Who is Exu of Candomblé?

Exu is the orixá of communication. He is the guardian of towns, cities, houses, of axé (supernatural forces of energy, power and nature), of things that occur and of human behavior. The word Èsù in Yorubá means “sphere” and, in truth, Exu is the orixá of movement.

He is the one that receives the offerings first in order to assure that everything will go well and to guarantee his function as a messenger between Orun and Aiye, the material world and the spiritual one, be fulfilled. In Africa during the time of colonization, Exu was incorrectly compared to the Christian devil by the colonizers, due to his irreverent and playful style as well as the form in which he is represented in African worship, as an erect human phallus, symbolizing fertility.

By being provoking, indecent, tricky and sensual, he is commonly confused as a Satanic figure, which is absurd according to the Yorubá theology, given that he isn’t in opposition to God, much less is he considered a personification of Evil. In the Yorubá religion, there aren’t devils or even entities commissioned with the single task of doing bad things such as what occurs in the Christian religions, which say that all that is bad is the fault of a single being that was expelled. In Yorubá mythology, just as in that of Candomblé, each of the entities (orixás) have their positive and negative side, just like humans.

In Brazil, in the Candomblé religion, Exu is one of the most important orixás and always the first to receive the offerings, the songs, and the prayers. He is greeted before all other orixás, before all ceremonies or events. The Exu orixá doesn’t show up as a consultant like the Exus of Umbanda but he can be found at the entrances of all houses of Candomblé as a guardian, and in every such house, there is a room for Exu, always separated from the other orixás.

Monday is the day of Exu. His colors are red and black; his symbol is the ogó (a stick with gourds which represents the phallus); his contas (colored beaded necklaces, representing one’s rank in Candomblé) are black and red; the offerings are of goats and roosters, black if possible, and aguardente, accompanied by food made with dendê oil.

Below, is an hour-long documentary (in PT) on Exu, in case you want to learn more.

Dança das Cabaças – Exu no Brasil


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