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Esu Odara - The Divine Messenger

of Transformation
By awo Fategbe Fatunmbi

Ebora to luti la nbo


We worship only deities who can respond when consulted
Oriki Esu
Esu, Esu Odara, Esu lanlu ogirioko.
Okunrin ori ita,
a jo langa langa lalu
Divine Messenger, Divine Messenger of Transformation,
Divine Messenger speak
with power.
Man of the crossroads, dance to the drum.
A rin lanja lanja lalu.
Ode ibi ija de mole.
Ija ni otaru ba dele ife.
Tickle the toe of the drum.
Move beyond strife.
Strife is contrary to the Spirits of the Invisible Realm.
To fi de omo won.
Oro Esu, to to to akoni.
Ao fi ida re lale.
Unite the unsteady feet of weaning children.
The word of the Divine Messenger

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is always respected.
We shall use your sword to touch the earth.
Esu ma se mi o. Esu ma se mi o. Esu ma se mi o.
Divine Messenger, do not confuse me. Divine Messenger, do not confuse me.
Divine Messenger, do not confuse me.
Omo elomiran ni ko lo se.
Pa ado asubi da.
No ado asure si wa.
Let someone else be confused.
Turn my suffering around.
Give me the blessing of the calabash.
ase o.

Esu is the Divine Messenger. It is said that he translates the language of Orisa to that of humans
and vice-versa. He exists in the visible and invisible worlds simultaneously, and because of this, he
knows all. He goes by many names, Esu and Elegba (eleggua) being the most common. In the
Diaspora, many believe Esu and Elegba are two different Orisa. Thats not quite right. Some say
Elegba comes from Elegbara, or Alagbara (the strong one, or owner of strength a praise name). I
have read that "Elegbara" comes form ela egbe ara, meaning, the body of those who possess the
light. Another translation would be that "Bara" is the word for strength or power. E Ile Bara. The
House of Power. Esu Elegbara is an aspect or road of Esu associated with warriors. The power of
the warrior.
Owonrin Osa
Elegbara will not run on the day of a fight.
Glorious fight is Elegbaras ase.
Aira will not run on the day of a fight.
Glorious fight is Airas ase.
Lion does not run on the day of a fight.
Glorious fight is Lions ase.
I dont run on the day of a fight, so that my soldiers dont run on the day of a fight.
We do not run so that we may have glory and honor.
We will call the Odu marked on the tray.
We will grind ipe-ele.
We put it in a calabash and mix it with agidi to drink with our soldiers (the ebo is for courage in
combat).
Ase

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Elegba (Elegbara) is born in this Odu. Esu Odara is born in Ose Otura. Maybe this is the source of
confusion. Different Odu for different Esu's leads us to think they are different Orisa. But Esu Odara
is the "father" of all the other Esu's; they are not different Orisa. The plethora of differing roads,
names and or incarnations of Esu is explained somewhat in Odu Ose Otura:
Esu was engaged in battle with Iku (death). They had been going at it for a long time when Iku was
like, damn! so he picked up a special instrument of his and used it to cut Esu in half. But each time
he sliced, two Esus would spring from each half. Eventually, Iku turned his heels and ran.
Not only does this itan (story) explain how so many Esu's came to be, but is proof that they are the
same. Much of the confusion around the various roads of Esu comes from the fact that every Odu
and every Orisa have their own Esu. The Esus for the different Orisa are born in Odu Owonrin plus
the Odu of the Orisa. For example, the Odu for making the Esu for Sango (esu ananaki) is Owonrin
Iwori; for Obatala (esu oke) its Owonrin Ogbe. It is said that as each ori is being created an
individual Esu is created along with it!
Some well known Esu's are: Esu Laroye. Laroye translates to something like, "close to the Mothers."
This Esu is associated with Oshun, and carries the ase of sensuality and fertility. Esu Elekun is one
of the Esu's associated with warriors. Elekun means leopard and is associated with strength,
cunning and courage; traits that reflect Ogun's ase. Esu Lalu is the Esu of Dance. Dance provokes
possession. Esu Iseri is the esu of "morning dew," and refers to the plants of the forest. It is the Esu
associated with Osanyin. Esu Oro is the Esu of the power of the word (ika). it is the Esu that puts the
ase in our prayers and invocations. There are many more Esus. It is said there are twenty one Esus,
but in reality there are many more.
Esu is most commonly known as "The Trickster" in that he represents chance. But I would question
whether this is really Esu's most important role. He is the karmic enforcer who simply provides the
effect of your actions, good or bad. He reminds us that only we are responsible for our actions. Dont
blame Olodumare; Olodumare is not involved in our everyday affairs; don't blame your parents; your
boss; or your spouse. Blame yourself and correct the inner conflict. Esu is the principle of chaos and
transformation. He pushes us to grow. He is cause and effect. He mediates between humans and
ajogun (deliverer of ebo). Lastly, he is also the keeper and imparter of Ase (ashe, ache, axe). Ase
imbues sound, space, and matter with energy to re-structure existence, to transform and control the
physical world. To reduce Esu to the status of mischief-maker or trickster is to be completely
ignorant of what Esu is. Esu admonishes us to think before we act; that choice and free will can
affect our destiny. A verse in Ogbe Owonrin illustrates this aspect of Esu.
Oju Ikankukaan
Nii munii sow isekuse

