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The Ifa Concept of Esu

Published March 8, 2012 | By admin
In Ifa metaphysics Esu is the Divine Messenger the Sprit who allows humans to
communicate with Spirit. Esu translates the language of Nature into the language of
humans and the language of humans into the language of Nature. Ifa teaches everything
in Nature has Ori or consciousness. If you have ever gone to the beach feeling depressed
and came away feeling better by being in the presence of the ocean, then you can say
you engaged in some kind of dialogue or communication with the Spirit of the Ocean.
The transforming factor in this interaction is a Spiritual Force Ifa calls Esu.
The verses of Ifa oral scripture are organized through the use of two Quadra grams
made up of single and double lines. Single lines represent light, double lines represent
darkness. These patterns are to dimensional representations of three dimensional energy
patterns that occur in Nature. They represent the polarity between gravity and radiation,
the polarity between expansion and contraction.
The primary energy pattern that incarnates Esu is the Odu Ose’tura, which appears as
This is the symbolic representation of the energy pattern that incarnates the human
ability to communicate with the Forces of Nature. The Odu is used as a magnet to
invoke the power of the Devine Messenger.
In Ifa creation Myth, the Universe emerges from the Eternal Rock of Creation called
Oyigiyigi. In the beginning this rock separated into the four calabashes of creation.
These four calabashes interacted with one and another to form sixteen sacred principles
called Olu Odu meaning they are the primal principles of creation. In Ifa the sacred
number seventeen represents the sixteen primal Odu plus Ose’tura which is the
seventeenth Odu of Ifa. This Odu has the function of calling the Olu Odu to copulate
creating the two hundred and forty omo odu meaning the children of the first sixteen
principles. This suggests that Esu, in addition to being the Divine Messenger, is also the
primal seed of creation. Ose-Tura describes the relationship between Esu and the people
of Earth. To be more specific there are a number of manifestations of Esu and in this
verse the manifestation is called Esu O’dara meaning the Divine Messenger divides and
spreads or initiates transformation.
Sore throat takes the good from the plate
Was the one who cast Ifa for all the people on
Earth when they were afflicted with illness. Esu
Says that the sacrifice will be effective if they will

the Forces in Nature that pushes us beyond the limitations of our perception to broaden our horizons. Esu as the trickster causes disruption in the form of illness. poor hygiene. We deny our vulnerability by resisting change. Esu also has a role as the Divine Trickster meaning Esu can create illusions based on arrogance designed to teach us humility. Ifa says Esu lives in the back of the neck. These same factors lead to political disruption and upheaval. It is considered the foundation of all personal growth and elevation. Ose-tura is saying humans cannot separate themselves from communication with Spirit without suffering the consequences of their arrogance. In Ifa the Force of Nature that provokes this loss is called Esu. Esu as the mediator between Spirit and humans has a key role in maintaining harmony and balance in the world.Do as he says. most of the anthropological literature identifies the Trickster as a random form of harassment. bad luck. Cleaning the back of the neck is an important step during initiation and initiation is essentially an elevation of consciousness or a complete manifestation of the hero’s journey in ritual form. In some academic literature Esu is described as “evil”. “conveys the idea as it is understood in Western culture. Ifa teaches that if consciousness exists in humans it existed in latent . Once you have the idea that you can handle all your problems yourself you are invoking an encounter with the Devine Trickster. Our resistance is shattered and we are left with the feeling of loss of identity. When we experience tension it is the shoulders and the neck that tighten up. Things occur and we don’t have all the answers. Bad luck is described in Ifa as being the result of personal resistance to personal potential. The diseases that are most common in large cities are frequently the result of poor planning. and disruption. If humans move to far away from the idea of living in alignment with Natural Law. The reason we can consider Esu a real Force in Nature that resides in each one of us is because we live in a holographic universe. The slang expression “pain in the neck. which literally means. Because we live in an infinite universe our finite perception of reality does not match the objective circumstances surrounding our experience. In traditional Yoruba culture the death of the old self is perceived as a positive experience. Esu is the force in nature that illuminates awareness of this contradiction. not disjointed. The people of earth came and gave sacrifices …… From that day on. This means humans cannot behave in a way that is counter to their essential nature without eventually paying a price. This awareness brings us the lessons expressed through Esu’s role as Trickster. over population and greed. Ifa also describes Esu as the Divine Enforcer in issues of Spiritual Justice. Ifa Divination communication between God and Men in West Africa William Bascom Indiana University Press 1991 page 466. This description fails to appreciate the sacred function for all Tricksters in all traditional cultures. In Ifa the back of the neck is called ipako. the world began to be good. Every atom continues the enter blueprint for all of Creation. It is a manifestation of eternal truth that no one can be totally self-reliant. The role of Esu as Trickster is to bring each one of us the truth that we are all interconnected and interrelated. In the role of Esu as Divine Trickster. the crossroads between the head and the heart.

