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Papa Legba and Other Spirits of the Crossroads

It's just me, clicking the keys, burning hi-octane conjure and working wonders at the old dirt track crossroads in AZ.

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 (in present-day 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 the 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 collage copyright 2010 Denise Alvarado All rights reserved worldwide.

Papa Legba collage 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? Papa Legba, of course!

"If you want to learn how to make songs yourself, you take your guitar, and you 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

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 Spiritual Bath

Legba Spiritual Bath

Legba Ritual 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 evaporated milk
  • Handful star anise
  • Handful anise seed
  • 1 pound salt
  • 1 white candle

Instructions

  1. Light the candle.
  2. Put all of the other items into a warm bath.
  3. Soak 15 minutes then turn to the left 3 times and say "I am clean".
  4. Dress in white and sleep in white sheets.
  5. In the morning, gather up all the seed remnants 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 a 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.

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.

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

Two-Headed Legba

Two-headed Legba

Two-headed Legba

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.

Three-Headed Legba

Three-headed Legba

Three-headed Legba

Contemporary Legba, Artist Moses from Ghana

Contemporary Legba, Artist Moses from Ghana

Contemporary Legba, Artist Moses from Ghana

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.

Questions & Answers

Question: Can Exu of the 7 crossroads help in love matters?

Answer: Yes.

Please Sign My Guestbook!

Flameascending on August 31, 2020:

The Holy Spirit is inclusive, not exclusive. So, all beliefs are part of Divine Love. Thank you.

hopiamamon1@gmail.com on March 28, 2020:

I dreamt of keys. for the first time, it felt real. that's why i thought of searching this dream meaning.

Jennifer MYK Kufuor on February 24, 2020:

Very helpful information, I had a revelation about Papa legua and wanted to know more about him. Thank you and keep up the good works.

gil on December 14, 2019:

ive been talking to legba hes very fun but i gotta go to the crossroads and give him some rum

Maria on December 10, 2019:

I appreciated the information I've read in this page!

Reign on July 17, 2019:

Yes i too would also like to know how i should wear white after my bath?

Barry on February 07, 2019:

Can anyone says how long i should wear white clothes after purifying bath and what to do with them after thanks everyone for your kind replys and bless to all peace

Barry on February 04, 2019:

Thanks for sharing this information am new to this but definitely interested bless

Sarah on January 28, 2019:

Hello. Has anyone had experience in summoning Papa Legba? Is there anything harmful that could happen to you during that summoning, as in if it’s risky? Does he really grant wishes?

Barbara Shinton on January 06, 2019:

Taking to Papa Legba has brought much emotional healing in my life I am grateful to the people who share online and help people like me to shed the fears of real connection with spirit beings.

Deborreh on January 04, 2019:

Hello I made alter my consist of candy,cigars coffee,rum pennies putting candies in cross roads lighting candles and he has never granted me the request that of him so mane he’s not the one the that I should be asking for favors?

Tashawna Jones on November 24, 2018:

Hello hope all is going well with everyone! I am considering meeting papa legba. from doing the research I feel he can help me with so much that I'm going through in my life.

TDR on November 22, 2018:

Do you have social media...? I am looking to go to NO soon

I rain on November 19, 2018:

Thank you for the information im on a spiritual growth journey and find this very fascinating..sorry to hear about the negatives

Love this. on November 15, 2018:

Thank you for sharing.

C.M.ROSE on November 04, 2018:

I for one liked this piece and I am in fact considering putting some of it to use. I’m sorry to hear about the negative comments. It’s a shame, but at the end of the day, if anything at all, it’s really their loss.