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A dia fun Orunmila


Nijo tin lo ree toro omo lodo Orisa
Won ni o kale ebo ni ko waa se
ase
Unnecessary haste for success
Can make one engage in criminal activities
Cast divination for Orunmila
On the day he was going to beg for a child from Orisa
He was warned to take care of the earth and perform ebo
ase
In the itan, Orunmila goes to Obatala for a child, but at the time Obatala only had bad oris in stock.
Orunmila took one anyways cuz he didnt want to wait. He figured he could fix it later. He named him
Omolokun. The kid was rotten to the core. When older, Orunmila found out through divination that
the little devil wanted to kill him, so he did ebo and kept a charm under his pillow. When Omolokun
came to kill him, Orunmila woke up. After a long chase, Omolukun tired
out and turned into a stone called Yangi (Esus stone) to hide. But Orunmila was not fooled and was
going to kill the little rascal, but instead pointed his ase at the stone and commanded that he would
stay as a stone forever and said, All the errands you had refused while you were my child, you will
from now on answer them. The itan ends with the song;
Nje taa o dari iree mi si mi?
Esu Odara
N ni o dari iree mi si mi
Esu Odara
Who will direct my good fortune towards me?
Esu Odara
He is the one that would direct my good fortune towards me
Esu Odara
Ase
In this Itan from Ogbe Owonrin, we see that although Esu was behind the punishment for acting in
haste, he also helped Orunmila out of the situation. Thus the dual nature of Esu as the one who
maintains balance. We also see how Esu can bless us with good fortune. Interesting is the name of
the troublesome child Omolokun child of the Spirit of the Ocean. It is Olokun who creates
abundance and wealth in the unknowable black depths of the ocean. It is Olokun whose energy is
bound with that of Esu in the Yangi, Esus stone.

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Esu is born in Odu Ose Otura. He is the son of the River Goddess, Osun (Oshun - Orunmila is the
'father'). When in the beginning, Olodumare sent the 17 Irunmole to make the earth habitable to
humans, only one of them was female. That was Osun. The male irunmole ignored her as they went
about their business. Osun just chilled. She made sure none of their actions turned out good. So the
irunmole went back to Olodumare to ask why everything they tried to do ended in failure. Olodumare
asked them how many they were when he sent them to earth. They said seventeen. Olodumare
asked, how many of you are here? they said, we are sixteen. Wheres the seventeenth? asked
Olodumare. Well she is back on earth. We didnt bring her because shes only a woman.
Olodumare said this is not good, youd better go back and ask her forgiveness. So they did, but
Osun told them that she was going to have a baby and if it was female they were in trouble, but if it
were male, shed forgive them. The baby was born and was
named Osetuura. The prayers of the irunmole were answered with the birth of Osetuura.
When we finish ritual or prayer, we chant:
Ose Otura (a-wu-ire-la) agbe wa, ala wa, ase
Ose Otura (the Odu that makes prayers manifest) will support and bless us,
ase.
Bi mo duro, bi mo wure
Ire ti emi, ko ni se aigba
Bi mo bere, bi mo wure
Ire ti emi, ko ni se aigba
Bi mo joko, bi mo wure
Ire ti emi, ko ni se aigba.
If I pray while standing
My prayers will manifest
If I stoop or kneel while praying
My prayers will manifest
If I sit while praying
My prayers will manifest
ase
This is part of a verse that is said daily by awo to grow their ase.
In all Ifa/Orisa ritual, making of medicines, spells, etc., there is a method of connecting words to
desired actions. This method is part of the training of awo. Connecting words to action is basic to
Yoruba metaphysical theory, for at the beginning there was sound. It is Orunmila and Esu working
together that make it happen. The following is an example of ohun-afose ("voicing ase and making
it come to pass"):
A-a-se, the empowered word comes to pass

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For as infallible divination belongs to Ifa


