Legba the Misterio of the Crossroads, is a Loa that can be as noble as he can be chaotic, he can represent order and disorder, he can be creative as he is destructive. Legba is the Divine Trickster of the roads, and the greatest symbol of transformation. He is the young disobedient child but at the same time the wise old sage, he embodies change in every corner, in every stage, in every step one takes. One moment one can be strong and healthy as an Ox, and the next moment one can be as fragile as a butterfly. In one corner one can be full of vibrant life, while in the next corner one can be as cold as a corpse. Papa Legba represents the pathways one chooses, to be as divine as God so intends us to be “our creative nature”, but at the same time he embodies human failings,”our destructive nature.”
Legba is not one, but many and they are always present, always vigilant, always ready to unleash new forms of corruption and destruction as he is ready to bring blessings, abundance and opportunities. He is one of the eldest of the Divine Spirits but within him lies the vitality and youth that would portray him as one of the youngest. He is the master linguist, the great messenger, the one who holds the keys to the realm of the Divine, the realm of the living and the realm of the dead. Legba is also very wise and often resides in every realm, often on the side or on the outskirts, unnoticed but always watching, vigilant and always ready to act.
Legba is the guardian of the crossroads but also the guardian of pathways, of entrances and exits, and it is within these points that he has the power over destiny which he is second in ranks under the Divine Spirit of Destiny, Fa. But unlike Fa who stands high above in a remote area often unreachable, Legba is close to the ground, below a person’s head and torso, symbolizing his closeness and ever presence in our world.
Legba as the Ghede can be malicious, and often ignores social restrictions and his deceitful, often malicious trickster ways knows no boundaries, this goes for the living, the dead, the divine and the demonic alike. But Legba is a Misterio which no one can fully comprehend, and often his acts of trechery and deceitfulness, which at the time seams unjustified to the humans he deals his cards to is the way Legba helps those who need it, in order for them to reconcile and find a solution which in turn will restore balance in the individuals life.
Like the Gede, Elegba’s appetite is colossal, and like the Ogun, his job is never done, for he like Ogun, knows no rest. It is because of Legba’s often malicious, playful and trickster ways, Buen Dios el Todopoderoso “God” and unlike other Division of Spirits that are governed by a head Spirit, Legba does not have his own Kingdom and does not govern any, but he is an essential part of every Division, because without first agknowleding his presence, he will refuse to open the gateways to other Loases. But as I have stated Legba are many, they are like every Division, a Legion; and in Sanse and 21 Division they are known collectively as Lebanes, Lecuas or Leguas. Papa Buen Dios knows that to have a Division of Legba apart from other Divisions would be a group of Masters of Chaos and disorder. For this reason each Legba although they work under other Divisions, are never viewed as less than or insignificant than the leader of that particular Division, for to see it that way is to insult Legba, insuring that he does not open the doors of opportunities and blessing and in turn bringing chaos into an individuals life.
Elegba “Legba” is here and there, in one place at a time, but still in many, and their is no Kingdom or Division of Spirits where Elegba is not present. He is in every house, in every door, in every pathway, in every corner, and it is there where Elegba learns everything that happens. He thus becomes the emissary of God, his spokesman, intermediary between the living and the dead, between Men and Spirit, between the Divine and Holy, and the demonic. Although there are always questions about his moral judgment and his sense of responsibility. He is always unpredictable and uncontrollable, and for this reason like all Loa he is a Mystery.
In Africa as is with Cuba Elegba “Eleggua / Niño de Atocha” is viewed as a young, phallic spirit with an unseasonal appetite for sexual energy, but in Haiti he is viewed as Papa Legba, “Saint Lazarus” the ancient white beared sage of experience and wisdom. In Santo Domingo and Puerto Rico he is Saint Anthony of Padua “Leggua” holding baby Jesus, both young and old but of the same Nacion, while San Lazarus is Papa Viejo or Legba Carifu, the elder spirit who has crossed many roads in his life and is always ready for the next road and stage of his life.
In all traditions, Umbanda, Candomble, Santeria, Sanse, and all in between, he is invoked and prayed to first before any other Misterio, before any Division, so that the living ensure that he is pleased and will allow the gateways to be opened. Even in Espiritismo Criollo one knocks on the wooden table three times to San Hilarion ensuring his blessings, before any candle is lit or bell rung.
