ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Exu, Brazilian Spirit of the Crossroads

Updated on May 16, 2016

Divine Trickster and Master Magician

Exu is one of the most well-known spirits of the Brazilian religion and related African-derived traditions. Exu is a powerful spirit who functions as Divine Messenger and Gatekeeper to the Spirit World. He sits at the Crossroads offering choices and possibilities to humankind. Exu represents balance: day and night, old age and youth, black and white, construction and destruction. He encompasses male sexuality, strength and fertility, and is privy to the mysteries of life and death. Exu is the lord of chaos and trickery, and the keeper of the life force/energy (ash). Nothing can be accomplished in the human world or the spirit world without the permission of Exu. He is translator and bridge between humans and the natural world - the sacred and the profane. Every living thing has a personal Exu.

In the Afro-Brazilian tradition commonly referred to as Umbanda, Exu are considered a family of spirit-deities. It is believed that Exus are the spirits of people who were considered to be either frightening, very well educated, or experts in a given field when they were alive. Exu Meia-Noite, for example, is said to be the spirit of a great doctor who knows all the secrets to healing.

Umbanda Religion

Many Names for Different Spirits

The veneration of Exu is widespread in the New World, as well as in Africa, and he is worshipped under many different names and attributes. For example, Eshu-Elegba in Cuban Lukumi tradition has 101 different roads, or manifestations, while there are about 10 common manifestations in Brazilian traditions. Although he goes by many names and manifests in different forms for different purposes, it is important to understand that are not one and the same; each is a separate entity unto itself and should be treated as such. Some of the legends and creation stories illustrate the multitude of ways in which Exu is perceived.

Exu Altar Doll

Exu Altar Doll by Denise Alvarado
Exu Altar Doll by Denise Alvarado | Source

Exu, Divine Trickster and Master Magician

Exus are a family of spirit-deities that that are worshipped in the Afro-Brazilian tradition commonly called Umbanda. Most Exus have some expertise in a particular area. This Voodoo doll was inspired by the powerful spiritual Exu entity known as Exu Meia-Noite, a great doctor who knows all of the secrets to healing. Approach him with love and respect and you will be transformed forever!

Exu is not the devil or Satan in Christian terms. He is a powerful spirit who functions as Divine Messenger. As such, he is a translator between humans and the natural world. In addition, Exu possesses a dual nature as Divine Trickster and Door Opener. He is similar to Legba of the Voodoo tradition and Elegua of the Santeria tradition in that he can remove obstacles and open the doorway to new opportunities. It is up to you which door is open. If you decide to open a door to some unsavory place, that is your responsibility, not Exu's!

As Divine Trickster, Exu is not evil. The trickster archetype in most traditional cultures embodies a sacred role as teacher. The trickster raises awareness of the interrelatedness and interconnectedness between humankind, the natural world, and the spirit world. No person is an island unto themselves; this is a fallacy. Exu humbles us through his trickery regarding this absolute truth.

Good Guy or Bad Guy?

As Master Magician, Exu is knowledgeable and capable of doing black or white magick. He knows all the formulas and spells. In fact, his spells and talismans are so powerful that it is said that they are impossible to destroy. He can be invoked to do manipulative magick, but only by those foolhardy enough to try.

Contrary to popular opinion, Exu is neither an evil spirit nor a demon, despite his continued portrayal as such. The Western stereotype of Exu stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of the sacred role of the trickster in non-Christian cosmologies. In most traditional cultures, the trickster archetype embodies a sacred role as teacher. The trickster raises awareness of the interrelatedness and interconnectedness between humankind, the natural world, and the spirit world. Exu teaches us that no one is an island unto themselves; he humbles us through his trickery regarding this absolute truth. He watches us as we walk through life and when we become too arrogant, he is right there to throw a wrench in the works and bring us back down to earth.

Voodoo Mysteries, Umbanda | Culture

Exu is not Eshu


The Trickster

Exu is a trickster-god, and plays frequently tempting choices for the purpose of causing maturation. In mythology, and in the study of folklore and religion, a trickster is a god, goddess, spirit, human, or anthropomorphic animal who plays pranks or otherwise disobeys normal rules and norms of behavior.

A similar spirit of Yoruban origin is Eshu. Though Exu and Eshu are not the same Spirits, there is a little story often told about Eshu that aptly illustrates how trickster spirits often operate.

Once, Eshu was walking down the road, wearing a hat that was red on one side and black on the other. Some time after he departed, the villagers who had seen him began arguing about whether the stranger's hat was black or red. The villagers on one side of the road had only been capable of seeing the black side, and the villagers on the other side had only been capable of seeing the red half. They nearly fought over the argument, until Eshu came back and cleared the mystery, teaching the villagers about how one's perspective can alter a person's perception of reality, and that one can be easily fooled. In other versions of this tale, the two tribes were not stopped short of violence; they annihilated each other, and Eshu laughed at the result, saying "Bringing strife is my greatest joy."

Gotta love a god with a sense of humor!

The cult of Eshu is widespread in the New World, as well as in Africa, and he is worshipped under many different names and attributes[5]:

* Exu: Although connected with the Orisha Eshu or Elegba of the Yoruba-based traditions of Candomble and Santeria, the exus and exuas of Umbanda and Quimbanda are in fact spirits of the dead[6].

* Eleggua: Ellegua is another name used among Lukumi for Eshu.

* Legba: In Vodou, Papa Legba is the intermediary between the divine and humanity, while Kalfu is his Petro manifestation. Eshu also resembles the voodoo loa simbi who is both the god of magic and the intermediate between humanity and papa legba.

* Lucero: In Palo Mayombe, Lucero (also Nkuyo\Maunga\Lubaniba) is the deity of balance and guidance through paths.

* Esu: In Yorubaland, this is an energy that rose out of the Yangi (sacred red rock) and allows people to communicate with the Irunmole, Orisa, Orunmila, and so on. Is the oldest Esu. Also important in the African diaspora. All Esu live in consecrated sacred rocks.


Exu's Ritual Symbol

Exu's Ritual Symbol
Exu's Ritual Symbol

Exu Orixa

Exu Voodoo Doll

Exu Voodoo Doll
Exu Voodoo Doll

Reader Power!

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)