So does prophetic utterance (afose) belong to Orunmila
It is the ase of the egunmo vegetable that prevails in the family of vegetables
While the Pantaguenon monkey's ase is law in the animal world
Similarly erekese (a kind of cotton) is unsurpassed in its whiteness
among all the cotton species
As it desires, elegbede (a type of gorilla) produces musical sounds
on any tree on which it rubs its palm
Coming to pass and becoming fulfilled are qualities native to ilakose (a small tropical land snail)
The ogbo leaf always complies with the order given it
Igba (rope for climbing palm trees) unfailingly obeys the orders of its user
The covenant reached between the rodent and the earth is an everlasting one
Orisa, the Creator-in-chief, grants every desire that the chameleon presents to him
While the cripple and the hunchback never reverse their Orisa-given destinies
Sango never turns down the plea of orogbo (Sango's favorite nut)
Nor does Orisa ever say no to the request made with obi (Orisa's preferred kola)
Obatala never rejects white beads (his favorite color in beads)
Small crawling ground insects never challenge the authority of ayetale (another insect species that
lives in the earth)
An Oba (King) never turns down propositions that would bring peace
and harmony to his domain
Oju-oro (water lettuce) never antagonizes water
Nor does osibata (water lily) ever argue with the stream
It is the nature of eerun (brown ant) to hang on unquestioningly
to whatever shrub it is given
Okira (the sharp Ogun sword) always severs cleanly and completely
Okira never fails
To (the sound made by the mouth when spitting) once spat out,
the same saliva never returns to one's mouth
A body of water flowing downstream never turns back
Speedily, ina leaf (Sangos leaf) burns (like poison ivy)
The day a dry leaf heads for the ground,
it never returns to spend the night on the tree top
It is totally alien to Adigbonranku's nature to postpone
the date of its death for even one day
Fulfillment is the one unchanging characteristic of Aidan fruit
It is on the very day that a child quests for the sweet oyin leaf that he finds it
Likewise it is on the day that one consumes excessive alcohol

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that one exhibits the symptoms of drunkenness


It is the day we prepare yam heaps for planting
that the seedlings are interred into the soil
The placenta at childbirth is always buried on the very day it appears
It takes only a day for a bush fire to destroy any tree
A snake's poison also takes no more than one day to
do damage to the human body
Urine passed on dirt ground is totally absorbed by the end of the day
It is without delay that the monkey descends a tree covered by
thick columns of black (soldier) ants
Promptly children jump off trees wrapped around by
iwerepe creeper (cow-itch plant)
Swiftness and lack of ceremony attend the death of maggots
Speedily may my request come to pass, speedily.
Ase, ase, ase o!
Ase is manipulated using the power of the word. It is Esu who provides the power (In relationship
with the Mothers of whom his mother, Oshun, is the leader).
Esu Oro ma ni ko.
Esu Oro ma yak o.
Esu Oro fohun tire sile
Esu Oro ohun olohun ni ima wa kiri
ase
The Divine Messenger of the Power of the Word causes confrontation.
Divine Messenger of the Power of the Word, do not cause me confrontation.
The Divine Messenger of the Power of the Word has the voice of power.
The Divine Messenger of the Power of the Word has a voice that can be heard throughout the
Universe
Ase
Otura Owonrin
Karikasikata Imorimo the all knowing one,
people with knowledge of the farm,
people with knowledge of the town,
people with knowledge of the earth
and people with knowledge of heaven
shall see one another again.
What ants separate without gathering together again in one place?

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They are the ones who cast Ifa for those who were morning the dead.
From where the people of earth have come is where they will return.
What are tears for?
What is sorrow for?
What is lifting oneself up and down for?
What is fasting for?
He who sends one to come is he who calls us back home.
That which pleases us in the world, does not please the Creator.
Children of earth sit on earth, so they will not do bad things.
The Creator does not want that.
The Creator does not accept that.
If I should say go, you will go. If I should say come, you will come.
If a child does not know his parents, earth is not a good place to be.
Death is the one who brings a child to know Orun.
Who is thinking of the Creator?
If there is no Esu, who would think of looking for food and drink (ebo)?
You know darkness, child who does not know his/her parents.
Speak to me so that I may speak to you; it is by the voice that we know eachother in the darkness
(The Divine Messenger of the Power of the Word has a voice that can be heard throughout the
Universe).
If a child does not know their parents, the earth is not a good place to be.
Ase
Esu is chaos. He is contradiction. He can appear as an old man or as a child.
Esu-Elegbara, Asoju (the observer),
The short and tall one
Whose head is barely visible when he walks through a peanut farm
Thanks to the fact that he is very tall
But Esu must climb the hearthstone in order to put salt
in the soup pot
Labolarinde, if you reach the frontier
And do not encounter him at the citygate working in the field
You will find him in the vicinity and he is always accessible
To everyone, including the infirm
A le kuru a le ga
O nlo ninu epa Atari re nhan firifiri
Opelope giga ti o ga
Esu ni o gun ori aro ni o fi bu iyo si obe

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Labolarinde ti o ba de bode ti o ko ba ba ni enu odi ni nro oko


On na ni da oko nibiti arugbo le de
ASE
Oriki Esu
1. Iba Esu Odara
2. La'lu, Okiri-oko
3. A ba (e)ni wa oran ba ori da
4. 0 san sokoto penpe ti nse onibode Olorun
5. Oba ni ile Ketu 6. Alakesi Emere aji e aji e m(u) oogun
7. A tun wa se Ibini
8. Elekun nsunkun, Laroye nseje
9. A so ebi d(i) are
10. A so are d(i) ebi
11. E l'egberin ogo agongo
12. Ogoojo oni kumo kondoro
13. Alamu lamu bata
14. Okunrin kukuru kukuru kukuru ti mba won kehin oja ojo ale
15 Okunrin de de de bi orun eba ona
16. Iba to to to
Translation:
1 Esu Odara, I bow down.
2. Lalu, He-goes-around-the-farm.
3. He looks for a fight with someone and succeeds in getting it.
4. He wears short trousers in his capacity as Olorun's gatekeeper.
5. King in the country of Ketu.
6. Guardian of the mischievous spirits, as soon as he awakes he takes hold of medicine.
7. He reforms the people of Benin.
8. The weeper sheds tears, Laroye sheds blood.
9. He makes the guilty innocent.
10. He makes the innocent guilty.
11. He has 800 clubs.
12. He has 160 cudgels.
13. The drummer beats the bata drum.
14. The tiny man who follows the people home from the night market.
15. The man who is very close like the side of the road.
16. Profound respect. ase

