Who is Eshu?

“You who translate yesterday’s words into novel utterances, do not undo me.”– a Yoruba prayer to Eshu



 He is not Ecru. He was, once, for a while there — for me. But that is another story that Eshu has tricked me into telling. I hate to hafta do it but I will. But first a few facts about Eshu — the trickster God owns the crossroads, where he guides or puzzles travelers.The messenger between the humans and gods, Eshu is behind communication or miscommunication. He is fortune and misfortune, often both at once. You didn’t get what you wanted but you should thank Eshu for saving you from yourself. He is a god of language and words, which is why the story I’m about to tell is so perfectly funny. While ripe with meaning, the next few sentences are not metaphorical which is hard to believe but those in the know will see that I’m being quite literal. 





Not too long ago I set up shop right in the middle of a 5-road intersection. I was hawking fairytale frocks and bloomers sewn of the finest story-threads. I met a young fag-ling who needed hag-ling. I had tricksters on the brain and he had the password. Or I thought he did but the tricksters on my brain were playing tricks as usual. Eshu. When he presented me with this word, I gave him a key. Again, lit


Also dollars, duds & other dandy-makings, friendship, job, his first ever birthday cake, a place to live. He brought a statue of Eshu. We blew smoke in Eshu’s face so that he might also partake. I was giddy over meeting someone who “shared” my odd interests and thought surely the tricksters’ fingerprints were all over our meeting. They were. I should’ve known! I l once listened in as the RobotBoy regaled our guest with tales of Coney Island and was shocked when, the next day, he announced a coney-themed project which I knew RB was already planning. I pointed that out and he claimed to have had that idea “for forever.”  But I had seen the beauty of him taking it in for the first time. A trickster loves new information too much to pretend he knows everything. He also asked to use a scrap of baroque wallpaper to cover his “spell book” which he carried everywhere with him. One day I went to slip a check into the pages of the book and saw that it was a regular published book, not a blank book filled with his own handwriting as I’d assumed. I had to roll my eyes. How obnoxious do you have to be to carry around a book of spells everywhere you go, cover it in fancy paper, and they’re not even your spells which you’ve honed through trial and error over a bubbling cauldron? Finally we met a girl who quickly took up my role as hag which was a relief. She made fun of the Eshu “hoodoo” saying “When he starts talking about all that, my eyes glaze and I just go somewhere else for a while.” It hit me — this person was the kind of person who would rather know a little about something than a lot and he would prefer to hang out with people who know even less than him, so that when he espouses on his supposed passion they will not challenge him or even add to his knowledge in any shape or form. He would rather blither on while someone blithely rolls their eyes. I pulled away. I continued to give money, food, clothes, physical things that were needed, but I stopped putting any energy out. I kept him on as employee but I was just a boss, nothing more. Then I learned via customers that he’d been stealing. I lost fox-face. A huckster had uttered the name of a trickster and I fell for it. Tricksters are not hucksters and they don’t appreciate the association. I’d been more fool than fox.

When the huckster was gone, I missed Eshu. I hated that he got to take Eshu with him. He was shit talking me to Eshu, no doubt.

So I changed Eshu’s name. I should’ve chosen Simbi or Exu, other forms of Eshu, but bitchily went with something “unknowable” to the huckster. Then he’d be the one “on the outs” with Eshu. I chose “Ecru” which has two of the same letters and similar sound but is a type of fabric as well as a color. As a tailor, the huckster would have the unknowable name right in front of his face. Hee hee. Except the joke was on me. Silly Trix-ster, it always is. I “tricked” myself so thoroughly over two years that when I discussed Eshu in a series of recent comments I called him “Ecru” which is fine for a bitter brain game in the privacy of my own mind but otherwise mortifying. I actually blushed (a very rare seldom seen occurrence, like a UFO) I flopped on my bed like a fish. The RobotBoy howled with laughter. I said, “It’s like instead of Jesus, I said Jeevus.” Which I would do without hesitation, Goof knows!  I had to grin. That kind of embarrassing horror would never happen if Jeevus were my man instead of Eshu. Jeevus wouldn’t delight in my hot red cheeks and wilting IQ. But Eshu? Oh, he loved it. He roared, stomped, pointed. He wiggled his fingers at the other dieties who all lined up to laugh at me. That’s what you get when you change a god’s name so you can keep him to yourself. Even though, as a trickster, Eshu thought it was a clever plan and didn’t mind the alias. Eshu adores me but if given the chance, he’ll laugh mercilessly. I give him endless chances which is why he adores me.

This story is classic Eshu, as discussed on an African mythology site.  

Particularly keen on opportunity, communication and Instant Messaging, Eshu can be a powerful ally. But he’s also a God with a sense of humor and will often throw a spanner in the works to keep life interesting. This could explain why we don’t always get what we want. Be careful — this God of crossroads is also a master of cross-purposes. 

Eshu’s role in communication was examined in a article published in Gnosis, spring 1991,

While he embodies many obvious trickster elements — deceit, humor, lawlessness, sexuality — Eshu-Elegbara is also the god of communication and spiritual language. He is the gatekeeper between the realms of man and gods, the tangled lines of force that make up the cosmic interface. … He’s always traversing that region of babble, and embodies the hope and the peril of a more open channel: hope, because he allows us to speak with the gods and for them to speak with us; and peril, because he tends to play tricks with the information he has, to keep us perpetually aware that he oversees the network of exchange. His nickname is Aflakete, which means “I have tricked you.”

