Eleggua (also spelled Elegua, Elewa, Elegba or Legba) is the most important of the orishas in Santeria. Elegua was the first orisha created by Olodumare and he existed prior to and witnessed creation unfold. He is the key to any of our religious practices, for without Elegua’s blessings nothing can proceed, transpire nor succeed in the world. Eleggua is the owner of all roads, crossroads, and doors. He is the power that allows all of the ache in the universe to move from point A to point B. Elegba allows our prayers to reach the orishas. Elegba allows ache to flow in ebó so that our fate may be changed. He facilitates divination (diloggun, obi, okuele or any other form of divination) by communicating to and for the other orishas, and to Olodumare herself.
Elegua is said to be present everywhere and at all times. Because of this Eleggua has many aspects or “caminos” (roads) each encapsulating a different area he rules over, or a different personality. Eleggua is the great divine witness to all humanity’s actions. He is also the first to test our integrity and our word. Because of this quality many followers of Santeria consider Elegba to be a trickster or a troublemaker. At our church we prefer to think of him as the great experimenter, always testing humanity to see what will happen next. Eleggua is always propitiated first in every ceremony that we do (after the ancestors have been honored, that is) so that he can open the road and our ebó will reach its destination.
Elegua along with Ogun, Ochosi and Osun is one of the orishas received during the reception of The Warriors (Guerreros) in initiation. Every person receives Eleggua as the first orisha in his or her life emphasizing how important his presence is in our spiritual life and in the religion of Santeria. Eleggua’s diloggun (cowrie shells) are the ones used for general readings as he can speak for all of the other orishas.
Symbols, Numbers, Colors and Attributes of Elegguá
Number: 3 and 21
Sacred Place in Nature:wild places, the crossroads, truthfully Eleggua lives everywhere (including the river, the ocean, the mountain top, and everywhere else)
Colors: Red and black
Tools: a hooked stick called a garabato
Temperament: Inquisitive, curious, talkative
Syncretized Catholic Saint: Saint Anthony, Saint Martin of Porres, The Holy Child of Atocha
Eleggua’s Caminos (Avatars or “Roads”)
Eleggua is said to have 101 different caminos or “roads”. Each road has a slightly different temperament and is found in a different place in nature. All roads of Eleggua are called “Eshu”. Here is but a sampling of his caminos.
Eshu Laroye – the talkative one
Eshu Alawana – the one who roams alone in the wild
Eshu Aye – the one who lives at the edge of the river and in the sea
Eshu Olona – the owner of the road
Eshu Afrá – the companion of Babalú Ayé who gathers the bodies of the dead
Offerings for Eleggua
Eleggua will eat just about anything, except pigeon. The younger, child-like roads of Eleggua are typically offered wrapped candies and toys, while the older roads might enjoy hard candies, toasted corn or popcorn. Eleggua enjoys goat, rooster and bushrat, as well as smoked fish.
Ekó for Eleggua
A nice cooked food you can make for Eleggua as an ebó addimú would be ekó – corn tamales. Boil some water and add cornmeal to it. Cook the porridge until it begins to thicken into a paste-like consistency. Add a bit of palm oil (epó) to the cornmeal and blend it well. Now spoon some of the porridge while it is still hot into a banana leaf (or a piece of tin foil) and fold it up into a small rectangular packet. Allow the cornmeal to cool and solidify into a tamale. Take three of these and season them with a smear of palm oil (epó) and a pinch of dried smoked fish and jutía (bush rat). Place Eleggua’s shrine on a grass mat, and serve them on a plate next to him. Allow the addimú to sit next to him with a lit candle for the required amount of days as marked in divination. Dispose of the ekós in a location sacred to Eleggua (as determined by divination) like a crossroad, the street corner, or out in the wilderness.
Popcorn for Eleggua
Another simple addimú you can make for Eleggua would be popcorn cooked in palm oil. Simply purchase some loose kernel popcorn and cook according to the package directions using palm oil as your selected cooking oil. Once the popcorn is cooked, serve it in a bowl with a dash of smoked dried fish and jutía on top next to Eleggua’s shrine.