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Another important part of understanding Esu is his relationship with Orunmila. According to O. I.
Pogoson and A. O. Akande in "Ifa Divination Trays from Isale-Oyo,"
"The esu figure that is always represented on Yoruba divination trays is symbolic of the strong
friendship that exist between Orunmila and Esu (Personal communication, May 2011 [ with Fatokun
Morakinyo] ). This association is evident in odu ogbefun. The narration of theodu runs thus:
Ogbefohun folohun
Nko fohun folohun
Adia fun Esu on gbogbo irunmole ti won jo nsore
Adia fun Orunmila oun Esu odara ti won jo nsore
Ogbe return what was kept in your custody to the owner
No, I will not return it
The same performed divination for Esu and all other divinities who were friends
It also performed divination for Orunmila and Esu who were friends
According to the story, one day, Esu thought to himself that he was the wisest of all the divinities. He
had put all of them to test, and they all failed. It was only Orunmila that he had not tested. He
therefore decided to give Orunmila his own test.
He went to the market and bought a monkey (aaya). He tied the monkey with a fragile rope.
Thereafter, he went to Orunmila with the monkey and asked Orunmila to please help him to keep the
monkey for a while, because he (Esu) wanted to embark on a long journey which would take him
seven days. Orunmila accepted to keep the monkey but asked Esu to tie it to a tree in the front of his
house. Esu did and left immediately.
Orunmila quickly consulted ifa to know the intention of Esu. Ifa asked him to perform sacrifice with
lots of bananas. He was to carry the sacrifice into a thick forest. Orunmila did. After he completed
the sacrifice, he discovered the monkey had broken the rope and escaped.
Not long after this discovery, Esu came back to inform Orunmila that he was no longer going on the
journey, he therefore demanded for his monkey. Orunmila told him that the monkey had
escaped. Esu became furious and started to cry. Orunmila knew that there will be trouble if he did
not find the monkey. It takes seven days before the tears of Esu fall to the ground and once the tears
fall in front of Orunmilas house, there will be no peace within and outside Orunmilas home again.
Orunmila quickly consulted the oracle again. The oracle asked Orunmila to go back to where he
dropped the sacrifice and that he would find the monkey there. When Orunmilagot to where (in the
forest) he left the sacrifice, he found the monkey eating the bananas. He took the monkey back
home and gave it to Esu.
Esu was surprised that Orunmila could find a way out of his dubious plot for him. He was also
overwhelmed that there exists another divinity that could thwart his intrigue. From that time, he
vowed to support Orunmila in all his endeavours. It then became a tradition that theEsu figure is
fixed in a principal position on all divination trays."

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Esu is indispensable in divination, ebo and initiation ceremonies. Esu Odara is considered the
father of all Esus and represents fertility as well as transformation. As expressed by Falokun
Fatunmbi:
"Ifa is based on understanding Odu. In Odu we learn that Esu Odara (the divine messenger) was
born in Odu Ose Tura. Esu Odara means, "spirit that brings division is the source of fertility in the
universe." As the source of fertility, Esu has the ase that unlocks the abiltiy for awo to be posessed
by all the Orisa. It is in this way that awo can communicate with Orisa; that's why he is called the
divine messenger. Esus Odu is actually 17th in order of seniority. It is the first Odu after the mejis. In
Tefa (ifa initiation), OseTura is invoked on the head of the iyawo after the mejis. This invocation
causes the Meji Odu to copulate in the head of the iyawo, at which time the initiate becomes awo
(hence Esu as the source of fertility). The process unlocks all 256 Odu in the Ori of the iyawo giving
awo the ofo ase (power of the word) to invoke and make all the Orisa, unlocking the ability for an
awo to become possessed by all the Orisa."
This is where Esu as divine messenger of transformation comes from. In addition, we can now
understand why Osun is Esus mother. The Goddess of Fertility births the source of fertility. What
this means at the cosmogenic and metaphysical levels is a discussion in and of itself.
There is a story about how Orunmila and Esu became such good buddies (itan stories are used
to explain metaphysical principles as well as teach ethics, history and illuminate culture). Orunmila
one day wanted to see how his friends would react to the news of his death, so he instructed his wife
(Apetebi) to spread the news of his death, and then hid in the attic. Several Orisa came by the house
to pay their respects, but all of them told his wife that Orunmila had owed them money, etc., which
she paid them (these were lies). But when Esu came by, he was crying profusely, and told her if
there was anything she needed to just call him, etc. In addition, he told her that he had owed
Orunmila some money and promptly paid. Orunmila then came down from the attic and told Esu that
he was a true friend. From then on, the brothas were tight. It was after this that Esu taught Orunmila
the secrets of the Iyami and brought balance to the femalemale polarity on earth.
Esu is the messenger of Ifa, the oracle. He also watches over the divination session, to make sure
its done right. Diviners have an Esu alongside their Orunmila pot. Olodumare made him the most
powerful Orisa and he exists on heaven and earth simultaneously. Esu plays a central role in the
ebo process central to the Yoruba concept of reciprocity. Esu not only translates the language of
humans to that of Orisa; He also mitigates between humans and the Ajoogun. The Ajoogun are
negative energies that impede our progress. Yoruba belief is founded on the idea of balance in all
things; that all things strive for balance. It is Esu who balances the two opposing forces. When we
create something good, something bad is also created. The Ajogun manifest as loss, illness, etc.
When we make ebo, it is Esu who takes it to the orisa, egun, iyami, or ajoogun. Esu takes your ebo

