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Elegguá by Karmella Haynes

Eleggua (also known as Elegua, Ellegua, Elegba, Legba, Elewa, or Eshu) is the most important orisha of the pantheon of the Yoruban religion and its diaspora in the Americas. He is the owner of the crossroads, lives behind every door, is found everywhere in nature, and rules over every conduit or road in the physical and spiritual world. Without Eleggua, ashe (universal power) cannot flow in this world, therefore he is always propitiated first in every ceremony. He is a trickster, constantly challenging humanity's integrity at every turn. He, along with the orisha Orunmila is the witness of fate and knows everything that has happened, is happening, and will happen in this world. In that sense, he is Olodumare's eyes and ears in the world. He speaks for all of the orishas and acts as their messenger to humanity. He has 101 roads (avatars or incarnations) and is, paradoxically, one of the most complex yet simple orishas of the pantheon. He is petitioned for help with cleansing, opening roads and new opportunities, as well as for luck, good fortune, court cases, legal matters, safe travel, and many other endeavors.

Eleggua is typically depicted either as an impish, playful child dressed in a half-red, half-black outfit with a straw hat and a woven shoulder bag full of toasted corn and candy, or as an old gnarled man. He usually carries a bent stick which he uses as a walking cane, and to snag people or clear brush. His shrine or altar typically takes the form of a cement head that is filled with secret items of power and decorated with cowrie shells to look like a face or a single consecrated rock and 21 loose cowries, which are used in diloggun divination, through which the orisha speaks in consultations. The roads or avatars of Eleggua include: Eshu Bi who delegates chores amongst his friends, Eshu Laroya who rules over mischief, Eshu Merinlaye who lives at the crossroads, Eshu Alawana (Alagbana) who wanders through lonely places, Eshu Baralainye who is a companion to Shango and keeps the secret of his fire, and Eshu Aye who lives in the ocean and gathers its wealth. Eleggua's ritual numbers are 3, 7 and 21. His beaded necklace varies by road or avatar, but typically is comprised of alternating red and black beads. His garments are half-red and half-black, as are the candles dedicated to him. Animal sacrifice is used to propitiate Eleggua within African Traditional Religions. Eleggua's offerings include: he-goats, roosters, and bush rats. Altar offerings for Eleggua include candy, toasted corn, smoked and dried fish, rum, and cigars. Palm kernel oil and whistling are his taboos.

In the syncretic practices of Cuban Santeria, in which African orishas are associated with Catholic Church saints, the representatives of Eleggua are Saint Anthony or The Holy Child of Atocha. In Haitian Voudoun, Lebga is associated with Saint Lazarus and depicted as a withered old man on crutches. Some practitioners depict Eleggua as a horned devil or an imp to reflect his trickster nature. Hoodoo psychic readers, spirit workers and root doctors who are adherents of the Yoruban and Yoruban-Diasporic Religions and who petition the orishas on behalf of clients may petition Eleggua for pending issues with money, business, luck, protection, safe travel, cleansing, uncrossing, road opening, court cases, legal matters, spirituality and blessings.


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