© From the archives of Miguel “Willie” Ramos, Ilarí Obá, Obá Oriaté.

NOTE: It has become popular to use the term “Aborisha” to refer to anyone who serves the Orisha. In Cuba, a non-priest who participated in the religion was referred to as Aberikola, or “unwashed.” Since this term has the potential of being used in a derogatory way, we have chosen to use the term Aborisha to give respect and position to those non-priests who, as the term denotes, “serve” Orisha.

Elegbá (also known as Eshú or Eshú-Elegbá), Ogún, Oshosí, and Osun are the orishas commonly referred to in Spanish as “Los guerreros-the warriors.” Elegbá is the first orisha that is received, and is worshiped first in all religious acts. He is Olorun’s gatekeeper and is entrusted with opening and closing all ceremonies. He is also the orisha that tests man’s faith in Olorun and the deities. If one’s earthly conduct is proper, Elegbá aids and prizes humankind by allowing iré-blessings to visit the individual and distancing the osobo or negative energies. On the other hand, if one’s conduct is improper, Elegbá allows the negative forces of the universe to attack the individual without coming to his or her defense.

In Cuba, the Lukumí distinguished between Elegbá and Eshú. For the Lukumí, Eshú is the mischievous aspect of the deity who continuously roams the world, testing humankind by creating different controversies and problems in people’s lives. Elegbá is the more docile aspect of the deity, so much so, that he can be brought into the home and, if properly attended, will not cause havoc but rather bring advancement to the devotee. In Yorubaland and in Brazil, Eshú-Elegbá always lives outside the home in a shrine that is set up for him at the entrance. Adaptation to different cultures and living situations in Cuba brought about the introduction of Elegbá inside the devotee’s home and the separation or distinction between what in Cuba were eventually understood as different manifestations of the deity. Though Eshú and Elegbá are in reality one and the same deity, many Lukumí do not see them as thus.

Elegbá, the earthly trickster, can be a very mischievous deity, often as stubborn or cantankerous as a child. He requires little, though, and like a child, he is easily satisfied if treated with the proper reverence and devotion.

Ogún is the orisha of iron, patron of smiths and all those whose job places them in contact with iron or metals. He is also associated with surgery and his aid is sought when facing an operation of any sort. Additionally, Ogún is a war god, and he represents Olorun’s divine justice on earth. He is Olorun’s executioner, and carries out the Supreme Being’s sentences when humans break divine laws and mores. He is very fierce, fiery, suffering from an insatiable thirst for battle. Like Elegbá, though, when properly appeased, he protects his devotees from all harm.

Oshosí is the Orisha of the hunt. He defends those who are persecuted injustly and ensures that they escape their foes. In Cuba, during slavery, Oshosí was also considered the orisha of the marroons who prayed to him in the bushes while fleeing the plantation and the cruelties of slavery. The marroons would call on Oshosí to keep the slave catchers and their dogs off their trails. Oshosí is associated with trails and the forests, bringing succor to those who find themselves persecuted unjustly and helping those who have lost their path in life to find it once again.

Osun is related to one’s orí-the inner head, a sort of “guardian spirit” that accompanies one through life, that is also related with one’s destiny. Osun is also a sentinel. His function is to guard the devotee and the home from evil and evil doers. His posture is always erect. Osun should never be tilted and nor should it fall as this is a bad omen or an indicator of impending death. Osun is only turned over when his/her owner dies.

If Osun falls or turns over, it should immediately be stood erect and placed under cool, running water. One should take an egg and cleans one’s self with it then break it on top of the bird, and allow that to drip over him to cool down any impending danger. If this is unavailable, some ori (shea or cocoa butter) or efún (cascarilla) should be crumbled over it. Additionally, the individual should seek divination for it may be necessary to determine if Osun’s fall was coincidental or a warning of forthcoming problems.

Attending Elegbá:

The Lukumí taught us that ideally, Elegbá should be worshiped on Mondays, at the beginning of the new week, and preferably in the morning before heading outdoor for one’s daily routines. It is necessary to keep in mind, though, that once one accustoms Elegbá to this treatment, one must be responsible and consistent. If you legitimately forget, there can be no consequences for the orishas are very merciful and do not castigate innocence. However, if you purposely ignore or abandon him, Elegbá can provoke hardships in the devotee’s life.

Indifference is one one Elegbá’s most dangerous weapons as he can choose to ignore his devotee’s pleas for succor when his devotees ignore him. When danger approaches, Elegbá will simply “look the other way” and allow it to assault his devotee. When an individual attends to Elegbá properly, though, not only will he avert danger for him, but he will also prize him with whatever rewards he can place in the devotee’s path. This is Elegbá’s way.

Nonetheless, as he tends to be childlike at times, it is advisable that once one has accustomed Elegbá to something, one should try to follow that tradition as closely and faithfully as possible. Though he will not cause harm for innocent mistakes, he can remind the devotee by creating obstacles that block one’s progress in life.

