Papa Legba is a mighty Loa (God) from the New Orleans and Haitian Vodou Traditions. He
is seen as an elderly black man with a cane, wearing a straw hat and either smoking a pipe or
sprinkling water upon the ground. He is sometimes accompanied by a black dog or a rooster.
His colors are black and red and his number is 3. His day of the week is Monday and he is
associated with St. Lazarus and St. Peter. Papa Legba governs over choice and the paths that
we all walk. He presents us with opportunities and also tests our progress with challenges as
we travel through earth life. This responsibility has given him the title of being the ultimate
trickster god. He challenges us to step out of ourselves and to examine the habits and beliefs
that we identify with. The choice is to either examine our lives or continue to fail the tests that
Papa Legba sends to us over and over again. To Papa Legba, choice is of the utmost
importance for it is choice that displays the maturity of the heart and mind.
Papa Legba is one of the very oldest Loa and has been around since the beginning of time. He
has seen everything which is why he is the Master Story Teller and the keeper of man’s
history. He is like the Kemetic/Egyptian record keeping God Tehuti in this light for he has an
unimaginable amount of data stored in his memory. He is the griot with the tales of heroes and
the origins of all things. He can speak these stories to anyone on the planet for he is King of
all linguists and therefore knows all languages.
He is an honored Orisha called Elegba in the Ifa and Santeria traditions. Elegba is a much
younger version of Papa Legba who is depicted with hair braided into a phallic style and an
erect penis symbolizing his insatiable nature (In Benin he is often depicted with horns on his
head). Young Elegba is always moving, experimenting and causing all kinds of mischief.
Many are confused by Elegba who is also known to cause chaos and then also become the
primary force who aids man in organizing the chaos and restore peace. The mischief that
Elegba causes is nothing compared to the version of him known as Eshu (or Exu) who is only
fit for the wild.
As gatekeeper, Papa Legba opens and closes all ceremonies. Communication with the other
Gods can’t even occur until He is consulted because Papa Legba is the Hoodoo Man who
holds the keys to the doors between the physical and spiritual realms. Papa Legba is the
knowledgeable sorcerer with keys to understanding the secrets of astral travel, banishing and
dealing effectively with beings of the unseen. Papa Legba is found at any crossroads. This is
where two roads meet and also a place where the physical realm and spiritual realm meet. He
directs the traffic flow at this place. He is the alchemist taking what is left at his feet and
transmuting it into something useful. You can come to him at the crossroads and leave sorrow,
ritual remains, left over spiritual bath water, a haunted object, or anything and he will send it
where it needs to go. There are also tales of people going to the crossroads to receive gifts
and talents such as dance ability, more luck in gambling and better skill on guitar.
“If you want to learn how to make songs yourself, you take your guitar and your go to where
the road crosses that way, where a crossroads is. Get there be sure to get there just a little '
fore 12 that night so you know you'll be there. You have your guitar and be playing a piece
there by yourself ... A big black man will walk up there and take your guitar and he'll tune it.
And then he'll play a piece and hand it back to you. That's the way I learned to play anything I
want." --Tommy Johnson
Offerings to Papa Legba include candy, rum, tobacco, bananas, black coffee, grilled chicken
or palm oil. Many people who work with Papa Legba place an image of him behind their
front doors to clear negative energy and to attract opportunity. A popular prayer to Papa
Legba is “Odu Legba, Papa Legba, Open the Door, Your Children are waiting. Papa Legba,
Open the door, your children awaits!”
|Papa Legba: Keeper of the Crossroads
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