Papa Legba

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Papa Legba
VeveLegba.svg
Veve of Papa Legba
Venerated inHaitian Vodou, Folk Catholicism
FeastJune 13

Papa Legba is a lwa in Haitian Vodou, who serves as the intermediary between the loa and humanity. He stands at a spiritual crossroads and gives (or denies) permission to speak with the spirits of Guinee, and is believed to speak all human languages. In Haiti, he is the great elocutioner. Legba facilitates communication, speech, and understanding. He is commonly associated with dogs. Papa Legba is invoked at the beginning of every ceremony.

Appearance[edit]

He usually appears as an old man on a crutch or with a cane, wearing a broad-brimmed straw hat and smoking a pipe, or drinking sparkling water. The dog is sacred to him. Legba is syncretized with Saint Peter, Saint Lazarus,[1] and Saint Anthony.[2]

Alternative views[edit]

In Benin, Nigeria and Togo, Legba is viewed as a young and virile trickster deity,[3] often horned and phallic, and his shrine is usually located at the gate of the village in the countryside. Alternatively, he is addressed as Legba Atibon, Atibon Legba, or Ati-Gbon Legba. Papa Legba is thought to have emerged from the Yoruba and Dahomeyan diaspora as a continuation of the Orisha Elegba. This emerged as Lwa Papa Legba in Haitian voodoo, spirit Papa Laba in New Orleans Hoodoo and as the Oricha Elegua in Santeria.[4]

In popular culture[edit]

In the 1949 novel The Kingdom of This World, by Alejo Carpentier, Solimán gives Pauline Bonaparte a Papa Legba mascot for a safe journey back to Europe because of the Yellow Fever outbreak. Later, when in Rome, the ill Solimán tries to reach for the god Legba. Also in this novel, Papa Legba is referred to as "the Lord of the Roads," in the scene where Ti Noel discovers a large gnarled tree that is comparable to Legba's crutches after freeing himself from slavery.[5]

In the 1972 novel, Mumbo Jumbo, by Ishmael Reed, the main character is a Voodoo priest named Papa Labas after Papa Legba.

In his study of the Delta blues, Robert Palmer discusses the appearance of Legba in blues lyrics and lore. Palmer notes that Legba can be referred to/identified as "the Devil", "Papa Legba", and "The Black Man" throughout the history of the blues.[6] This is also made clear in ethnomusicologist Bruno Blum's text for the CD box set Voodoo in America,[7] where reference to Papa Legba, deity of roads and crossroads, in Robert Johnson's iconic song "Crossroads" is explained.

In the 1983 novel Praisesong for the Widow by Paule Marshall, Part III ("Lavé Tête"), Papa Legba appears in disguise to guide the heroine Avey Johnson when she has arrived at a crucial crossroad in her life.

In 1982, Elton John released a UK B-side titled "Hey, Papa Legba," with lyrics by longtime collaborator Bernie Taupin. The musical groups Talking Heads, The Smalls, Angel Band, Sun City Girls, and Sun God have also made songs named after him.[citation needed] The Talking Heads song can be found on their 1986 album (and soundtrack to the David Byrne film of the same name), True Stories; the Talking Heads song has been covered regularly by Widespread Panic, whose performance of the song can be heard on their live album, Light Fuse, Get Away.[8]

A 1985 episode of the TV series Miami Vice (Season 2, Episode 8, "Tale of the Goat") centers on a malign Vodou priest by the name of Papa Legba (played by Clarence Williams III). In keeping with the image of Legba often conceptualised in Haitian Vodou subculture, Papa Legba is depicted as "controlling" the gateway to the spiritual world (through the use of drugs), walking with the aid of crutches,[9] and smoking a pipe.[10]

There is extensive referencing to Voodoo in the Sprawl trilogy by William Gibson. In the second book, Count Zero, Papa Legba stands at the gateway to cyberspace as the "master of roads and pathways," with other loa appearing throughout the book. Papa Legba and Voodoo appear again in Spook Country, a book from one of Gibson's other trilogies.[11]

In Chapter XXII of James Branch Cabell's Jurgen, A Comedy of Justice, Jurgen and Queen Anaitis (lady of the lake) pass a statue of Legba in the courtyard. Jurgen remarks "Now certainly, Queen Anaitis, you have unusual taste in sculpture".

In the 1986 film Crossroads, blues musicians Robert Johnson and Willie Brown sell their souls to a "Mr. Legba" at a Mississippi crossroads. Later in the film Legba takes the name "Scratch". In this movie, however, Legba is mistaken for the Christian devil (or the popular notion of the devil), who takes the main character's soul in exchange for a successful musical career in blues.

There is a brief reference to Papa Legba in Neil Gaiman's American Gods.

There is a single reference to Atibon Legba in the song Black Cat Bone on the Mission album The Brightest Light.

Erzulie, Damballa, Baron Samedi and Papa Legba, all appear in the WildCats original comic series, assisting Voodoo against Mait' Carrefour.

They also appear (or are referenced) in Terry Pratchett's book Witches Abroad (1991).[12]

The character Galeb from Tales of Monkey Island was based on Papa Legba.[13]

Papa Legba is invoked by the Marvel Comics character Brother Voodoo for support.[14] This version of the character, referred to as "That Which Stands at the Crossroads", appears in the television series Cloak & Dagger. He takes on the form of the mutilated corpse of Officer Fuchs (portrayed by Lane Miller) and a young Tyrone Johnson (portrayed by Maceo Smedley III). While he states that Papa Legba is one of his names, he also claims to be synonymous Saint Peter. Tandy Bowen begins referring to him as "Papa Mysterious".