In my opinion, if the individual’s life is like that of most of the people who live in modern society, it may be advisable to attend to Elegbá when one has the opportunity, varying the days, so that one creates a degree of flexibility with him. Though Monday mornings are ideal, flexibility may be more realistic and convenient.

Elegbá should not be washed with water. If he has accumulated too much blood or oil, washing him with white wine or firewater, and scrubbing him lightly with a white towel or scouring pad made of rope fiber may be better options. Afterward, anoint him with epó (red palm oil) and a drop or two of oñí (honey), but do not overdo it with these because they can become sticky and mucky with the passage of time. A dab of epó should be placed on the hands, rubbed together to spread the oil out over the hands, and then rubbed from the hands to Elegbá. As the epó is spread on Elegbá, one prays to him asking for his blessing and guidance. Once finished, he should be placed back in the clay dish and the oñí is slowly dripped over him. After the epó and oñí have been offered, blow some cigar smoke at him, and then some white wine by taking the wine into your mouth and quickly spitting it out on him. Finally, light a candle and salute him in the ritual style described ahead as you make your petitions for iré and well being.

Ogún and Oshosí are attended to in the same manner, although they are not washed. When too much epó has built up on them, it can be cleaned off with a white towel or cloth (this towel or cloth can be saved specifically for this purpose). Ogún is offered firewater or white rum (gin is also acceptable) and Oshosí is given anisette. Osun is not attended as often unless specified in divination. You can wash it, though, when it has accumulated grime or dust. At this time, he should be washed with cool water, remembering to always keep him erect.

Elegbá prefers to live in a clay dish, but could be placed in any ceramic bowl. Ogún and Oshosí live together inside an iron kettle. Osun lives somewhere high, preferably in a place where it remains level or above the owner’s head. For certain situations, though, and only when recommended in a reading, Osun may want to be placed directly on the floor.

Elegbá’s greeting:

To greet or salute Elegbá, first drip three or more drops of fresh water from a gourd or other container on the floor before him. After this, set the gourd to the side and knock three times on the floor before him, with a closed fist, as if you were knocking on a door. Afterward, stand erect facing him, and rub both hands together as you pray and ask for his blessings. Then, turn swiftly and give your back to him, and scrape your feet backward, toward him, like a bull that is going to charge forward. Finally, quickly swing your buttocks from side to side a few times and walk away. At minimum, before leaving the home, and upon returning, one should ask Elegbá for his blessing and his guidance in the world outside.


Elegbá likes all types of fruits, but especially guavas, sugarcane, and coconuts. He also enjoys sweets and candies, balls made of raw cornmeal with honey, smoked fish and smoked ekú (agouti or bush rat-jutía in Spanish) and small pieces of coconut; and ado-balls made with gofio- a type of meal that is made from roasted wheat flour or corn-and honey. Elegbá’s offerings are usually taken to a refuse pile or garbage heap, a crossroad in the woods, or to the bushes.

Ogún enjoys green coconuts, green bananas or plantains, white yam (ishú/ñame) and white sweet potato (both roasted with the peel), watermelon, and pineapples. His offerings can be taken to the bushes or to the train tracks. Oshosí enjoys white grapes and melons. Also ado, roasted or stewed black eye peas, and roasted or stewed corn. Oshosí especially likes hunted meats such as venison and the like, which are roasted with epó and offered to him. His offerings can be taken to the bushes or to the crossroads.

Before any religious or social activity takes place in one’s home, it is advisable to prepare three little bags with roasted corn grains, smoked fish, smoked ekú, palm oil, honey, rum, candies and a few pennies. These are place on Elegbá the day before and deposited on the corners of the block where one lives the following day. Sometimes, sacifice may be required, but this must be indicated in divination. This minor ebó appeases Eshú, the trickster, and brings harmony to any event taking place in one’s home. It is often customary to gather the leftovers of the meals served on a particular day and send them to Eshú, placing them either at the foot of a tree by one’s home, the curb by one’s home, or sending them to the bushes. This offering ensures the devotee of Eshú’s beneficence.

Prayer to Elegbá:

Mojubá Elegbá (I salute Elegbá)
Elegbá agó!(I ask your permission, Elegbá!)
Baralayiki, Eshú odara (Baralayiki [praise name], Eshú, the good one)
Mojubá Eshú lona (I salute Eshú of the roads)
M’ore nla (My great friend)
Kosí ikú, kosí arun (May there not be death, may there not be sickness)
Kosí ofo, kosí arayé (May there not be loss, may there not be earthly problems)
Fun mi iré owó, iré omó (Grant me the blessings of money, the blessings of children)
Iré omá, iré arikú babawá (the blessings of intelligence [to discern right from wrong], the blessings of good and durable health and well being

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