Papa Legba and Other Spirits of the Crossroads

Updated on April 18, 2016
Papa Legba painting copyright 2010 Denise Alvarado All rights reserved worldwide.
Papa Legba painting copyright 2010 Denise Alvarado All rights reserved worldwide.

Who is Papa Legba?

Papa Legba has his origins with the Fon people of Dahomey (Benin) Africa and is said to be the guardian and trickster of the crossroads and entrances. He is one of the most widely served African deities.

In Haitian Vodou and New Orleans Voodoo, Papa Legba is the intermediary between the loa (lwa) and humanity. He stands at a spiritual crossroads and grants or denies permission to speak with the spirits of Guinee, and is believed to speak all human languages.He is always the first and last spirit invoked in any ceremony, because his permission is needed for any communication between mortals and the loa - he opens and closes the doorway to the spirit world.

Read on to learn more about this powerful and often misunderstood spirit.

Papa Legba

Papa Legba collage copyright 2010 Denise Alvarado All rights reserved worldwide.
Papa Legba collage copyright 2010 Denise Alvarado All rights reserved worldwide.
Papa Legba painting copyright 2010 Denise Alvarado All rights reserved worldwide.
Papa Legba painting copyright 2010 Denise Alvarado All rights reserved worldwide.

About Papa Legba

The Crossroads deity known as Papa Legba is referred to by several names though he is not the same spirit as many of the other names commonly used interchangeably to identify him. In Surinam in Brazil, the crossroads spirit is known as Exu, in Trinidad, in Cuba he is known as Elegua, and in Haiti and New Orleans he is known as Papa Legba. Papa Legba is the master linguist, the trickster, warrior, and the personal messenger of destiny. He has the power to remove obstacles and he provides opportunities. All ceremonies begin and end with Papa Legba, and there can be no communication with any of the other loas without consulting him first. His gift for linguistics enables him to translate the requests of humans into the languages of the spirits and loas.

Papa Legba's colors are red in black (as worshipped in New Orleans), and some of his favorite things that can be used as offerings include, candy, cigars, rum, and tobacco. He absolutely loves palm oil. His number is three and his day of the week is Monday. He is often depicted as an old man with a crooked cane, dressed in brown pants, and accompanied by a rooster.

Legend of the Crossroads

What about that legend where a person can sell their soul to the devil in exchange for fame and fortune? The infamous crossroads legend is one that ignites such curiosity. The legend of the crossroads is referenced in many popular songs of the Delta Blues tradition (circa 1900 to 1941). These songs referenced Voodoo, Hoodoo, and the crossroads, explicitly. Robert Johnson sang of "hot foot powder sprinkled all round my door" and Muddy Water(s) referenced "the gypsy woman", "seventh son", and the "mojo hand". Although Voodoo is often associated with Satanism, Satan is purely an Abrahamic belief and has not been incorporated in Voodoo tradition. When Mississippi Delta folk songs mix references to Voodoo and to Satan, what is being expressed is social pain such as from racism, which is couched in Christian terms and blamed on the devil. Those who practice voodoo do not worship or invoke the blessings of a devil.

If this is the case, then who are they encountering at the crossroads? Why, Papa Legba of course!

"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

Papa Legba altar doll copyright 2010 Denise Alvarado All rights reserved worldwide.
Papa Legba altar doll copyright 2010 Denise Alvarado All rights reserved worldwide.

Legba's Favorite Things

What to offer Legba in exchange for special requests

Legba is the loa to petition when you have special problems, when things are getting in the way of your progress in life. It is customary to offer things to him as payment for his help. Legba likes candy, toys, and coconut as offerings, or anything children would enjoy. The dog is sacred to him. His favorite color is red and black, and his number is three.

Legba Petition

Papa Legba, open the door

Your children await

Open the door Papa Legba

So that I may pass

When I return, I will thank the loa.

Legba Spiritual Bath
Legba Spiritual Bath

Legba Ritual Bath

White Bath or Legba Bath

In New Orleans Voodoo, ritual baths are commonly used as prescriptive measures for a variety of conditions. The following ritual bath is a purification bath, and can be done whenever a cleansing is needed.

Bath ingredients:

3 cans of Evap milk

Hand full... Star Anise

Hand full... Anise seed

1 Pound Salt

1 white candle


Light the candle. Put all of the others items into a warm bath. Soak 15 minutes, turn to the left 3 times and say "I am clean". Dress in white and sleep in white sheets. In the morning, gather up all the seed stuffs from the bath and the candle and discard at a crossroads.

Legba Spell For Good Fortune

Spread pennies and candy in the corners of your home. Do the same at street corners and crossroads. It will make Papa Legba happy and he will favor you.

Exu, Divine Trickster and Master Magician

Exus are a family of spirit-deities that that are worshipped in the Afro-Brazilian tradition commonly called Umbanda. Exu is NOT the devil or Satan in Christian terms. Exu (Ey-shu) is a powerful spirit who functions as Divine Messenger. As such, he is a translator between humans and the natural world. In addition, Exu possesses a dual nature as Divine Trickster and Door Opener. He is similar to Legba of the Voodoo tradition and Elegua of the Santeria tradition in that he can remove obstacles and open the doorway to new opportunities.