Moving along the seam between two different worldviews, he confuses communication, reveals the ambiguity of knowledge, and plays with perspective.

So Eshu is a master of exchange, or crossed purposes, of crossed speech. This is why his shrines are found both at crossroads and at the market, for he is master of such networks of desire. For example, he uses his magician’s knowledge to make serpents that bite people on the way to the market, and then sells them the cure.

The creator of plots, the player of many instruments, the trickster Legba always risks unleashing a Pandora’s box of powers. But it is only in risking such chaos that novelty is continually reborn, and the community is imagined to interact dynamically, rather than by some rigid structure. The potential for dynamic chaos is the metaphysical heart of the Trickster.

Right now I am particularly interested in Eshu’s part in communication as has to do with computers. The computer was where I made my Eshu faux pas and the “web” was where I met the person who was witness to it, though any and all are — through the computer. If it weren’t for the impulsive speed of computer conversation, I probably would’ve caught my mistake. Maybe. I’m shocked I made it at all so it’s hard to say. The region of babble, the open channel, the network of exchange. Hmm. Well, it’s late and I’m exhausted, the lines are tangled and it’s wonderful. What’s so funny about this is the fellow blogger, witness to my idiocy, whose been meeting Eshu head to head, challenged me to expose more in my blog and I was all “Nah, been there, done that, doing something else for now” and look, here I am, telling the last damn story I’d EVER choose to tell about myself. Second to last. And isn’t that just exactly the way it would play out?

Sweet Jeevus!

5 Responses to “Who is Eshu?”

  1. gammaword Says:

    Holy crap! Sweet Jeevus is right! That is absolutely too fucking wonderful. Your red-cheeked UFO is on its way through cyberspace lighting up smiles of…recognition. This post gave me the shivers.

    Coincidence that I’d mentioned “speaking in tongues”? Nah.

  2. gammaword Says:

    Likely you won’t get 2000 hits on this post. But the hits you’ll get will be really good ones. So which feels better? 2000 seeds, most of which will get trampled at the mall, or 3, each of which reverberates like thunder-clap?

    There’s a kinetic ball sculpture in Terminal B of Boston’s Logan airport that’s fascinating to watch, but you can never really get the whole thing because all its parts are constantly shifting around. You watch a piece here, but then it all changes over there. Reminds me of this post. A ball jumped off one track and fell onto another. I’m the one that gets dinged 2 points because it fell on my head first, thinking — what deity could be so small as to escape Google? How does she know this stuff?

    A little secret — your IQ has hardly wilted. You totally crackle. And — you’re just a little hard on yourself, no? If this is the second to last story you’d tell, I think you’re doing ok.

    Notice I didn’t ask you about the last story. OR the first one. Oh…or did I just?

  3. alphabetfiend Says:

    Ah, the last story is similar in that I allowed something into my life which I shouldn’t have, was on the receiving end of damage/violence and then when I found out what had happened I was in disbelief, denial, refusal which sucks b/c that violence probably moved on to others when I could’ve put a stop to it. But if I told you the actual story you’d never believe it. Which is, in some ways, the worst part of what happened — I’m stuck with that story, which is beyond bizarre, I’m stuck with the insanity of the story b/c it’s my story now but the insanity is not mine yet I have to carry it with me wherever I go.

    I can forgive myself for misspelling just about anything. In grade school I was always top in the class at spelling, back when spelling was exciting. But fast hen-peck typing leads to mistakes. I also get these bugs in my head and get stuck on something. I once peppered a series of love letters with the word “gorgeous” spelled “georgous” b/c my gorgeous sister is named George. When the object of my affections gently pointed the mistake out to me, I just laughed at the crossed lines. But to err on Eshu? Oh, yes, how embarrassing. The Robot knew right away what had happened and why which is why he couldn’t stop laughing. He said, “Ha ha, now you’re gonna have to tell that guy that story!” About giving a huckster a trickster’s bounty and then hiding Eshu in the caves of my brain. And such a simple word which I’ve spoken and written thousands of times! But ultimately, being Eshu, it makes such sense. I just wish I’d gone with “Aflakete” instead.

    Why the shivers?

  4. Why the shivers? It’s both the story itself and the way you tell it. Also just knowing these bits about Eshu, getting a little wide-eyed at the sudden recognition. Shivers is a good thing. It seems to happen when there’s energy coming from many different directions and it sort of all meets at once. Only way I can explain it.

  5. alphabetfiend Says:

    I know! Wild, huh? A lot of the same language we’d been using to describe other things. There’s been a lot of naming through misnaming. From all angles. And try as I might I cannot get this page to format. Like how did the bulk of the story end up so tiny? I never changed fonts or size. I’ve fixed it, I spent all day trying to fix it, after giving up on it last night. The font is tiny like I whispered it. Freeky-deeky! ! I live for this stuff. I’m such a redonkulous dork.

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