Bonjou, zanmi! (Hello, friends!) Today we’re going to talk about a very important lwa. Well, all the lwa are important but Legba is the gatekeeper of the lwa and thus has a very special place in the Vodou pantheon.
Papa Legba has been characterized as the first lwa that is called at a Vodou party. That isn’t true in my house. There are a few lwa we salute before Legba, but what’s important to remember is that without Legba, none of the other lwa can come through. He stands at the gate and opens it and closes it as he will.
There are a few saint images we use for Legba. In my house, we use St. Anthony the Abbot for Legba in the Rada rite.
Notice that St. Anthony is holding a staff. Legba is pictured holding a staff in many of his saint images; Legba has what is called “pye casse”, or twisted feet; he walks with a limp and uses the staff or crutches to walk. Another common image for Legba is St. Lazarus:
In the hotter Petwo rite, we use the picture of St. Anthony of Padua:
Note that St. Lazarus is travelling on the road. Legba is a traveller; he’s always wandering. Some people equate him with Ellegua, the Yoruba spirit and orisha, who also travels on the roads and is the first spirit saluted at a religious ceremony. Yes, their names sound a bit the same, but it’s important to remember that the lwa aren’t orishas; Lukumi and Vodou are two separate religions.
(Want to learn a bit more about Lukumi, aka Santeria? Check out Santeria Church of the Orishas. This church was founded by the late Eddy “Dr. E” Gutierrez and is a fabulous resource)
Everyone has different lwa “walking” with them. One person may have Ogou, but you may not; different people have different lwa. You can determine which lwa are walking with you by getting a reading with a manbo or houngan. However, every person on Earth has Legba walking with them. Why? Because Legba is a lwa of communication, and we all communicate in some way.
You can ask Legba to introduce you to the other lwa. Get some toasted corn or spicy peanuts and white rum (one of those nip bottles work nicely) and bring that to a crossroads or intersection (be careful around cars, please). Pour out the rum and scatter the food and pray to Legba; ask him to bring the lwa into your life. Then you can go home. Pay attention to your dreams and intuition. Legba will lead you in the right way, and may even lead you to a Vodou house or priest/priestess to teach you.
Ayibobo Papa Legba!