Tuesday, September 24, 2013

"Eshu and the black/red hat"

This is a great tale of the trickster spirit Eshu from the blog of Dr. Catherine Svehla that I found via Disinformation. Since my next booklet is about "The Devil" in conjure, Eshu will of course have to make an appearance. This gives some insight into an aspect of this mysterious spirit. Enjoy..

Eshu and the black/red hat

Photo James C. Lewis of http://noire3000studios.com
This is one of the most famous stories about Eshu. I'll be surprised if, after you've read it, you can't think of at least one instance in which you've met this Trickster...

Once there were two men, fine friends who lived in the same village. They had known each other since boyhood and loved each other like brothers. They lived next door to each other. They eat their meals together. They even kept fields in close proximity to each other; one farmed the land on the south side of the road that led out of the village and the other farmed the north side. These two were inseparable. Every morning, the two men met outside with their lunch and tools in hand and walked up the road together. All morning long one would hoe and chop in one field and the other would hoe and chop in the field just across the road and at lunchtime they would stop and come together under a big tree and eat lunch together. After lunch, and maybe a nap, they would go back to work until the end of the day and walk back home together. The people in the village were so used to seeing them like this that they could barely think of one man without thinking of the other.

One day, Eshu came to the village. And he saw the two men greet each other in the morning and he saw how close they were and he decided to have a little bit of fun with them. That day the two friends, who loved each other like brothers, walked up the road as always and one man went into the field on the south side of the road and the other went into the field on the north side of the road. They chopped and they hoed and they chopped and they hoed and it was a really hot day, so at one point they both paused to wipe the sweat from their brow.

A stranger was coming down the road. It was a really nice looking man on a horse. The man was wearing a cap. Now there was not a lot of traffic on this road, the village was small and not many people had their fields out that direction. So the passing of this stranger was kind of an event. Both of the men stopped and noticed the man and he waved at them and they waved back. 

When it was time to stop for lunch the two friends, who loved each other like brothers, met under the tree and opened up their lunch and started talking about their morning. The man with the field on the south side of the road said, “My dear friend, did you see that fine looking man come by on the horse?” and the man with the field on the north side of the road said, “I certainly did. He was a fine looking man on a fine horse, and I really liked his black cap.” His friend looked at him and said, “I liked the cap too brother, but it wasn’t black, it was red.” And his friend who loved him like a brother  said, “No, the cap was black.” And the other man, who had never disagreed with his friend before insisted, “I tell you, the cap was red.” “Black.” “Red.” “Black.” “Red.” “It was a black cap and you know it, why are you being obstinate?” “It was a red cap and why are you being stubborn?” “Black, and you must be a fool.” “Red, and you must be blind.” The two men got quite angry and before you know it they were cuffing each other and rolling around in the dirt yelling and insulting each other at the top of their lungs. 

People way down in the village heard them and came running up the road to see what was going on. They were shocked to find these two friends, who loved each other like brothers, fighting in this way. They jumped into the fray and pulled the men apart to find out what was the trouble. The man with the field on the south side of the road said, “A man on a horse came by in a fine red cap and this fool insist that the cap was black.” The man with the field on the north side of the road said, “Well, this idiot needs to do something about his eyes because the cap was black.” 

The people stood around scratching their heads and they weren’t sure which was more confusing, the bit about the cap or the sight of these two dear friends fighting. In the midst of the confusion, up rides Eshu, wearing his cap. The two men saw him and said, “There he is, there is the man.” Eshu waved at them and they waved back. Then Eshu slowly turned his head to the right and he slowly turned his head to the left. The two men were dumbfounded. The cap was red on one side and black on the other. They got down on their knees in front of Eshu and asked, “Eshu, why did you mess with us like that?” 

Eshu replied, “Causing discord is my greatest joy.” He rode away.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Eshu represents the distinctive knowledge, or, in Catholic terms, the knowledge of good and evil. It is the knowledge of the relative, the perception of the ego, ignorance of self. A Buddhist would say that you have to realize that all things are empty.