As an alternative to resistance there is a doorway we walk through that gives us an opportunity to leap into the nest level of consciousness. Ifa calls this ibi or resistance to change. This is always true. there is no exception. The universe is not arbitrary. This is not some arbitrary. malevolent force that is out to get you if you don’t behave. Esu brings us those experiences that can potentially lead us back to our essential self. or it can be in the context of overcoming difficulty in the world. assimilate and integrate the life lessons that occur in the world.potential at the beginning of time. When the resistance to change breaks down. When Ifa describes Esu as a Trickster this role is closely associated with the symbolic function of opening doors guiding us to a better grasp of our destiny. we go through a period of death and transformation leading to rebirth. Ifa uses a circle that contains an equal armed cross as a symbol or consciousness. It is the role of the Divine trickster to suggest we might have a personal destiny and we might have a purpose for being on Earth. you regress and the circle that represents the parameters of your consciousness becomes smaller. before stepping back. The elders knock on the door and kick it open. Initiation occurs every time we expand our own consciousness. This circle represents the consciousness of a young man the day before puberty. The process occurs daily if you are conscious of your relationship with Esu. To get from the baseball to the basketball requires the death of the old self. Then puberty arrives and his consciousness is forced to deal with the issues of being an adult. there’s a pretty good chance it’s a bird. Ifa elevation (abori) is the process of elders guiding the novice up the seven steps of initiation. In symbolic language the door to becoming a responsible adult has opened. Regression takes effort and the effort can lead to emotional and physical illness. The divine trickster is a fundamental principle of the structure of reality. This process always involves walking through some doorway. Elephants do not give birth to tigers. Imagine a circle with a cross the size of a baseball. In symbolic language the door to childhood is closed. it is our tack to re-incarnate our self every day. Each day you have to incorporate. This is the door Esu opens. Fear causes us to resist change. The boy no longer exists. Nothing in human experience is more frightening than the prospect of letting go of the old self. it is not a physical door. This shift in consciousness can only occur if we tear down the parameters of conscious that define how we see ourselves in the world. The key to unlocking this . and prolongs the agony. A door opens every time we abandon the safe boundaries of selfperception. and some barrier leading us into the realm of the unknown. Humans are essentially good. Otherwise you become stagnant. This is the Christian “Boogy man “model. This can be in the context of a communal ritual. The door we are speaking of is the door of personal growth. raising a family. based on the idea that if you see and egg hatch and something comes out with wings. and finding a productive role in society. Ifa says once we are initiated. if we move to far from our essential nature. This means consciousness infuses all that is and various forms of consciousness are able to communicate with each other through the Force of Nature Ifa calls Esu. The consciousness of the man who has assimilated these new roles is represented by a circle the size of a basketball. In his place stands a man. some portal.

