalities and flaws. While some may fear him, he also holds great power and offer wisdom to those who understand him.
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