(Also Legba Ati-bon, Papa Legba, Eshu-Elegbara or Eshu (Yoruba))

"Papa Legba"
"Lord of the Road"
"Opener of the Way"

Legba is one of the most important loa, or deities, in Haitian mythology. A child of the sky pantheon, he rules fate, luck, roads, opportunities, light and the course of the sun across the sky. He has no domain, but watches and protects all crossroads. Very intelligent and clever, he is a trickster and as such, considered to be an aspect of Eshu. Like Eshu, Legba understands all languages of humans and the gods, and is the first to be invoked in Voodoo ceremonies. But unlike Eshu’s role as interpreter between the gods and their worshippers, Legba acts as a gateway between the human realm and the realm of the loa. He alone allows the loa to pass into the human worshippers thus permitting communication between the two.

He appears as a crooked old man wearing tattered clothing and no shoes, because he prefers to be in constant contact with the earth. He carries with him a small pipe, a little tobacco and some food in a little sack. There are often sores on his body, adding to the pitiful appearance that earned him the nickname Broken Foot. But Legba’s weak body only serves to conceal his amazing strength that becomes recognizable during times when he is so angry with a man or woman that he possesses them. In fact, this god’s possessions are rumored to be so violent that he has often been equated with Satan. In statuary, he is depicted as either a statue with a huge erect penis, or a wooden or iron phallus that is mounted in a mound of earth.

A practitioner of Voodoo may invoke this deity for a number of reasons other than opening the door to the realm of the other loa. Often consulted in times of crisis because of his great wisdom, he is also called upon by those requesting swiftness, healing, communication (between generations, the sexes, living and dead, etc.), protection, creative energy, opening doors, or the welfare of children. When a crossroad has been reached, either literally or figuratively, Legba may be consulted in choosing the right path to take. He is the patron of small children, translators and travelers, and so is often invoked in these areas.

His symbols include the crutch, the baton and a square cross representing the crossroads. The colors most often associated with Legba are black and white, black and red, green, rose and red. His feast days include March 18, 19 and 20th, at which time he is offered a black goat, June 29th and November 1st, when bonfires are lit in his honor for the coming new year. His sacred animal is the rat, and his sacred day is Tuesday. While his preferred sacrifice is the bones and marrow of an animal, Legba’s favorite foods are grilled meats and tubers.However, appropriate offers to Legba can also include candy, palm oil, smoked meats, cigars (or simply cigar smoke), green bananas, roosters or chickens, candles, toys, rum, rice or melons. Any liquid offerings are poured in and around the doorway to the home. The alter of Legba is erected inside the home, near the doorway, and is where any non-liquid offerings are left for the god.

This god played an important role in the belief system of west Africans who were exiled as slaves to Brazil, Cuba, Trinidad and the southern United States. In the new world, he was often associated with Christian figures such as Saint Peter, Christ, Saint Martin, the Archangel Michael or Saint Anthony.


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