When you find a stone that is shaped like a dome, a male child’s or elder’s face, or is somewhat phallic and able to stand on its own, it can be an Eshu. If it is small, it can live on your altar or be placed near the entrance or entry path or a suitable corner of someplace you consider sacred, special, or in need of protection.
That it has lived outside in raw Nature makes it holy enough, but if you wish to make it yours, it should be loved a bit before taking a permanent place on your altar or your home. The reason for this is that raw Nature energy can be a bit too “chaotic” for some people’s tastes, and Eshu’s energy is very “roll of the dice”. What you want in your residence is for things to lean more towards the side of good luck and protection.
Clean your found Eshu well in sweet water, and pass it through the smoke of Eshu incense. Then place it in a bowl or on a plate. Rub some good alcohol on it, such as a high grade of rum, vodka, or tequila depending on your sensitivities and traditions. Then rub on it some palm oil, preferably the red kind.
Feel free to dress him up. You can put beads around him, make him eyes and a mouth, or eyes, nose, mouth, and ears. You may paint him as well. Be creative but respectful. Eshu doesn’t like much formality, but he deserves reverence.
You should give your Eshu some attention every Monday. Remember that in African traditions, the day begins on sundown of the previous day. If you are Jewish and living in Israel or a predominantly Jewish community, your work week may begin on Sunday, so you can do your weekly specific observance of Eshu on Sunday evening.
A Basic Eshu Observance
A basic observance of Eshu at the home altar often goes like this:
- Get your mind right, and think about Eshu and all the good things he’s done for you.
- Light some charcoal on which you will put some incense.
- Call to Eshu either loudly or discreetly, depending on your situation and traditions. (Obeah and others who had to practice in secret may whisper because in the past they would be tortured and murdered if they were found out.)
- Put your incense on the charcoal.
- Call to Eshu again 2 or 3 times, while shaking your rattle, blowing your whistle, clapping or making some nondescript noise.
- Touch your Eshu items, and pass what you can through the smoke.
- Specifically give candy, sugar, coconut, tobacco, coffee, or something Eshu really likes to the incense, or put something in Eshu’s plate like these or coins. This is also the time to anoint Eshu with some palm oil.
- Ask Eshu to allow you to greet your Ancestors, and bid them thanks.
- Talk to Eshu respectfully but franky about any issues you have going on that he may be concerned with. If it is a long thing, share some good alcoholic beverage with him. Minimum of three shots worth.
- Thank Eshu for listening, and being there and protecting your home and family.
If you will be leaving your Eshu outside, you should bury offerings nearby or underneath him according to your family, local, or sincerely adopted traditions. Be mindful that it is a big responsibility, and you will need to visit him at least every three months to keep him active. If you can’t do this, then have someone you trust do this for you. Since no formality is needed, they don’t necessarily have to know a lot, just to be respectful.
Remember that an outside Eshu is a public Eshu, so you my allow others to revere and maintain him.
Whenever you are doing a spell or you need something big from Eshu, you should give serious offerings to an outdoor Eshu or at an outdoor Eshu place. If you are living in a place where it is difficult to sacrifice live roosters, you should prepare a feast of three roosters or a multiple of three rooster leg and thigh quarters. The Orishas will accept what you can give them, so don’t worry overmuch if you can’t specifically find roosters, but at least try. If not, they should be chickens, but they should be prepared very well, and be sweet and spicy.
Of what you prepare, Eshu should get a serving that includes at least three of the chicken leg and thigh quarters first. If you want to be extra observant, Ogun should get some red wine sauce made with the juices of the roosters/chicken because even though it isn’t technically a blood offering, it is still meat. So if you do it, give that second.
Some people put coins on the plate under Eshu, or in a pot near their Eshu. When this is full, well, it is never really full. There are some Eshu that are so covered and piled with offerings for hundreds of years, that you can barely see the original stone anymore. This is life. However, if you are concerned with being very tidy, maybe you are a child of Oshun who likes everything clean or a child of Ogun who likes things very organized, you should have a plan for dealing with this.
Just understand one thing about Eshu. What you give to him stays with him or you will suffer greatly. So let’s say you have a pile of coins you have given to Eshu, and it is starting to overflow. Your only option is to give this to Eshu by some other means. When you feed an Orisha’s children, you feed the Orisha, so you can use the money to buy something for a child of Eshu, or if you don’t know any, for a child or an elderly person, or to a homeless person.
You can also take the money and toss a few coins here and there in Eshu places like between buildings, in crossroads, near the corners of places, etc. Often a child of Eshu will find at least one of them.
In the diaspora, we have to do a lot of making due, and some traditions may seem expendable, but they are not. So let us go into the whys of consecrating a found Eshu the way some of us do in the diaspora.
In many places in west Africa/Yorubaland, an Eshu is made with a Yangi stone. This is a piece of red laterite that comes from certain rivers and deposits in Africa. You can see a photo of red laterite here. The Yangi stone is the bulk or the heart of an Eshu, depending on the tradition. The pits in the stone are said to be the ears of Eshu.
Depending on the tradition, water is not to touch a Yangi stone after it has been consecrated. I have heard of varying practices. Some will use a certain water based liquid or sweet drinks, but not clear water. Some will not use any water based liquid at all, only red palm oil or other oily preparations. Follow your Ancestors and/or divination results in this. I personally am loathe to ever wash an Eshu anything in clear water, but that could be my personal taboo. Yours may be different.
Unless or until you have been initiated into an official African Ifa ile, it is not such a big deal to have a Yangi stone, since you’re off the traditional track anyway, but anything you have that will embody Eshu must be respected on the level he is accustomed to. In fact, it may be bad for you to have a Yangi stone as a non initiate. If you try to get one, try to get one from an African priest. He will prepare you to care for it properly.
Authentic Yangi stones are not difficult to acquire, but you may want to ask yourself if you are ready to care for artifacts from Africa. Also, be aware that there are fakes. Red laterite can be found in many areas of the world, and some people are not above sending you one that is not from one of the holy places. They may send you a fake because they want you to worship Eshu well, but just don’t trust you with the traditional sacred stones. So technically, there’s no harm done, since the stone will have whatever significance you give to it with a clean heart, but it is dishonest. Mind you, because we’re dealing with something that will embody Eshu, it may not seem so bad to deceive you. I’m just saying.
Those who do send you a real one without initiation, may feel okay with sending you a small one because non initiates should not have a large Eshu mound in front of their residence. That is both a privilege and entrusting thing. You should not be broadcasting Ifa initiate status if you are not initiated into a cult of Ifa. Not everyone has to be Ifa. There are many flavors of Vodun in Africa, and in the diaspora, so though Ifa is very influential, it is not the only kind of African spirituality. So don’t sweat it. You are not doing wrong by having a different way. Remember, Eshu’s hat has many colors.
So in the diaspora, we look for stones that remind us of Eshu and feel like Eshu. You may choose to use your local red laterite, or another stone. If Eshu doesn’t like the one you chose, he will make this known right away.
Click here to learn more about Eshu at Orisha Online Altar.
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