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An American Vodou House

Sosyete du Marche, Inc’s Library

Atibon Legba: The Great Gatekeeper

Legba_veveLegba is probably the best known Lwa of the Vodou pantheon. Addressed as Vye Legba (Old Legba), Legba Atibon and Papa Legba, he is the  beloved opener of the way between this world, and the world of the Lwa.

One of his many praise names is Gran Chemin, meaning Big  Road. It is one of the mysteries of Vodou, that the road we walk toward  Ginen is also the Lwa who opens the way. Legba is also referred in song  as the Poteau Mitan, the very axis by which the Lwa enter the peristyle. He is simply the spine that supports the world of the Vodoun, and as  such, is exemplified as the pole, the post, the center axis, the poteau  mitan of the world. His cane is but one of his many symbols, hiding  within it's humble appearance, his real place in the Divine order of the Lwa. He is the bridge that the Vodun use to transverse into this realm.

Legba as Houngan Max Beauvoir puts it, is the Divinity  that represents Humility and Communication. Humility is the one way of  seeing a person's virtue or attitude. When you are humble, you are open  to the opinion and views of others. And, when you are open, then you can communicate with others. These two things are elevated to the status of deity in Vodou through the auspices of Papa Legba.

"So humble and benevolent is Papa Legba that He never  needs sacrifices of pigs, or bulls or big fiesta to be done in His honor . He is happy with a modest cup of coffee, a fistful of grilled or  roasted corn or peanuts, some tobacco that He smokes in a noticeably  simple pipe made of little bamboo and corncob. He goes about constantly  throughout the "great road of Life", that is why He is also called "Met  Gran Chemen" or the Master of the great Road. He stops here and there at the entrances of every Hounfo, just the time to distribute graciously  His thoughtful advises to Hougans and Manbos." (Beauvoir, 1994)

lib_lwa_leg_01As the messenger Lwa, it is fitting to see that every one  has a Legba. My Legba is actually talking to you right now as you read  this. Your Legba is interpreting what I am trying to say. So, in a sense my Legba is talking to your Legba. If I don't explain things  completely, your Legba fills in the blanks. Legba facilitates  understanding as He is the being of understanding, of comprehension and  of sensitiveness. He is goodness made divine.

Legba is the first lwa named in the Vodou ceremonial order. He is the lwa  who opens the doorway between the spiritual and material worlds, and  permits communication between human beings and the lwa. Papa Legba is  usually envisioned as an old, old man, so old that he is bent over.  Sometimes he is said to have a broken leg.  He is also called "Legba Do  Miwa", Legba on the Back of the Mirror, and mirror symbology is  important with Legba. Legba carries a stick, and a straw bag called a  djakout.  Sometimes people say he is accompanied by a dog. For this  reason he is identified with Key 0, The Fool, in the Tarot.

Despite the seriousness of his duties and given his great  age, Legba is typically of amiable.  He is much loved by the people who  greet him as "Papa". Every day belongs to Legba. I generally refresh his altars and offerings on Monday, as well as my ancestors. If he is not  your Lwa Met Tet, then you must ask Legba to open the way for you own  Lwa Met Tet, so you can receive offerings from them.  He loves Red, but  as he is served in both Rada and Petro rites, his colors then become Red and White. His symbols include a pair of crossed keys, a walking stick  or cane, and crutches. He is syncretized with St. Anthony (lost items), St. Peter (the keys) and St. Lazarus(the crutches, the dogs and the old man aspect.)

Offerings: Grilled or smoked chicken, goat, sweet  potatoes, white yams, bananas, any fresh fruit, black coffee (strong  with no sugar). He likes pipes with tobacco, but I have also given him a really good cigar, and that seems to please him as well. I have a  djakout I bought in Haiti hanging over his altar, with his pipe, his  tobacco and a bottle of rum in it, for him when he arrives. I have read where he also likes mottled roosters, smoked fish, cassava, kleren  candy, guava, beans (white or red) and rice.  In his Petro aspect he is  given peppered rum and foods peppered or with Tabasco sauce, cayenne  peppers. NOTE: All of Legba's meats should be smoked on a grill if  possible.

1.), accessed January 31, 2004.
2.) Sacred Arts of Vodou, Donald Constentino
3.) Divine Horsemen by Maya Deren


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