Those who write about the experience say the prelude to the experience of what I call the Mother of all fears. The only way to resolve this conflict is to recognize there is no Devil and that Esu appears in response to our need to begin the hero’s journey. followed by a sense of connecting with everything. It is a meeting between the inner self and the higher self. We can ask about tragedy and premature death knowing these are difficult questions. There is only one antidote to fear and that is courage.doorway is the willingness to confront the fear of the unknown. those of . “What do I have to do to take the next step?” Esu is the Orisa who opens the door for our encounter with the inner self (ori inu). the common human response is to blame the door keeper. Connection to spirit is the consequence of facing fear with courageous action. In Ifa there is a belief a bigger picture where Divine Justice is at work.” It is the fear of the total loss of self. if you can’t handle change. the tendency is to blame the Devil rather than admit to your own lack of courage. Ifa says we are all children of Oyigiyigi the eternal stone of creation. It is the idea that everything is interconnected. This is the way of spiritual growth. and that this journey is a joint effort. Every fish living in the ocean has a home and food to eat. What you would be creating is reliance on me and not the ability to work through your fear. you look yourself in the eye and you say. This perspective is not always clear to human consciousness and for this reason we turn to spirit for guidance. Esu as the opener of doors is who we invoke to confront our fears in the process of self-discovery. Embracing the need for change always requires courage. How does this relate to the idea of Esu as divine Enforcer? You can only move so far away from the idea of Universal connection before Nature creates counter-balancing forces guiding you back to center. Ifa literally calls it “Fear of the Mothers. When you see yourself clearly. which it is. If you don’t like the experience of growth. you grab yourself by the lapels. The creatures who live in the ocean have figured it out. There is an idea in Ifa that appears in every earth centered religion I have encountered. There is no antidote to fear and there is no way to invoke courage other than to do the right thing in spite of the fear. It’s a wonderfully noble and widely recognized idea. The key point in this process is that Ifa is not about sprinkling juju powder that gives you the courage to confront your fears. one of the reasons why Esu tends to be described as “evil” or “negative” is becoming complacency and security is wrongly associated with Divinity. If you read all the great mystical writings in literature. it is a map of the hero’s journey. every time you have a problem you would come to me and I would sprinkle the juju on your head and the problems goes away. The door never opens unless our own ori understands there is a need for change. Shoot the messenger and ignore the message. The symbolic analogy used in Ifa is Ifa Olokun o saro dayo. Blaming the Devil puts our consciousness in conflict with itself and this conflict must be resolved for change to occur. Confronting the fear of the unknown always involves embracing the need for change. Historically. If you are unwilling to walk through the door that Esu has opened. But is remains an idea until you really experience it. they are all about trying to explain how it feels when you really get the idea of Universal connection. meaning the Spirit of the Ocean always provides for those who live in the sea. Esu has the function of Divine Enforcer meaning the one who keeps Creation conscious of its true essence. No one can sell you courage and it does not come in a bottle.

Western science has a discipline called Chaos theory which postulates the idea that things which seem to be symmetrical in the universe have a range of variation when viewed up close. chaos and order are issues of perspective. The role of herbalist is sanctioned through initiation to Osanyin. The rock is the place we face when we say our prayers. Conversely you can do things that seem negative in the moment and end up having positive results. In traditional Yoruba culture it is assumed that by the time you become a grandparent you have learned the lessons of good character and have become a clear messenger for Spirit you are in constant alignment with the Immortals. These 256 Odu create all forms of consciousness because they all emerged out of the light from the Big Bang (Oyigiyigi). righteous and ethical that can have long term negative effects. Esu as the Divine Enforcer is what we invoke to get the big picture. These will create a convergence of forces that will create a convergence of forces that will allow for dialogue and inspiration from sources beyond our own consciousness. It also postulates that things which appear random have a degree of symmetry when viewed at a distance. The profession of blacksmith is sanctioned through initiation to Ogun. the pieces start to fall in place. First and foremost. The thing I did not realize when I went to Africa for the first time was the importance of the extended family in relationship to Ifa and Orisa worship. Nigeria. The role of grandmother and grandfather are eternal roles within the family that are assumed by subsequent generations. If you get the big picture. It is a sacred space created