Michael on October 26, 2018:

Very good

Mike C on September 30, 2018:

Thank you for a great article. I first found information on Papa Legba via Wikipedia but you have given more detail. Can you help me? I am looking for the words to the Haitian Papa Legba song “Le ma monté chwal mwen”. From memory it starts “Dambala wadoo se bon se bon”

Melanie on September 12, 2018:

Thank you for your beautiful words. Papa Legba has been trying to get my attention for quite some time now. I am listening now:)

Anne on September 06, 2018:

Thanks for the info! I like the picture with the red hat and the pipe. Perhaps trickster in that his demeanor is deceptively beguiling and all kindlyness? Most adorable Loki since Dogma+! Mad props!! X)

Tresie Lopez on August 18, 2018:

Thank you got sharing such wonderful understandings or Papa Legba . Peace be with you,

Denise M Alvarado (author) from Southwest on June 16, 2018:

You are very welcome, Glad you found it helpful!

Jernail Evans on June 06, 2018:

What a informative yet simple article. Definitely helped me understand how to work w/ papa legba. Thank you

C.j.barlow61@gmail.com on May 27, 2018:

Thank you for the insight and knowledge of this religion

Susan on February 07, 2018:

Love your photos!

abhilasha on January 30, 2018:

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.

Lisa on January 23, 2018:

I love papa legba to

Joelle Weber on January 04, 2018:

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!

Queen on December 29, 2017:

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

Tamara Lewis on December 13, 2017:

Thank you for the enlightenment!

Chloe Channelle on November 06, 2017:

Is there any way l Can Reach Papa Legba? Please can anybody tell me

Sherry on October 27, 2017:

Thank you, your site is very helpful.

Claire Burns on October 02, 2017:

I chat to him at a crossroads I pass with my three dogs. Sometimes I throw treats for his dogs. Sometimes I sit down and wait. He usually sends someone along to talk to me. One day I hope to come and see him.

Citrine Sept on September 17, 2017:

I am just becoming familiar with the Loas (Papa Legba) I'm certain as you have to eventually not only become more curious about them but, likewise a fan.

The Skräuss on September 16, 2017:

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

Frank walker on September 13, 2017:

Thank you for sharing with the world an me as what i have read through thus far has just made me want to learn more and have a deeper understanding.

E Kennedy on August 31, 2017:

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.

Karen Parada on August 28, 2017:

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!

Busyman on August 23, 2017:

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.

JAT562 on July 06, 2017:

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.

Namaste

ALICE in Wonderland on July 02, 2017:

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

TiJean73 on June 20, 2017:

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

Fil on May 08, 2017:

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

The Madame on March 28, 2017:

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

louís on February 26, 2017:

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

Elizabeth on December 15, 2016:

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

habeeb on November 29, 2016:

nice informative article

Cate Dalton on October 22, 2016:

Love your writing Denise!!! Ashe' !!!!

Alicia on October 09, 2016:

there is only 1 God in thus universe and He is 1 with JESUS CHRIST...all others are merely his Saints who worship him as well...Be Blessed in Jesus Christ name

Angelia on September 28, 2016:

I greatly enjoyed reading and leading about Papa Legba. I am new to all this and green on the entire subject of it all. I do plan on taking on the advice of a divine sistar and let her help me on this journe .

Azucena on September 22, 2016:

Thank you, I really enjoyed hearing about him. Looking foward to working with him.

Eva Lovejoy on September 22, 2016:

Very informative and will written article. Thanks :)

Robert K. on April 01, 2016:

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.

cristine guimaraes on April 06, 2015:

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

psychiclyn on July 13, 2013:

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 :)

sandykanesgarden on July 05, 2013:

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 on January 01, 2013:

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

draconis-drakon on June 13, 2012:

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.

DotComBusted on April 20, 2012:

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

allenwebstarme on April 13, 2012:

Love your lens but little scary.

vodou lm on February 29, 2012:

Ayibobo Papa Legba! Thanks for writing about him.

spellbindingsis on February 08, 2012:

LOVED your page!

LadyJasmine LM on November 20, 2010:

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

anonymous on January 11, 2010:

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.

ddb201 on August 31, 2009:

Lots to learn here.

Jen1966 on December 28, 2008:

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

anonymous on July 02, 2008:

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.

anonymous on May 27, 2008:

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

anonymous on February 27, 2008:

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.

anonymous on February 16, 2008:

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

anonymous on May 10, 2007:

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!!!!

anonymous on March 04, 2007:

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!