Although many traditions synchronize him with el Niño de Atocha, and Saint Anthony of Padua, “each Legua has his vuelta.”. Many synchronize Papa Legba with that of San Lazarus, while the younger Spirits within this Division enjoy to dance and play pranks, the elders of this Division are sareen and walk with a limp, in which they support their balance by a cane, crutches or walking sticks. While the younger Legbas dress in fine satins and silk adorned with cowrie shells, the elder Legbas dress in tattered heavily used sack cloths which demonstrates their on going mission, age and hard work. While the younger Legba enjoy, sweets, toys, whistles, coins, noise makers, sweetened coffee with milk & honey or molasses and pastries, the elder Legba enjoy rum, aguardiente, tobacco, unsweetened espresso coffee and salty meats. Both take their offerings close to the ground or on the floor in a corner of a wall which symbolizes that this Division of Spirits, like the Gede are closest to our realm of existence. The younger Legbas dress in red and black demonstrating their closeness to life and death while the elder Legua dress in brown demonstrating their age and wisdom. While the younger Leguas enjoy being within the mists of crowds, the elder are hermits and enjoy their solitude.
Legba’s liquid offerings are always served in cups made of hollowed out coconut shells, small gourds, tin or white enamelware cups, and his food offerings are placed within Jigueras, weaved baskets or terra cotta plates which is always accompanied with lighted red, black, white or brown candles. Also Legua are tricksters and one never assumes that what is being offered is acceptable and for this reason one communicates with him directly through his oracles, to make sure he excepts or even wants what is being offered, or if he requires more. Legba is known as the Jefe of all the Saints, Loa, and Misterio, and a bit of an offering to one must also be given to him first.
In Santeria and Sanse, ceremonies Papa Legba “Eleggua” is the first to be saluted and one thing that most traditions share a common knowledge of is that saluting, offering and praising Elegba first before any Misterio is essential in the insurance of a successful working, dealing or interaction with other Loa. Without a salutation to the Legua that makes a part of your cuadro, it would be almost impossible to have contact with other Loa; since he is the one who opens the doors, mapping the direction and passes along the paths, the one who knows all languages.
Legba is symbolized by the central pole used to invoke the other Loa within the temples. He is the foundation on which rests the world of both the dead and the Mysteries. His staff, cane or pole symbolizes the phalic symbol in which life all though unseen at first comes through. He simply is the foundation on which rests the Spirit world, and he is the central axis of every punto firmado, every veve and every sigil written with cascarilla, salt or powdered corn meal “no matter how simple or complex” in which all Misterio manifest.
Although Elegba is a trickster Lwa he is also the master of humbleness and humility. Humility is a way to see the virtues of those around you and in truly understanding their attitude in any given situation. When a person is humble, they are open to the views and opinions of others. Only with humility and humbleness can humans communicate and share ideas, and it is in these great virtues where Papa Legba manifests.
As Legba is humble and a trickster at the same time, he also demonstrates that amongst the humble is where he is present bestowing his blessings, while amongst the corrupt, he is present waiting for the moment to strike his mighty blow. Although he is present in all ceremonies, it is within the most modest of gatherings that one sees the side of Papa Legba few rarely witness.
As the master linguist and messenger of the Misrerios, Loases, Orisha and other Divisions of spirits, it is imperative that those that follow these traditions know the name of the Camino or Vuelta of Legua that makes up their Cuadro. For this reason the Guerillero ceremony in Ocha and the Punto de los Encrucijadas in Sanse is of vital importance within these traditions, and the vuelta or camino of these Spirits can only be deciphered by those highly trained initiates of these traditions.
Papa Legba is an old man, of a thin and lithesome body, and is viewed as a dark skinned man or a well suntanned individual, because he’s always in the open sunlight the roads and covers up in the coolness of night. Like the Santeria Orisha Babalu Aye, Papa Legba is often seen accompanied by dogs. In Sanse the healing aspect of Babalu Aye is synchronized with Saint Roque and is known as the Lwa Papa Sobo. Although Saint Lazarus is also seen as Legba Carifou the Legba who can bring illnesses at the crossroads and passages of life.
He is feared, greatly respected, always venerated and loved especially since he demonstrates kindness and opens the pathways for great opportunities. If Legba was the demons within Pandora’s box he would be every single one, especially that one known as Hope.