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to the Ajoogun (in the case that the ebo is for them) who accept it in exchange for the problems they
were about to bring you. He could be seen as the arbiter between the person asked to do ebo and
the ajoogun. In a universe of counteracting polarities, Esu is the force that maintains a balance
between positive and negative ensuring the continued virility of Olodumare's creation.
"While Ifa is like an early warning system against the onslaught of the ajoogun, It is Esu who takes
charge of all contingency plans to reduce or thwart the impact of their activities" (Salami). Some
believe Esu is in charge of the Ajogun (which leads to the misconception that Esu is a bad guy), but I
think it is more appropriate to say he has an agreement with them. This interpretation is supported
by a verse in Osa Ogbe:
Esu was Orunmila's student. Orunmila was busy all the time doing divinations and ebos for folks. Of
course, people once they got their problems solved, forgot about Orunmila. Esu, being his first
student, was doing most of the work. Esu was upset with Orunmila about this situation, as they were
both going hungry all the time. One day, Esu saw a whole gang a ajoogun's coming down to earth.
He told baba Orunmila. Orunmila gathered up a bunch of food and gifts and instructed Esu to take
them to the ajogun's and ask them if they'd accept them in place of the sorry persons who they were
coming after. The ajoogun's, after some thought, accepted the gifts as interventions and spared their
torment on the unsuspecting humans. This gave Esu a couple of ideas. He asked the ajogun if in the
future, when they were after someone, if they'd accept gifts and spare the person. They said that
was cool. So, he made a contract with them that he'd be the one to bring the gifts. He told Orunmila
and also told him that from now on, they would take offerings from the people Orunmila helped and
keep part for them. In this way, Esu and the Babalawos never suffered hunger and poverty again.
Another misunderstanding is that some believe Esu takes our offerings to the Ajoogun and saves us
from their wrath and that's it; that all we have to do is do the offering as prescribed. But Esu is all
about pushing us forward, to spiritual growth through transformation. If Esu's role as the deliverer of
Ebo was like this, he would actually be thwarting our progress. A closer look at the word Ajoogun will
spread light on this point. Ajoogun a jo oogun meaning, I dance with the medicine. What this
means is avoiding taking the medicine. The medicine is the solution to whatever is holding you back
from spiritual transformation. It is Esu's basic function; to push you through the door to spiritual
transformation and growth. So, why would Esu want us to avoid taking the medicine? This apparent
contradiction is clarified with the Yoruba edict, No Orisa can intervene on our behalf without the
consent of our Ori. Esu can only intervene on our behalf if we have walked through the door; that is,
when we have accepted the lesson in the Odu in which the ebo was called for. Orisa help us in the
invisible realm, but we must help ourselves in the physical realm, and that usually means we have
some work to do of our own in regards to the problem.
Esu wi o lo dogbo

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Emi naaa wi mo lo dafakan


Esu ni opon ona ti si
O ni taa lo kan
Won ni (lagbaja ni)
Esu ni so ru abi o ru?
Won lo ru! (tabi ko ru)
I am moving forward, Esu said
Everyone is concerned, I too replied
Fangs of Ajoogun have moved
Who is next? Esu asked
They said it is so and so (name)
Did he/she offer the ebo or not?
He offered it, they said (or not)
ase
Moving forward - spiritual growth and transformation - is what we want. The Ajogun (as well as other
forces) can impede our progress. Esu allows us to continue growing by assuaging these negative
forces with the ebo we do. Even though we have a predetermined destiny, it is not guaranteed. It is
our choices that keep us in alignment or not. Esu brings us the consequences of our choices and in
doing so gets us back into alignment and moving forward.
Esu is a neutral force, but most people only think of him bringing trouble. If that is what you think,
perhaps a look at your own behavior is due. The relationship between Orunmila and Esu is that
while Ifa is like an early warning system of impending troubles, Esu is the one who can forestall
these troubles (Salami). The truth is, Esu more often than not protects us and brings us good things.
An itan in Owonrin Osa is a good example:
There was a king whose son was taken to the river for initiation. The group of babalawos were told
by the most junior babalawo that in this initiation, not to use blood. The senior babalawos didnt pay
no mind to the young awo, as no blood would mean less pay for them. So they offered a chicken and
as soon as the blood hit the ground, the kings son passed out. The king, furious, said if the
babalawos didnt resuscitate his son they would be killed. All the babalawos ran away, but it was
only Igbin (snail), the junior awo that was saved by Esu. Esu hid him under an Okooko leaf. Later the
young awo was able to resuscitate the kings son (actually Esu did it). He was rewarded with much
wealth.