The trickster archetype in most traditional cultures embodies a sacred role as teacher. The trickster raises awareness of the interrelatedness and interconnectedness between humankind, the natural world, and the spirit world. No person is an island unto themselves; this is a fallacy. Exu humbles us through his trickery regarding this absolute truth.

Sr. Peter is syncretized with Papa Legba
Sr. Peter is syncretized with Papa Legba

Legba and his Corresponding Patron Saints

One way in which African slaves could continue to practice their traditional religions was by shrouding them in elements of Catholicism. Thus, there are corresponding saints for each of the major deities or Seven African Powers. The Seven African Powers is largely a Hoodoo term that is used by practitioners of Santeria, New Orleans Voodoo, Candomble, and other religions. In Spanish, they are referred to as Las Sietes Potencias.

Following is a list of Legba's corresponding saints.

Eleggua / Elegua/ Legba: Messenger, Opener of the Way, Trickster:

* Saint Simon Peter

* Saint Anthony (of Padua)

* El Nino de Atocha

* St. Lazarus

The Resurrection of Lazarus by Vincent van Gogh, 1889-90

The Resurrection of Lazarus by Vincent van Gogh, 1889-90
The Resurrection of Lazarus by Vincent van Gogh, 1889-90

Nino de Atoche

Nino de Atoche
Nino de Atoche

Images of Legba

There are many forms of Legbas. In New Orleans Voodoo, as well as Haitian Vodou, Papa Legba usually appears as an old man on a crutch or with a cane, wearing a broad brimmed straw hat and smoking a pipe, or sprinkling water. However in Africa, he is frequently depicted as a fertility god. Sometimes, Legba is depicted as male and female, sometimes with enhanced manhoods, sometimes as a healer, and sometimes as a protector. Here, he is depicted as an apologetic Legba, petitioned for forgiveness when a person has insulted the gods through awful behaviors like rape and burglary.

Two-headed Legba

Two-headed Legba
Two-headed Legba

Three-headed Legba

Three-headed Legba
Three-headed Legba

Eshu in Pot

Eshu in a Pot painting copyright 2005 Denise Alvarado All rights reserved worldwide.
Eshu in a Pot painting copyright 2005 Denise Alvarado All rights reserved worldwide.

Contemporary Legba, Artist Moses from Ghana

Contemporary Legba, Artist Moses from Ghana
Contemporary Legba, Artist Moses from Ghana

Papa Legba on YouTube - Faces of Legba

Part of the Planet Voodoo video series featuring the artwork of VoodooMama and music by Studio Voodoo.

Prayer to Eshu

I praise the mysteries and power of Eshu!

You are the messenger of Olodumare, the Orisha and the Ancestors

You are the owner of the four directions:

North, South, East and West

You are the keeper of the Ashe' of the Orisha

You are the guardian of the gates of fortune

You are the Lord of flexibility

You are the Lord of choice, chance and change!

Unfortunately, there are many people in this world who are intolerant of beliefs other than their own. Because of the nature of some of the feedback I have received, it has become necessary to moderate the comments. Please keep the hateful comments to ravage your own soul, instead of projecting onto others.

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    • profile image

      Susan 3 months ago

      Love your photos!

    • profile image

      abhilasha 3 months ago

      I hear of Papa Legba from Aghori tantrik Shivani Durga and really rever it alot.Papa Legba name itself attracts me and knowledge of him lures me to know more and more about him.I strongly feel that cults like vodoo etc.have much deeper knowledge of the functioing of universe and nature ,than rigid religions.

    • profile image

      Lisa 4 months ago

      I love papa legba to

    • profile image

      Joelle Weber 4 months ago

      Very informative and helpful information presented here. I wish to form a stronger relationship with Papa Legba & the Lwa in general & found this to be very useful, thanks for sharing your knowledge!

    • profile image

      Queen 4 months ago

      I love Papa Legba, I can be a witness he does answer you.

    • profile image

      The Skräuss 8 months ago

      Thanks for your work here. This is very helpful and comprehensive.

    • profile image

      E Kennedy 8 months ago

      Thank you for sharing your wonderful knowledge with the world. I have been a fan of yours since 2011, which is when I first starting reading your books. I love the artistry of your altar dolls and the beautiful loa veves.

    • profile image

      Karen Parada 9 months ago

      Thank you for your kind and patient explanation of Papa Legbo. We need to understand each other better. Religions are only helpful if they lead us to love one another!

    • profile image

      Busyman 9 months ago

      Legba is a Yoruba name to call someone from Egba. So Papa Legba simply means an old man from "Egba" which is another name for Abeokuta a city that went to war against the people of the Republic of Benin. Maybe during the ancient war, the people of Benin encountered a strong voodoo man whom they chose to call"papa legba" and later turned to a deity, I don't know but the names should not be confused with "esu odara" the trickster a Yoruba deity or Eledua called Elegua by the Brazilians.

    • profile image

      JAT562 10 months ago

      Was in NOLA met a Vudoo priest Haitian descent learned about Papa and was intrigued appreciate your site and will research further by purchasing some books.


