7 junio, 2024

Eleguá saint: who he is, history, characteristics, offerings, manifestations

Who is Eleguá?

eleguá, or Elegguá, is a deity belonging to the Yoruba religion, revered and invoked in the religious rituals of Santeria. This deity is present in the folkloric dances of some African-influenced regions of Latin America (especially in Cuba and Brazil).

Specifically in Santeria (religion of the African slaves settled in Cuba), Eleguá is syncretized with the Holy Child of Atocha, Saint Anthony of Padua or Saint Martin de Porres.

In the Yoruba religion, Eleguá is represented as the owner of the roads and trails, and the one who controls destiny. It is he who decides to open or close the path of life to mortals. He also has the ability to bring joy or tragedy, prosperity or misfortune to the human being.

She is considered a mischievous deity and her name means «prince messenger». Eleguá can have influence over the actions of the other Yoruba deities.

Eleguá is an orishá, that is, a descendant and manifest divinity of Olodumare, the name given to the highest god of the Yoruba religion.

In a few words, Eleguá is the intermediary between the divine and the earthly world. As guardian of the trails, he is also in charge of sending human offerings directly to Olorún (one of Olodumare’s manifestations) and to the other orishás.

At the time of any ceremony, Eleguá is the first of all the deities that must be invoked, since he will allow the passage towards contact with the rest of the divinities.

History of Eleguá

The origin of Eleguá goes back to an African legend, in which the son of a monarch found a small coconut during one of his walks. Ignoring his guardian, he decided to keep it.

The coconut whispered to the little prince Eleguá that if he took care of him and prevented him from rotting, he would give him health and prosperity. The boy did so, but when he related what happened in his father’s court, they mocked him and hid the coconut away from the young prince.

That same day Prince Eleguá became seriously ill and died three days later. Devastated, the African monarch learned that inside the coconut lived a genius who now took revenge for his ignorance.

Following the advice of a wise man, the monarch managed to communicate with the entity inside the coconut, and managed to get it to forgive him, after transmitting his wisdom to the previously ignorant people. This version of the origin of Eleguá is quite old and may differ from the versions used in Santeria.

Characteristics of Eleguá

Eleguá is considered a warrior, he is taken into account as the first of these along with other orishás, such as Eshu, Osún, Oshosi and Oggún.
When he meets with Oggún or Oshosi, he is unstoppable. Being the guardian of the roads, he is represented by the rocks that are found in them.
It is considered the first deity that every initiate in religion should venerate, since it can always be counted on for any request.
He is recognized as the interpreter of the oracular system and of communications between humans and deities.
Among its representative characteristics, the snails around it or in its hand stand out. There are 21 snails, which represent the number of roads that Eleguá protects.
The number that represents it is three and it is always manifested under the colors red and black, mainly.
Eleguá has a series of tools that characterize him and that represent the confluence of beliefs that have been built around his figure. Notions of native African religions and Santeria, more popular in Latin America and the Caribbean, come together in this deity. Her object of power is a guava stick, also known as a doodle.
He usually dresses in a frock coat, pants and hat. Her costume is sometimes seen decorated with shells, always sporting red or black patterns, either solid or striped.

Offerings and rites to Eleguá

Eleguá is venerated by offering certain types of offerings that will cause the approval of the deity, such as the sacrifice of certain animals (such as chickens or roosters, mice and goats).

Birds such as pigeons should not be offered to him, as they are believed to weaken him. Among the herbs to offer, Eleguá accepts different types of chili, basil, almonds, watercress, jobo, chicken’s foot, pica pica, tongue scraper and camphor, among others.

During the ceremonies and dances to Eleguá, there are certain choreographies represented, such as the descent of Eleguá and the bodily possession of one of the dancers during the ritual.

The dancer possessed by Eleguá will carry out actions typical of a mischievous deity, such as disappearing among those present and playing pranks on the audience.

The accompanying dancers must imitate the movements of the one possessed by Eleguá, who differs by having the guava cane that characterizes this orishá. The movements of the dance to Eleguá usually have erotic connotations.

manifestations of Eleguá

Eleguá can manifest itself in different ways, according to certain conditions and scenarios, responding to different types of offerings and representing differentiated elements.

There are more than a dozen manifestations of Eleguá, each one with particularities for his call, veneration and descent to Earth. Among the best known and documented are the following:

1. Elegguá Abaile

He is the Eleguá interpreter and messenger, in charge of transmitting the messages received and making them reach their destination.

2. Choose Afra

This Eleguá is said to help in health cases. His presence can be felt in hospitals and he helps those who suffer from contagious diseases.

He has his face covered, a cane and a mortar where he prepares the medicines. Unlike others, he is referred to as a rather cautious Eleguá, who does not drink brandy.

3. Elegguá Agbanuke

He is considered the Eleguá friend of the saints and the sacred houses. He gives help to all the honest devotees of the other deities. It is also capable of blinding all those who approach the sacred spaces with bad intentions.


Lafarga, AC (2006). Playhouse: eroticism as ethics of subversion. Aleph’s Notebooks.
Santeria. The pantheon of the orishás: Elegguá. Retrieved from es.santeria.fr.

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