I, personally, have a dislike of Esu being regarded as a “trickster.” It is a phrase I do not care for as it holds a connotation that allows for avoiding responsibility.
Esu, Ellegua, Elegba is the gatekeeper that sits at every junction (crossroad). This is not necessarily a physical crossroad. It can be an ethical crossroad, an emotional crossroad, a professional crossroad, or an actual crossroad. This is one of the many places Esu can be found in nature. As people, we often create representations so that we can relate to an intangible essence, but the embodiment can be misunderstood. So think more energy or natural force with that statement than a tall, thin man dressed in half red, half black walking down the street whistling near a crossroad. The physical embodiment is a series of symbols that represent aspects of that energy.
[I have covered the symbolism in detail in my post At the Crossroads Part Two: Symbols. This post is password protected as I request an individual at least have Warriors before reading. (You can send me a message that includes your name and your padrino’s names and contact information so that I may obtain permission to make it available. I will respond with a password if everything is acceptable to your padrinos.)]
As the gatekeeper, or owner of the roads, He has the potential to block any and all roads that are needed. If He is not in agreement with what is being attempted, it will not happen. He also holds the ability to confuse or disrupt intent, offerings and communication so that the message does not get to the intended Orisa or person. Or the intent of the offering is distorted or a person’s intentions are misunderstood. Therefore He is appeased first among the Orisas to open the door to favorable possibilities. So if communication with a friend or a co-worker seems to be next to impossible, I will often regress and communicate with Ellegua before re-attempting to communicate that message again to the person.
Reminder: there is no concept of good and evil. I say that because there is always a primordial and opposing component. There is the element of choice when options are presented, but there is also a random, uncontrollable variable component. Depending on Ifa or Lucumi, house to house: Esu is the random, uncontrollable variable while Elegba is the “cooler” component. For some traditions, Esu and Elegba are one in the same without difference, as opposing forces are often found in nature to be from the same source. No matter which belief is held, one will never really get it until he/she realizes Esu is neither good nor bad, but neutral.
Esu plays a very large part in the divination process, as divination holds the keys to informed decision making. You can ask of something you want to do, positive (helping a loved one) or negative (stealing a car) and all possible roads can be laid out before you as to what will happen for a particular decision (path) taken. Should you then decide to go down that path and meet with hardship, that is the choice you made and Esu did not “trick” you into anything. The choice is laid before you to prove that you have learned to make better choices and elevate or prove that you continue to attempt to work against natural laws and invite chaos and imbalance into your own life.
My take on offering the choice, or temptation, that ensnares man (trickster role) is that if the desire is not in a person there is no temptation. If one is still wrestling with an issue, the issue is still yet unresolved within the person and can be viewed as temptation for that individual. It is similar to a man who goes to pick up a prostitute only to discover she is an undercover police officer and the man shouts, “You tricked me!” Only men who are wrestling with the issue of that kind of sexual addiction feel “tricked” when they are caught. Men who do not buy sex services do not encounter this issue, even when a prostitute randomly approaches and makes an offer. This is the time to put on the big girl panties and own up to the fact that there was no “trick.” If a person got caught with his/her pants around their ankles it is because he/she had the pants unbuttoned from the start.
The real “trick” is that the purpose of the exercise is to allow a person to see his/her flaws so that they will learn to overcome them. In this sense, man is able to learn the laws of the universe and is able to grow after having learned a valuable lesson. I do not think of Esu as a trickster, I think of Him as one of my most challenging teachers.