    • profile image

      ALICE in Wonderland 10 months ago

      Absolutely fascinating! The ceramic work is out of this world! Wow! Thanks for sharing x

    • profile image

      TiJean73 11 months ago

      Noticing the parallels between Legba & Hermes/Mercury: Trickster, Messenger, Intermediary between the worlds of humanity & the Divinities. Phallic God of Crossroads & Boundaries. Magic & Medicine.

    • profile image

      Fil 12 months ago

      It deeply saddens me the misunderstood nature of not only this practice.... but the people in it.... some of the most amazing souls/energies I've ever met/encountered. Beautiful write up

    • profile image

      The Madame 14 months ago

      Does Papa Legba ever come to Los Angeles? I'm looking for him.

    • profile image

      louís 15 months ago

      thank you, ma chéri for posting dis. dey make voodoo out to be an evil; blind ones i say.

    • profile image

      Elizabeth 17 months ago

      Hi, I am very new to the study of the Voodoo religion and especially Papa Legba. After some unsuccessful attempts to find out information about him your website was the most helpful. Thank you a million times over xxx

    • profile image

      habeeb 18 months ago

      nice informative article

    • profile image

      Robert K. 2 years ago

      Very informative blog! I was called by Papa Legba, just right outside of Clarksdale, MI, and drive hours from the Midwest to get there, but it was worth it.

      As each day goes by, I appreciate what He has done for me and my family. I come from a Catholic-turned-Evangelical background, and was ordained as a Minister, but left ministry over ten years ago. Papa Legba embraced me and protects me. No one like Him.

    • profile image

      cristine guimaraes 3 years ago

      me gusto mucho su pagina eres una persona encantadora gracias por compartir tus lindos conocimientos un abrazo.

    • profile image

      psychiclyn 4 years ago

      Blessings, I want to thank you for all the great information you provide ~ Free of charge , may I add. I love getting my new emails, they are always interesting and full of goodies :)

    • profile image

      sandykanesgarden 4 years ago

      Thank you for having this info out there. I signed up for you newsletter and am enjoying it so much I forwarded it to my sister in Georgia. Thanks,Sandy Kane

    • Nightcat profile image

      Nightcat 5 years ago

      A blessing for the New Year. May Legba bring luck to you. Hugs! :)

    • profile image

      draconis-drakon 5 years ago

      Wonderful info on Papa Legba ! I'm beginning to work with Him and was very pleased to read so much about Him and His attributes.

    • profile image

      DotComBusted 6 years ago

      I don't wanna have anything to do with Vodooooohohooooo... :D

    • allenwebstarme profile image

      allenwebstarme 6 years ago

      Love your lens but little scary.

    • profile image

      vodou lm 6 years ago

      Ayibobo Papa Legba! Thanks for writing about him.

    • spellbindingsis profile image

      spellbindingsis 6 years ago

      LOVED your page!

    • LadyJasmine LM profile image

      LadyJasmine LM 7 years ago

      Beautiful Lens, I can see the love that went into it. :-)

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Ellegua is truly my savior. He has opened many a door for me and has rescued me in my times of need. I would like him to know that I am forever grateful to him.

    • profile image

      ddb201 8 years ago

      Lots to learn here.

    • profile image

      Jen1966 9 years ago

      I've been turning to the Hindu God Ganesh for several years, and I'm delighted to find how much he and Papa Legba share. Thank you for this page. I look forward to learning more

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      Hate to tell you this religonist clone. But the worship of the Orisha predates christianity by several hundred years. Also the Orisha, Legba, Ogun, Chango, Oshun, Yemoja, are not gods, merely servants of the almighty spirit. You might consider them angels. Perhaps being a "Smith" you are relation to the Celts (Christians who drank the blood of their dead), or perhaps the druids of Europe who sacrificed virgin children to insure the spring would come. Be careful criticizing that which you know nothing of. I and my people see it as worship of the same god, by a different society.

    • profile image

      anonymous 10 years ago

      i would like to see free spells like momey, lovecandle spells with things u can find at a store,crystal spells

    • profile image

      anonymous 10 years ago

      I appreciate all the information that's available on the Seven African Powers. I do not believe that Papa Legba is a God. I feel that he is a messenger of (St. Anthony) God. People fail to realize that this is information gathered to understand a cultural & spiritual belief. Thank you Voodoomama for sharing your knowledge with me and others.

    • profile image

      anonymous 10 years ago

      very informative helped allot in my quest for knowledge!!!and to scott smith:Sin in order that you may obtain forgiveness (rasputin66:6)

    • profile image

      anonymous 11 years ago

      THANX!!!!!!!!! This really helped A lot to clear up the mystery dude "Papa Legba" announcing himself down the street inside my head - was mad at him as I didn't know what he want but now because of this lens he's cool SO THANXVOODOO MAMA!!!!

    • profile image

      anonymous 11 years ago

      I just suggest that you repent if you are worshipping Legba or have contemplated it in your heart. Some sins are unforgiveable. You cannot worship two gods. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft (ISAM15:23). Choose This Day who you are going to serve....(JOSHUA24:15)...Make A DECISION TODAY!


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