Every day belongs to Legba but he is traditionally venerated on Mondays. In his Rada personage he favors the colors red and white, while in his Petro personage red and black are his colors. In Dominican 21 Division and the Puerto Rican Sanse tradition, brown is also added to his colors. His sacred symbols are skeleton keys, crosses, canes and crutches, and each of his vuelta within Sanse, Vodou and 21 Division he is synchronized with a Catholic Saint such Nino de Atocha, San Antonio de Padua, San Pedro and San Lazaro while in Cuban Espirirismo Cruzado and Puerto Rican Espirirismo de la Mesa Blanca he is synchronized with San Hilarion, who is known as Lecua or Legua in Sanse. Every Afro Carribean and Afro South American country has a Papa Legba, and he is known as Exu, Eshu, Leba, Elegbara, Eleggua, Eleda, Eleguasito, Eù, and Lubaniba, to name a few.
Papa Legba enjoys his tobacco, his cigar smoke can not be replaced, “if your health conscious, then Papa Legba is not a Loa you want to work with.”. Papa Legba loves to cover his head with a Pava “straw hat, and while most of his offerings are placed on the ground he often will except a sack cloth bag filled with his offerings which is hung on a branch of a.Ceiba tree near or on a crossroads. He has a faithful wife who is also a Lwa and her name is Adjessi. Adjessi is the feminine aspect of Papa Legba and is known in some traditions as Pomba Gira. Adjessi in Haitian Vodou is known as Gran Ayizan Velekete who is the wife of Loco. Papa Loco as he is also known in a vuelta of Papa Legba who is synchrenized with San Joaquin and is the Lwa who leads spirits of the dead into the head. Adjessi / Ayizan is also known as La Señorita Klemezin Klemey or Metresa Clarabel and is synchronized with Saint Claire.
In Legba’s darkest Petro aspects he is Karifu, or Eshu, and some synchronize this Loa with the Angel of the Morning Star, the Light Bringer or the Loa who has the keys to the realms of hell. In this vuelta he is also known as Legba Manose ( Legba Nan Petro ) who is synchronized with the Catholic Saint, San Cayetano.
As I have stated Papa Legba is always saluted with rum, water and tobacco smoke, and he is the Loa that speaks directly to us through divination tools such as the coconut, sea shells, bones, tobacco, dice, playing cards and the Tarot. ( In the Tarot he is el Loco, the Jester or the Fool card.) His attention is gotten by the wrapping of the altar with the knuckles, the ringing of the campana, or the rattling of the Maraca, Tcha tcha, Asson, or Chekere. Each tradition and Division of Spirits has its traditional instrument used for getting his attention and gestures.
Papa Legba enjoys many servicios and each vuelta has his preference, and is always determined by the casting of coconut or sea shells. He enjoys to drink water, hard liquor, coffee, and cola soft drinks, and he enjoys to feast on corn meal, pop corn, bread, plantains, yams, yucca, malanga smothered in palm oil and sprinkled with coconut meat. Offerings include steak, pork, poltry, goat meat and all fresh fruit, the fruit is often served with fresh sugar cane and placed within jigueras. In some aspects he enjoys salted fish and rooster meat, served over black or red beans and rice, and is always topped of with a glass of liquor and a lit pipe of tobacco or lit cigars. His younger vueltas enjoys hard candies, coins, sweetened yuca guava paist and frosted cakes, while his Petro vueltas enjoy foods prepared with a lot of spices, cayenne peppers, or hot chili or tobacco sauce all served on terra cotta plates, hollowed gourds and jigueras.
There are many vueltas of Legba, some honored in Temples while others in Sociedades. Some are known more so in one tradition, while others are only venerated in smaller Sociedades. Of these one finds Legba the vagabond that walks during the night, or Legba Miwa that resides Miwa behind mirrors, Legba el Viejo that resides within mirrors, Legba of the crossroads, or Legba with his cane or pitch fork, Legba the trickster or Legba the sage, but no matter where one finds him; one always finds a Loa of raw human emotions, fears and desires.
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!
Eshu protect my family.
Protect the initiates of the Temple and me also.
Let me not be moved against the people.
Let not the people be moved against me.
Grant me long life.
Grant me peace.
Grant me elevation of my consciousness.
Grant me the ability to use my own hands.
Eshu I salute you