The Esu Is Not Satan campaign has been on for a few years now. Here is a contribution from our Yoruba kin in Brazil, with a bit of insight into the characteristics of Esu according to Candomble tradition.

I’m not the devil. I’m Exu

He is the most famous and the least known among the orixás. He is the firstborn of the universe, the lord of the ways
I'm not the devil. I'm exu

Statue of Exu

The rise of neo-Pentecostal churches , especially the most mediatic and spectacular, has rekindled the fame of Exu . By re-associating their representations and that of the other orishas to the figure of the Christian devil, in a process of demonization whose negative reflections are felt by each believer and in all the terreiros, they collaborated to acts of religious intolerance to become even more common.

Exu is not the devil. This association made the orixá misunderstood and misunderstood. Just to get an idea, in Brazil, the Christian missionaries related it to the devil . Already in Cuba, because of his characteristic playful and clever orixá, he was syncretized with the Baby Jesus.

Surely the very human profile of Exu was an easy way to demonize him, in a superficial and naive way of syncretizing . But whoever has had the opportunity to know him knows that he is a fundamental orisha in the Afro-religious worldview and philosophy.

It is quite true that the image of the carioca malandro combines with Exu, treated as the “man of the crossroads”, the “king of the night”, “he who never sleeps”. This marginal description has much to do with the social situation of the black population, especially the black men, in post-slavery.

As a means of survival, what remained for some was the contravention, and even those who achieved a sub-placement, whether in the street work or in the stalls, suffered from the stigma of crime.

I borrow the composition of Aluísio Machado and Beto Sem Braço, played by Zeca Pagodinho , to present to them Exu, the most controversial of the orixás: “When he sees me, he says that he knows me, not knowing who I am. You know but you do not know my real inner. ”

That is, everyone thinks he knows who Exu is, but prejudices and stereotypes do not define him. If the discrimination against the religions of African matrix is ​​great, with this orixá is even greater. Therefore, the amount of absurdities that are spoken about Exu or even the barbarities that attribute to him are far from translating who in fact he is.

So let’s go back to the verses of the song, which, although they do not refer explicitly to the orixá, perfectly translate its essence:


“I am a verse, I am a reverse. I am a particle of the universe. I am pleasure, I am also pain. I am cause, I am effect. I’m crooked, I’m right. Anyway, I am what I am. “


Now, imagine if Exu himself was here to present himself, all witty and pragmatic, as he is peculiar to him. Maybe he did it more or less like this:


“They said I was the devil. Mario Cravo clarified: I am neither devil nor saint, I am Exu! Much pleasure! Do not mind what they say about me, all lies! Who can tell me if I am the contradiction itself? Neither good nor bad, neither hot nor cold, neither shadow nor light! But make no mistake, I’m not mean. I am everything and I am nothing! Daring is my name. I’m always ready, to fight or to binge. I tried the best in life, and I liked it! If you tell me it’s impossible, I’ll go and do it. If you ask, I will. If you thank me, I reciprocate. If you give it to me, I’ll accept it. If you will not, I’ll take it. To mine, I taught myself to laugh at my own luck, to hope, to believe and see. If life goes wrong, sambo and forget it. If it goes well, sambo and celebration! Have I told you my name yet? I’m Exu! Much pleasure!”


Lord of the roads and the crossroads, messenger of the orixás, Exu is the owner of the street. It is worth remembering that the crossroads have a universal symbolic importance, representing the center and the place of passage between the worlds of men and the gods. It is the abode of Exu, who has the task of connecting the sacred to the profane, being the orixá of communication and the dynamic principle that governs existence.

In the place where two streets intersect, Exu receives his offerings, attends and takes the requests of the men to the orixás. He who opens the way, so he is the first to be worshiped and without his permission nothing happens. Street parties, with lots of people, lots of drink and lots of joy, are your favorites. And the tradition of yards of Candomblé recommends that no true play carnival without paying homage and obeisance to Eshu.

His symbol is called Ogo. It is a phallic shaped club that allows Exu to be transported anywhere, at any time. Exu speaks all languages, knows all the pains and understands all the feelings. It is in each and every one and it is the Orixá that follows in front and it frees us of the risks and dangers.

Whoever has intimacy with Exu usually calls him compadre. Jorge Amado had this freedom and, knowing Exu as few, properly said in the novel Bahia de Todos os Santos: “Posted at the crossroads of all roads, hidden in the mid-light of dawn or dusk, in the bar of the morning, in the fall in the dark of night, Exu guards his beloved city. “

The dichotomy excluding good and evil is a concept that does not apply to Candomblé, because the same fire that cooks, sets fire. Exu is the most human of the orixás and the most divine among men. He who does not know the impossible, makes the mistake turn right and the hit turns into error. Exu kills a bird yesterday with the stone he shot today.

by Pai Rodney on CartaCapital Website

Father Rodney of Oxóssi is an anthropologist, writer and babalorixá. For more than 20 years research on race relations, racism and African-born religions.



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