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We say Ifa is better than clairvoyants, because while clairvoyants can see the future, they cant
make it happen or change it. Ifa can, and it is Esu who provides this aspect that gives Ifa superior
status. Ifa reconnects us with our destiny, and Esu helps us get there.
Osa Meji:
exchange, exchange,
the Ifa priest of the house of Elepe
He was told to exchange an animal
For his life on account of Iku (death)
As a partner with Orunmila in divination, Esu is the enforcer and the effector of an action. Offerings,
dictated by Orunmila as the communicator of the oracle (Ifa), are usually offered to Esus shrine. All
ritual begin and end with Esu. He has the power to translate human language to the language of
Spirit and of nature, and vice versa. Esu is the principle of chaos in the universe, but he also brings
order from chaos through his control of ebo. He might decide to no longer restrain the ajoogun (evil
spirits) from affecting the arrogant person in order to teach them a lesson. He informs (as
messenger again) Olodumare or Orisa or Aje when ebo has been made. He sees to the proper use
of ritual sacrifice.
Though the offering is difficult, it is not worse than death.
Ire is life health, money, children and long life. The conversion of death into life, or ibi into ire, is
Esus special power.
Ogunda Irete:
Fisherman does not know from where the sea gets its water nor does he know the origin of the
lagoon cast Ifa for Elegbara on the day that he said he needed appeasement before he would carry
ebo to Orun. Orunmila asked how Elegbara would show them that their ebo had been taken to Orun.
Elegbara said those people whose ebo had been accepted would know. For those who had never
made ebo before, they must say, My ebo reached the sea and the lagoon. If they do so, it will be
accepted. He said, Anyone who has made ebo before must say, My ebo reached Orun. Elegbara
was told to offer ebo so that the people of the world would follow his guidance.
Orunmila provides the knowledge needed by the person who came for the reading, which includes
time tested solutions to problems as well as the ritual offering needed to bring things back in order,
or to bring the blessings to the client (to turn ibi into ire). Order is brought by proper ebo, which is
overseen by Esu. The role of the diviner is to turn ibi (negative energy, or chaos, or resistance) into
ire (positive energy, or order, or openness to change).

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Ose Meji:
The world is broken into pieces
The world is split wide open (chaos)
The world is broken without anyone to mend it
The world is split open without anybody to sew it (no way to bring order to the chaos)
Cast Ifa for the six elders
Who were coming down from Ile Ife
They were asked to take care of Mole
They were told that they would do well
If they made ebo (through ebo, order can be brought to chaos)
If the ebo to Esu is not made, it will not be acceptable in Orun
ase
We can see that Esu is a wonderfully benevolent diety not worthy of the bad rap he is given. He has
the power to bind and release. He can limit the actions of the negative forces as well as bring the
blessings of the white (positive) deities to humans.
Esus greatest role in our individual lives (in my opinion), is to slap you upside the head when you
are stuck in dogma. Esu reminds us that truth is not static, and nothing is permanent. When Esu
"meets you in the street" (yoruba saying), it can be painful, especially if you have invested much in
your concretized truth; this is why he gets a bad rap. In Ifa, dogma is the embodiment of evil. It is this
and this alone, that separates Yoruba theology from the other global religions. When a person goes
for a reading (dafa), an odu is revealed. It can come in ire (good fortune) or ibi (bad fortune), positive
or negative. Ibi in yoruba means placenta or afterbirth. When you are in the womb, you need it to
live, but if you hold onto it after birth, it will kill you. So in Yoruba "evil" is not the work of the devil. It
is dogma. It is Esu's job to shake you loose so that you may grow and achieve your destiny.
Like all Orisa, and energy itself, Esu is both positive and negative. Many focus on the negative
aspects of Esu. Those of a higher consciousness will focus on the positive. Esu Odara, the divine
messenger of transformation, will transform you. He has a special relationship with the Creator. He
is the messenger of Olodumare. He has knowledge of good and evil as well as the wisdom and
power to cope with these forces.
Esu is closely associated with the marketplace, crossroads, all places of liminality, where fortunes
can change in an instant. The crossroads in Yoruba is yangi, and the word yangi means the
intersection of three streets not two. The spine is one road, the shoulders are the second road, and
the line between the pineal gland and Orun is the third road. The head and the heart come into
alignment at the back of neck. In Ifa, this is the home of Esu. When the head and the heart are in

