Eshu, also known as Elegba or Legba, is a
trickster god of the Yoruba people of Nigeria in West Africa. He is unpredictable, sly, and fond of pranks that can be cruel and
Eshu, who knows all the languages
spoken on earth, serves as a messenger
between the gods and people. He also carries up to heaven the sacrifices that people offer to the gods.
According to one story, Eshu became the
messenger after playing a trick on the High God. He stole yams from the god's garden, used the god's slippers to make footprints there, and then suggested that the god had stolen the yams himself.
Annoyed, the High God ordered Eshu to visit the sky every night and tell him what happened on earth during the day.
Eshu enjoys confusion. Many stories tell of tricks he plays that cause arguments between friends or between husbands and wives. In one myth he lured the sun and moon into changing places, which upset the cosmic order.
As the god of change, chance, and
uncertainty, Eshu is sometimes paired with Ifa, a god representing order. In one tale Eshu claimed that he would ruin Ifa, who laughingly replied, "If you transform yourself, I shall do the same, and if I die, you will die, for so it has been ordained in heaven."
In this best-known story Eshu
manages to break up a lifelong friendship between the two "men". The sun and the moon farm adjoining plots of land and they have become such good friends that they are always seen together and even dress alike.
Eshu decides to play a trick on them.
Eshu decides to walk down the path, which divides their farms wearing a hat, which is black on one side and white on the other. He puts his pipe at the back of his head and hooks his club over one shoulder so that it hangs down his
After Eshu passes by, the two friends
quarrel about the direction the stranger has taken and the color of his hat. The quarrel becomes so out-of-proportion that the king himself learns of it and calls for the two men. Each friend accuses the other of lying. Then Eshu comes and tells the king that neither is a liar but that both are fools. The king sends his men after Eshu and the gods outrun him. Of course, Eshu uses his trickery to save himself...
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