Ogo Elegba (Esu Staff)

By: Adenike Cosgrove Tagged:

Esu (also called Eshu or Elegba) is believed to be the messenger of Yoruba gods, bearer of sacrifices, guardian of the ritual way of life and often seen as the ‘trickster god’. If Esu isn’t properly honoured, trouble is expected upon the community or individual. If properly honoured, diviners make use of Esu staffs (ogo elegba) to announce the presence of Esu, remove obstacles, cure illness and assist individuals in their communication with other gods.

Esu's power is often visually represented in ogo elegba as male and female pairs; this is a metaphor for his ability to morph between the two sexes, turn death into life (through childbirth) and to overcome the tension between both sexes.

Distinguishing Features

  • Long phallic hairstyle at back of head (sometimes carved in the shape of a bird’s beak)
  • A sharp tip of a knife (sonso obe) sometimes takes the place of the phallic hairstyle
  • Male figure playing a flute (i.e. Esu is the coordinator of ritual activities)
  • Male & female figurative pair (typically tied together)
  • Many staffs are adorned with cowrie shells
  • Sometimes head or phallic hairstyle of male figure is enhanced with medicinal gourds (ado) (i.e. Esu is the curer of illness)
  • Staffs with female figures sometimes carved holding medicinal gourds
  • Some ogo elegba can feature several figures combined (sometimes up to 7)
  • Additional motifs may include:
    • Sea shells (i.e. wealth from the sea)
    • A ladle (i.e. nurture and generosity)
    • Ivory (i.e.hardiness)
    • Snail shell (i.e. dynamics of Esu)
    • Smoking pipe (i.e. adulthood, wisdom & nobility)
    • Metal bells

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