In 2013 Lance Reddick portrayed Papa Legba in American Horror Story: Coven, where the character is depicted wearing a top hat and black tuxedo jacket, more in keeping with one of the Barons (e.g. Baron Samedi).[15] This depiction is of a crossroads demon rather than the loa of communication.

The 2014 "Danse Vaudou" episode of Constantine has Papa Legba summoned by the character Papa Midnight to open a channel allowing the living to speak and attain closure with the dead.[citation needed]

Papa Legba is mentioned in the 2014 horror film, Jessabelle, where he is called upon to open the door for a dead spirit to return to the living.[citation needed]

The 2014 album Memoirs of a Murderer by heavy metal band King810, includes an introduction for the track "Take It" with vocals by singer David Gunn: "Papa, Papa Legba, open up the gate for me."[16]

In the 2016 novel Return of the Hunters by Sonya Bateman, Papa Legba is worshipped by the Duchene family. His followers have a centipede attached to their spines which learns everything the host learns. When the host dies, it returns to Legba with the knowledge and the soul of the follower.[citation needed]

In the 2017 novel The People's Police by Norman Spinrad, three people from New Orleans appear on TV hoping for publicity and support from the people against the banks, corporate fat cats, and corrupt politicians. Papa Legba responds by asking "What do you offer?"[citation needed]

In 2017, Bruno Blum released a song named "Papa Legba"[17] on his Culte album, in which he depicts Papa Legba as an alien, using the "Papa Legba" voodoo drum pattern. A subsequent animation video directed by Pascal Le Gras was also issued.[18]

In the 2017 novel American Street by Ibi Zoboi, PaPa Legba appears in Detroit, Michigan, often near the corner of American Street and Joy Road.[19]

In 2018, Papa Legba (Lance Reddick) briefly returns in the American Horror Story: Apocalypse, the eighth season of American Horror Story.

In the 2020 novel Our Wild Sex in Malindi by Andrei Gusev, Papa Legba and other popular loa together with the adepts of Voodoo are depicted in Malindi, Kenya.[20][21][22]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Morris, Brian, Religion and Anthropology: A Critical Introduction Archived August 5, 2019, at the Wayback Machine, Cambridge University Press, p. 196.
  2. ^ Herskovits, Melville J. (1937). "African Gods and Catholic Saints in New World Negro Belief". American Anthropologist. 39 (4): 635–643. doi:10.1525/aa.1937.39.4.02a00080.
  3. ^ Herskovits, Melville J. and Frances S. "Dahomean Narrative: A Cross-Cultural Analysis." Northwestern University Press (1958), p 35.
  4. ^ Fandrich, Ina J. (2007). "Yorùbá Influences on Haitian Vodou and New Orleans Voodoo". Journal of Black Studies. 5 (37): 17. Retrieved April 14, 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ Carpentier, Alejo (2017). The Kingdom of This World (First ed.). New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. p. 103. ISBN 9780374537388.
  6. ^ Palmer, Robert (1981). Deep Blues: A Musical and Cultural History of the Mississippi Delta. New York: Penguin. pp. 60, 126. ISBN 978-0-1400-6223-6.
  7. ^ VOODOO IN AMERICA | BLUES, JAZZ, RHYTHM & BLUES, CALYPSO 1926–1961 Archived November 15, 2020, at the Wayback Machine, Frémeaux & Associés. (scroll for English version)
  8. ^ Widespread Panic official website
  9. ^ Filan, Kenaz, The Haitian Vodou Handbook: Protocols for Riding with the Lwa.
  10. ^ Laister, Richard, Looking for Mr. Legba, p. 12.
  11. ^ Q&A with William Gibson Archived November 15, 2020, at the Wayback Machine, The Boston Globe.
  12. ^ "Legba on L-Space DiscWorld wiki". Archived from the original on November 15, 2020. Retrieved May 12, 2019.
  13. ^ "The Tales of Monkey Island Blog". Archived from the original on January 10, 2011. Retrieved January 10, 2014.
  14. ^ Doctor Voodoo: Avenger of the Supernatural (December 2009)
  15. ^ "'American Horror Story': 'Fringe' star Lance Reddick joining 'Coven' | Inside TV | EW.com". Archived from the original on November 15, 2020. Retrieved December 25, 2013.
  16. ^ "KING 810 – Take It Lyrics". Genius.com. Genius Media Group Inc. Archived from the original on November 15, 2020. Retrieved September 21, 2020.
  17. ^ "Papa Legba" Archived November 15, 2020, at the Wayback Machine, Bruno Blum.
  18. ^ "Bruno Blum – Papa Legba" Archived November 15, 2020, at the Wayback Machine. YouTube.
  19. ^ "AMERICAN STREET". Ibi Zoboi. May 28, 2016. Archived from the original on November 15, 2020. Retrieved April 9, 2018.
  20. ^ Review of "Our Wild Sex in Malindi" Archived August 4, 2020, at the Wayback Machine — on the site of public fund "Union of writers of Moscow", 2020
  21. ^ Andrei Gusev “Our Wild Sex in Malindi”, 2020 (in Russian). Archived October 9, 2020, at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ Andrei Gusev «Наш жёсткий секс в Малинди» Archived June 9, 2020, at the Wayback Machine — in Lady's Club, 2020 (in Russian)

External links[edit]