by our intentions. Ifa teaches that the entire Universe is created by the 256 Odu which are primal manifestations of consciousness. in reality Esu is part of our own consciousness and we are bouncing it off the rock. A southern proverb says the path to Hell is paved with good intentions. We call this guidance from Spirit. Every traditional Yoruba home has a room specifically for Orisa (Spiritual representations of Forces in Nature). This means the issues of justice and injustice. Divination is sanctioned through initiation into . Somewhere inside of you Esu is alive and waiting to go to work. You can do things on the short term that feel effective. It is Esu we invoke to get perspective on where we are in the polarity. Ifa is the sanctification of the extended family is an eternal structure that exists forever while different faces evolve into the role of elders within the ongoing family unit. Children are being trained for the day when they become grandmother and who live on land are still working on it. The idea of Esu as the Divine Enforcer is that Nature creates boundaries for those who ignore reality. I did not know what a family that works as a school for both spiritual training and the development of trade skills looked like until I arrived in Ode Remo. Consciousness includes the Odu Ose-tura which incarnates Esu. In traditional Yoruba culture jobs are also sanctioned through initiation. Nobody in traditional Yoruba culture believes Esu is a rock. When we pray to Esu we are facing a rock and we are calling it Esu. Individuals pray every morning to the Orisa in their shrine to support their personal growth and to support their communal responsibilities. Because Ose-tura exists elsewhere in the world our prayers can attract other manifestations of the Odu.

No one is chief all the time. Ifa is one particular vision of how to make the family work. Sanctification is a communal process that identifies certain people as carriers of a particular kind of wisdom. and they all look to Nature for guidance and inspiration. if you go through an Ifa initiation. Superficially. the traditional Yoruba extended family looks like a patriarchy. There is a balance of power within the structure of community.Ifa. diminishing anyone verbally is inappropriate and denigrating any particular group of people is not consistent with the ethical principles of Divine Law. This is the eternal idea of respect for elders as part of the process of personal development. There is a weave of influences that sustains the eternal structure of the family. If they do not give their blessing you are not initiated. spiritual power is not sprinkling juju on your head. You have to walk past them to come into the world after you rebirth. Part of the function of Esu is to maintain the cohesive fabric of the family structure. Within the extended family there are different roles that sustain the wellbeing of the family. gossip is inappropriate. Based on the idea of Esu as Divine Enforcer. This requires spiritual power. Everyone has an elder. I suffer. and if you don’t call them father or mother you are being rude. When you find yourself experiencing these emotions there is transformation work that needs to be done. competition is inappropriate. you get blessed by the elders by sitting in their presence and they don’t have to say anything. Sanctification means some form of communal blessing. Everyone has a role. On a communal level there is a sanctification of farming and a sanctification of the role of those who run the market. if you suffer. The problem is taking those emotions and transforming them into something worthy of praise. It is not hard to identify and it is not hard to recognize. Life is viewed as a convergence of influences in which are personal role shifts depending on experience and expertise. depending on the circumstances. That is not true. the ability to place yourself so perfectly in alignment with the Forces of Nature that surround you that your life becomes constantly transformed. in Hinduism it is called prana and in Ifa it is called ase. For example. There are others. This is a real power that feels a certain way and the essence of ceremonial work within Ifa is to unlock this . women have veto power over what is apparent in public. Anybody older than you are father or mother. everyone contributes to the well-being of the being of the entire community. In Africa there is no word for Uncle and there is no word for cousin. Ifa teaches the ethical notion that if your life gets better my life gets better. another way of saying initiation. back biting is inappropriate. Again. it is assuming a position in relationship to Nature that becomes transformative simply because you are a conduit for the essential balance of Nature Herself. This does not make one initiation better than another. It’s all about having the real experience of spiritual power. In India it is called dharma. That vision gives us insight on how we can relate as extended family in areas where the family has been damaged. All these roles fit into an ideal version of how a family and a community functions. it looks like you are being initiated by a fraternity of men. In Taoism it is called chi. But the last thing you do involves a blessing from the mothers. in Sinto it is called ki. Esu can begin to give you a vision of the big picture. This idea requires an examination of the possibility that jealousy is inappropriate.

