If you’ve started to learn about Voodoo, you may have already encountered the name, Papa Legba. As the intermediary between the human world and the spirit world, this being is the one who is always called on first during rituals and the one who is always called last in rituals. His importance to Voodoo cannot be overstated. He is the one that knows all the languages of humans and the one who has a pipe in his mouth as he looks your way. Papa Legba is the one who stands at the doorway and decides who can see into the spirit world.
Who is Papa Legba?
Known as a guardian as well as a trickster, Papa Legba is said to originate from the Fon people of Benin in Africa. He is the one who is dressed in red and black, with a crooked cane and brown pants. As the keeper of the crossroads, there are many who misinterpret Papa Legba as someone like the devil. With the ongoing story of people selling their souls at the crossroads, it’s easy to see why Papa Legba might be conflated to be a negative being. But as the devil is only a part of Christian traditions, there would be no devil in Voodoo ceremonies. This is only something that was used in songs and movies to create a darker mystery.
Papa Legba is the spirit that can answer the petitions of people who have special and larger problems. He will take the offerings that are given to him and then he will find ways to help you with your questions and concerns.
A ritual for Papa Legba
You can also do rituals for Papa Legba on your own to help you get in his favor. For example, you might spread pennies and candies around the floor of your house to help bring good fortune into your home.
Or you might set up an altar to Papa Legba where you leave offerings every day or talk to him every day. In doing so, you will begin to understand what he might need from you and you might begin to understand what you need to do to get what you want in your life.
You might also want to go to a crossroads (where roads meet in a dead-end) to connect with Papa Legba. You can leave him offerings there and wait to see if he shows up, or you might just travel to these crossroads again and again until Papa Legba is satisfied.
The saints of Papa Legba
To continue the practice of Voodoo as slaves, some practitioners would use Catholic saint names in place of the lwa they usually petitioned to. For Papa Legba, they used a few different names:
- Saint Simon Peter
- St. Lazarus
- Saint Anthony of Padua
- El Nine de Atocha
The offerings of Papa Legba
Offerings to Papa Legba can include cigars, tobacco, rum, and candy, as well as palm oil. He is also said to love palm oil and his day of the week is Monday. But what you need to remember most about Papa Legba is that he is not what you always want him to be. You might read this and think that you know who he is, but remember, he is a trickster. He might show up in other forms and with other clothes on.
This is a test from Papa Legba. Just when you think you understand him, he will change. Not everyone gets to interact with the spirits, and you’ll need to prove you are worthy of reaching out to the lwa. Make the offerings, trust the crossroads, and he just might appear.
Ayibobo to all,
Mambo Marie-Brigitte La Croix and Mambo La Marassa Lola Donette