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alignment, we are in communication with Esu, and Esu gives us the tools to speak with orisa which
means it puts us on the path of alignment with iponri or higher self (Fatunmbi). Esu is about making
decisions. The existence of Esu means every moment involves choice, so at the three road crossing
the ase of decision making is present, that is, which way to go (Fatunmbi). There is a story (itan)
about Esu that illustrates not only his connection to the market, but also how he will make you pay
for your transgressions.
There was a successful woman at the market, who was told to make ebo so that she would keep the
fruits of her efforts. She didn't do her prescribed ebo, thinking she was all that. While at the market,
Esu started a fire at her house. She arrives too late; her house is burned down. While she ran home
to put out the fire, a thief (Esu) stole all her goods from her market stall. Again, these stories, or itan,
have metaphysical meaning. In this case, the market represents earth, and her home represents
heaven, or better translated, the realm of the ancestors. Fire represents transformation. Her
goods in the market represent her good fortune (ire) on earth. But her resistance to spiritual
transformation affects her good fortune in the invisible realm, which causes her to lose her good
fortune in the physical realm; So as above, below. Her destiny is off path as a result, and it will take
ebo to get back on path.
Esu favors only those who have made the prescribed ebo. And will act as the effect for those who
dont.
Esu occupies these marginal worlds like the marketplace, crossroads and compound entrances. Like
Anubis, he is that liminal space between dark and light. Sometimes Esu provokes us to do stupid
things. However, always with your best interests in mind; he wants you to grow, but it can be painful.
This is why Christians translate him to "devil." This is an indefensible corruption. There is another
popular itan that shows us this aspect of Esu.
There were two buddies. They were told to make ebo so that their friendship would last a lifetime.
They didnt see the need. The two were successful farmers, and their farms were next to each
others. One day they were working on their plots, each on opposite sides of a small path that ran
between their farms. Esu came down the middle of the road in disguise. Esu was wearing a hat
which was black on one side, and red on the other. After he passed, one friend says to the other,
Yo, did you see that cat that just passed by? The other brother responds, Yea man, he was really
moving! And I dug that cool red cap he was wearing. And the other brother says, No man, his cap
was black! The argument escalated to insults and finally one calling the other a liar, which means
they came to blows. Right about then, Esu came strolling down the road and told them of his trick
with the two colored cap. The friends made ebo, and reconciled (in another version, the two had
destroyed their yams rolling around fighting and lost their farms). Esu made them see that they

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would have ended up destroying each other and each others hard work had he not stepped in. Esu
reminds us that things are not always what they appear to be:
O'Bara Meji:
Obr, what did you sell that made you so rich?
I sold pumpkins
The-vulture-was-bald-not-for-fear-of-razor
Python, the diviner of gbaal,
The-blacksmith-does-not-want-war-removed-from-the-face-of-earth.
It was those who cast If for j br.
The child between all of them
On the day in which they were going
To cast If (dafa) at the home of Olofin,
These four were always casting If
For lofin every nine days
Whenever they were coming,
Olfin would give them food and drink
But, one day,
Olofin picked four pumkins,
And he opened them.
He put money inside one of them.
He placed kn and iyn inside another one.
He put lrngnkn, the clothes of king inside the third one.
He put other valuable things of the city of If inside the fourth one
after he finished with this
s rubbed his hands on the marks
Created by the knife in the surface of the pumpkins,
and the marks disappeared.
When br and his friends arrived,
Olofin did not give them food and drink like was his custom.
After they have been resting for a good time
Olofin gave them a pumpkin for each one of them.
Three were curious on what they should do with the pumpkins.
They said, br why dont you take them?
And so it was like they all
pushed their pumpkins on br.
When he arrived at home,
He gave the pumpkins to his wife,

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And he asked her to cook them.


But his wife said,
What can I possibly to do with all these pumpkins?
She also refused them and left them for Ob.
When hunger did not allow br to rest,
He went to the kitchen,
And he put a cauldron on the fire.
When he cut one of the pumpkins,
The money came out in great quantity.
When he cut the other three,
He found all the valuable things that Olfin had put
inside them.
It was how br became a rich man.
When another period of nine days ended,
When they had gone together again to the house of Olfin,
He had begun building a house,
And he got married with a new wife.
He bought a black horse,
And he also bought a red horse.
br became a famous man in whole world.
He began to dance,
He began to rejoice,
Bells were rung in pr,
The rn drums were played in kij,
The drum-sticks were applied incessantly to different
types of drums, in the city of serimogbe.
br began to praise Awo,
And the Awo praised If
And If praised Olodumare
He opened a little his mouth,
And Esu put a song in it.
He said that it was just like the Awo predicted
They employed their good voices praising If:
Obr, what did you sell that made you so rich?
I sold pumpkins
The-vulture-was-bald-not-for-fear-of-razor
Python, the diviner of gbaal,
The-blacksmith-does-not-want-war-removed-from-the-face-of-earth.

