Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Mythological Character Transcritpion: Idea II - ESHU

I've spent a huge amount of time trying to find reasonable Deities/Gods that I could transcribe, but the information on some of these are so sparse, and visually empty it's lite really like trying to find a needle in a haystack. It's because of this I decided on only having 2 Idea's to present in my tutorial tomorrow, as the third wouldn't be as strong as the the ones I've found, speaking of which here is

Eshu is a trickster god of the Yoruba people of Nigeria in West Africa. He is unpredictable, sly, and fond of pranks that can be cruel and disruptive. Eshu, who knows all the languages spoken on earth, serves as a messenger between the gods and people. He also carries up to heaven the sacrifices that people offer to the gods.

 Enjoying confusion, many stories tell of tricks he plays that cause arguments between friends or between husbands and wives. In one myth he lured the sun and moon into changing places, which upset the cosmic order. As the god of change, chance, and uncertainty, Eshu is sometimes paired with Ifa, a god representing order.

While he embodies many obvious trickster elements-- deceit, humor, lawlessness, sexuality--Eshu is also the god of communication and spiritual language. He is the gatekeeper between the realms of man and gods, the tangled lines of force that make up the cosmic interface, and his sign is the crossroads. In the figure of Eshu-Elegbara, the West African tradition makes a profound argument about the relationship among spiritual communication, divination, and the peculiar chaotic qualities of the trickster. 

 Taking pleasure in testing the strengths and weaknesses of mankind, he provides the lesson of making the right choices in life. He can be found at the crossroads and can see in all directions, watching carefully those who do wrong. Eshu is seen as sitting at the threshold, guarding the many doors and roads which make up the human journey through life. His punishment is swift but he can be kind as well, sitting judgement and viewing all sides of a situation.

Spiritual tradition requires Eshu to be honoured first in any ceremony if messages are to be heard and blessings received. Gifts of toys, candies, rum and gin are much appreciated by Eshu. In many homes, a figure representing the god is created and placed behind the front door. A child’s toy representing youth and a walking stick symbolising old age are normally placed with him. The walking stick is painted in the two colours of the Trickster, either red and black or black and white, accented with eyes to remind people of his all-seeing nature. His presence as the gatekeeper ensures a balanced and safe home.

One quote that can be found spoken by Eshu is related to a situation where Eshu incites and argument between two friends, ending in a fight for which he states "Bringing strife is my greatest joy", I think I pretty good summary of this particular Deity.

Here's some information on what being a 'Trickster' entails.

Tricksters are among the most entertaining characters in world mythology. Usually male, they delight in breaking rules, boasting, and playing tricks on both humans and gods. Most tricksters are shape-changers who can take any form. Outside the framework of right and wrong, tricksters do not recognize the rules of society. Their characters and actions are far from simple, however. Often childish, greedy, lustful, and even nasty, tricksters can also be friendly, helpful, clever, and wise. Sometimes they appear to be clownish, clumsy, or foolish, although they usually possess amazing powers of survival. A trickster may come to a sorry end in one story but then, after being miraculously brought back to life, reappearing in other tales

Mostly, African art consists of more sculptural pieces, and for that reason, interpretations of the Deity Eshu are usually in this form, so here are some of the images I gathered regarding his appearance. He's often regarded to the Yoruba as a powerful and beautiful young man with magnificent endowments, his phallic hairstlye often is interpretated as a 'bridge' to the other world.


  1. You're adding images now, great. But don't put them all in a stack at the end of a wall of text. Break up the text with images, not just googled images either, some sketches and concepts inbetween. Doesn't have to be amazing concepts that you've spent hours on. Fast thumbnails to get points across.

  2. Jon's right you know... I loved the previous post - with that incredibly colourful character - so much potential there, Bob - lovely.

    I came across this guy - some striking character stuff here:


  3. yup, that's the one I ended up choosing :)

    Oh dear, that stuff is lovely! I may have to draw some inspiration from those characters shapes :)