To understand this shift as a metaphysical principle let us examine the Odu that incarnates Esu. In Ifa mythology the polarities between expansive light and contractive light is symbolized by the polarity between male spirits known as Orisa Okunrin. The Yoruba word oso means astral travel and astral travel is a component of effective prayer because it is the ability to project human consciousness into the invisible realm that sustains creation. This principle gives birth to the Force of Nature or Orisa Ifa calls Osun. Ase will become unlocked within you merely by being around it. It is an exploration of those spiritual that us towards elevation and renewal. The word Obatala from the elision Oba ita ala meaning the King of the road of light. On right side it is the metaphysical principle of Ose. If we draw a horizontal line through the center of the W we can consider everything above the line as expansive and everything below the line as contractive. and female spirits known as Orisa Obinrin. In traditional Ifa the power behind effective prayer is called aje. In Otura we are blessed with mystic vision. If you are unable to unlock spiritual power on your own being in the presence of those who can is of value. The call to courage is a call to do the right thing in spite of our fear. The only way to successfully interact in this unfamiliar place is to expand our consciousness. to change our perception of self and world. The left side of the odu is Otura which is a manifestation of the force of nature Ifa calls Obatala. The hero’s journey involves encounters with Esu who pushes us beyond the complacency of our normal boundaries. A sign wave can be visualized as a series of W’s linked together.power. At that point what you call it is profoundly irrelevant because at that point you will know what it feels like and you will be able to access it for use in personal growth. Ifa teaches that aje is an inherited skill that passes from mother to daughter. Science tells us that the universe is a huge sign wave and that everything we see is a manifestation of light. This places us in unfamiliar territory where there is a profound sense of panic. Ose in simple terms is the ability to project your prayers through the use of ofo ase meaning the power of the word. The Odu is Ose-tura and appears as follows: II II II II I II The Odu are two Quadra-grams read from right to left. In Ose-tura spirit gives us the promise of enlightenment anytime we reach out for clarity and resolution of conflict. Expansion of consciousness always involves the death of the old self. At the place in the wave where the horizontal line intersects the polarity between expansion and contraction the opposite polarities unite . These are not independent forces they are part of a continuum that emerges from a single source. In simple terms the encounter with Esu is a call to courage. confusion and fear. and experience of the source of the fear of the unknown. In the process of divination the right side of the Odu represents that which has manifest and the left side represents that which exists in latent potential. This skill is enhanced and put to effective use in the women’s secrete society called Iyaami Osoranga meaning my mother’s bring me the power of astral travel from the elision Iya mi oso ran ga. meaning we get a glimpse of the holographic universe that comes in direct response to our prayers.

imbalance. In Odu Ifa the unity between Osun and Obatala results in the birth of Esu. In order to make this vision manifest in the world we need to implement that vision. Esu gives us the courage to take the first step in making the vision of Spirit a reality. In Ifa mythology Esu is considered the guardian of the portal that makes this journey possible. and all the boundaries that define the self. it is the moment of conception. Walking through the door requires courage. The tail represents the phallus and the mouth represents the vagina. all preconceived ideas. It is a call to courage which is why the journey is always associated with the Orisa Ebora meaning Warrior spirits. and loss of identity. who guide us towards Akin l’ona or the hero’s journey.and become one. On a personal level this means when we access the power of prayer we create the possibility of receiving and answer from Spirit in the form of mystic vision. the moment of organism is considered the point of unification. ire Baba . In Ifa this place of unity is symbolized by the Uroborus or the snake eating its tail. Osun the Spirit of the River gives us the secret of how to project our prayers into the realm of spirt. throughout history. Obatala responds to this impulse by showing us what a better life looks like. In that moment Nature embraces the possibility of re-creation. The first step to implementation is to open the door that initiates the hero’s journey. It requires giving up all dogma. This is the single most fearful moment that humans experience. because the journey involves completely letting go of the old self. It requires living in a state of confusion. In Earth centered religions around the world. She does this my pushing us towards the idea of creating a better life.