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It was those who cast If forj br,


The child of all
On the day in which they were going
To cast If in the palace of Olfin.
They no longer put br last.
He is the first of all.
j br, catch a black horse,
j br, catch a red horse.
Pumpkins
j br, what did you sell
That made you so rich?
Pumpkins
ase
The names of the Awo usually are clues to the interpretation of Odu. Here we have vulture, python,
blacksmith. The vulture represents the Mothers, the blacksmith obviously Ogun. The python
represents a little known but very powerful Orisa (Osumare). The Mothers, in the form of Osun, the
embodiment of the feminine principle; Ogun as the embodiment of the masculine principle, and unity
symbolized by the python (ere). The python is the symbol for Osumare, who appears as the rainbow.
Frequently represented as a pair of serpents or a single serpent with two heads, Osumare is
associated with wealth and prosperity. Curiously, the word "mare" ('the immense, infinite, or eternal')
appears in both Osu-mare and Olodu-mare. It is said in ancient myth that the rainbow is a message
from Olodumare to his mother - the python - in the underworld. Here we find the ancient idea that
Olodumare, the light, came out of the dark - his mother in the underworld.
The balance of forces inside the individual, the alignment of Ori-inu (inner self) with Ori (destiny) and
Iponri (higher self) leads to spiritual and material wealth and prosperity - abundance - (ire gbogbo).
Central to the tenets of Ifa is the necessity for practitioners to establish a good relationship with the
world that we inhabit. Ifa practitioners have faith in a form of reincarnation where the individual
repeatedly returns, after death, to greet the earth, while part of that individuals essence always
resides in heaven as a spiritual double.
The Ifa concept of fair exchange means also that by greeting the earth with good character, ("Iwa
pele" which means good or gentle character, is formed from the elision Iwa Ope Ile - I come to greet
the earth) the natural world will welcome us and support us. In Yoruba the word for human is
eniyan, which means the chosen ones. Chosen to continue bringing good to the earth. We will live
in harmony with the seasons, environment, and the other inhabitants of the earth. Clearly
understood also, is that if we disrespect our environment, abuse and squander the gifts and

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blessings that we enjoy while on earth, suffering will be the outcome. Living an honorable path
requires that we develop specific attributes of good character and ethical behavior. This entails
personal responsibility, a gentle nature, and a humble disposition. But besides that, one must
balance the inner forces. The purpose of Ifa is to balance all the elements of consciousness. We
have that here in vulture, blacksmith and python. The things put in the pumpkins have their esoteric
meanings as well. Lets just say that O'Bara's Ori (consciousness, destiny) is being elevated big
time. O'Bara was humble in that he was always made to cast Ifa for Olofin last. He didn't say
anything, just kept his cool. Pumpkins also have their esoteric meaning, and the fact that the other
awo and his wife didn't want them denotes a certain lack of character on their part.
The red and black horses - Esu's colors are red and black. Horses represent a high title, like Olofin
or Oba. Esu takes care of those who do proper ebo. O'bara did not argue with the others about them
sticking him with their pumpkins, he didnt arrogantly assume they were worthless, and Esu
rewarded him. He didn't fall for the trickster.
There are many itan that speak of this aspect of Esu as Divine Trickster. However, if you maintain an
open mind, dont get stuck in dogma, work on ori tutu and iwa pele, Esu can and will bless you. Most
people propitiate Esu a lot, and part of one of his most popular oriki ask (the one that opens this
paper), "Esu do not confuse me." This line has several meanings, I think. One is that we are asking
Esu to maintain clear lines of communication with us so that we may see things as they really are
and thus avoid the stupid mistakes we have seen in the examples above like with the two good
friends. Another meaning is that he not single us out for a lesson like the woman in the market place.
However, the wise person has no fear of Esu nor any need to constantly propitiate him, because
she/he isn't going to act in haste or arrogance; or fail to remember truth is ephemereal. The person
who has achieved iwa pele (good character), who always maintains ori tutu (a cool head), and has
the humility to see a new truth, does not need to worry about Esu teaching him or her a lesson.
Elders, who have lived the life of iwa pele, ori tutu, and ritual obligation, and so have prospered, are
revered in Yorubaland. They do not know Esu as the trickster, but as the gift giver. For example,
members of the Ogboni, the council of elders, no longer have to make offerings to Esu outside of
ritual obligation.
Esu pele, Opin, Ajibike, Okaramaho, Oyinsese,
Olofin- Apekalu, Amonisegun-mapo
(Divine Messenger, I call you by your names of praise)
Esu, I honor you because of your power
Esu, you are the road maker
Come with kindness to me and to my family,
Who serve you with gifts
Esu, you are the present giver

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Make me rich and the mother of good children


Never allow your children misfortune
Come with your gorgeous appearance,
You, son of cowries
Ase
Iba re Olodumare mi igbo
Oba ateni legelege fori sapeji omi
Reverence to you mighty Olodumare
The king that spreads a thin mat using his head as a rain fountain
ase OOOOOOOOOOOOOO

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