Haitian Vodou- Legba
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Who Is Legba
Legba is possibly the most important of the Rada Lwa, in that no human can converse or work with other spirits before him first allowing them through the gate. He is the guardian of the gateway between one world to the next, and so whether you simply nod towards him before ritual, or build an intricate relationship with him, an awareness of him is entirely necessary.
A crossroads is symbolic of Legba, in that a crossroads is where paths split apart. Travelling along one path leads you away from another, and vice versa. In Haitian Vodou, the cross is seen as the meeting point between Heaven and Earth. One of the key differences between Vodou and Catholicism is that the cross represents the creation of the universe, instead of the crucifixion.
In Haitian Vodou, when God created the Earth, he moved to four different points in the universe, creating a large cross in the centre. This is the same viewpoint as In many West-African religions, the crossroads symbolising the crossing point between our world and Heaven, the place that allows the intermingling of us and the spirits.
Legba appears as an innocent old man, and has often been seen walking his dogs with an eery, out-of-this-world kind of smile.He is always accompanied by his cane, a pipe for smoking tobacco, and a large grin on his face. However, Legba is a famous trickster and likes to judge his followers before working with them, and as such, can appear as a beggar in the street wearing any disguise! Be careful how you treat others less fortunate than yourselves, for you may just be turning down your only chance from one of the most powerful spirits in existence.
In any case, his appearance is deceptive, and we shouldn’t see him as weak or frail. His limp isn’t caused by age, but by the constant dragging of one foot in our world and one in the other, and his cane is not to counteract this limp, but to open the gate that stands between us and the spirit world.
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Ritual & Imagery
Legba is the first spirit called to in ritual without fail! No other Lwa can get through without him first allowing it. The first couple of times he may let it slide, but it won’t be long before he wants his appreciation. A simple offering of black coffee at the beginning of any working will suffice, however gifts such as canes and pipes are ideal when you are asking him for help with something a little more serious.
His most commonly used imagery is that of Saint Lazarus, the lame beggar that walks with a crutch, however has also been known to respond to the likes of Saint Christopher, Saint Peter, Saint Roch, Saint Anthony of Padua and Saint Jude. Other images, such as men leaning on staves or standing before doors/ gateways are also favourites. Even a man holding a key can be used as a representational image! There is nothing set in stone with any of the Lwa, if you are walking along the street and happen across a statue that screams out “Legba” to you, then you know that it is acceptable.
Have you room for a single cane/ walking stick/ staff by your front door?
Legba is the perfect embodiment of the cheeky old man stereotype, in that he will never stop trying to pull pranks on you. He may let you glance at the future, knowing full well that you will misinterpret your message and make a mess of the whole situation. But this is not an act of cruelty, it just happens to be the way he is! Legba is the mediator between us and the Haitian spirits, and even God. When relaying messages through him, be very thorough with your words, for he will not hold back on twisting them for his own amusement.
One of the more modest spirits, Legba is easy to keep on side. Occasional offerings of coffee, tobacco and peanuts are all he requires to keep you in his good books. Should you feel like getting a little closer to him, a cane dedicated to Legba and kept by the door is sure to help keep out negative spirits, and keep a little of his presence within your home at all times.
An alter to Legba could be constructed with ease, a statue, a photo of him, a pipe to the left and a cane to the right should just about do it. Sit at the alter once a day to converse with him for a few minutes. Light his pipe for him and be sure to bring him some coffee while you sit. Once a week you could dedicate a meal containing a bit of spice to him, and leave it on his alter for an hour and then come back, thank him for eating and tip the rest away in the bin. You’ll start to notice subtle changes in your life; a new opportunity here or a lot of good luck there, and you should be thankful for it. Always consider why something good has happened to you, and never be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
Working Magic With Legba
By now you should be clear on how easy it is to please him, but a brand new cane or a fresh pipe should be dedicated when something more serious is being asked of him. The Vodou spirits like to trade fairly,so the extravagancy of your gift should represent the gravity of the gain your are asking. Remember to keep his gifts by the door, so that he may guard your household from evil.
One of Legba’s specialties is helping one gain mastery of a certain hobby they enjoy. Try going to a crossroads and sitting down out of sight, sticking a white candle into the floor and drawing his veve out on the ground while calling out to him(carving in the mud is fine). Light the candle and sit quietly for a few moments, asking him to help teach you whatever it is you wish to improve in. Now practice that hobby while you sit there, whether it be playing guitar, whittling wood or writing novels. Keep practicing for at least half an hour, but don’t stop until you feel ready.