Papa Legba Meaning, Folklore and Symbolism

In the Haitian Vodou or Voodoo religion, Papa Legba is a loa, that serves as an intermediary between the humanity and the spirit world. He can speak all the languages and is associated with the spiritual crossroads, gates or doors.

Papa Legba has the power to give or deny permission to speak to the spirits of Guinee, which is magical. He has the gift of elocution and therefore acts a facilitator of speech, understanding and communication.

He may look scary, but he’s truly said to be a “fatherly” figure.

Who is Papa Legba?

Legba has its origins rooted in the Dahomey kingdom but was later adopted in North America as a result of the long-haul slave trade.

Who is Papa Legba
Who is Papa Legba

He is commonly associated with dogs and is believed to love offerings like candy, tobacco or alcohol.

The Catholic culture is often linked with the Vodou religion because of the intermixing between the Vodou and the Roman Catholicism.


The phrase has various associations but before that, we need to understand two words Bondye and Loa i.e.

Loa –> Saints

Bondye –> Supreme Creator –> God

Thus, Papa Legba is often related to St. Peter who is considered to be the gatekeeper to heaven. Others relate it to St. Antony or St. Lazarus who is considered the lame beggar or the donor saint of lost belongings.

Speaking about the appearance, it is portrayed as a poor man who is wearing a stubble hat, dressed completely like a beggar and smoking a pipe. Its resemblance is much like a dog that leans on a crutch or sometimes takes walk on streets.


As per the Voodoo tradition, the first look of Legba might be of someone who is weak or old but in the true sense, he is one of the most dominant gods. He walks with limp that is used by him for multidimensional travel or between 2 worlds i.e.

  1. The world of spirits.
  2. The world of the living.

The cane on which Papa Legba leans acts as a gateway between the world of spirits and the humans. He is very popular in the African spirituality and culture that is an aid to originate from the Kingdom of Dahomey, presently Benin.

History and Origin of Legba

The ethnic belief system developed in West Africa gave rise to the practices of Vodun. With the slave trade of African people to the parts of America, came the concept of Legba.

Since the people involved in the trade were afraid about the rebellion, they often detached imprisoned people from the same area. Their motive was to discourage people who could potentially cause a conflict or revolt.

History and Origin of Legba
History and Origin of Legba

They made sure that people from different ethnicity were mixed well so that any such barrier could be stopped in the initial phase itself. This led to the quick widespread of Papa Legba from African culture to other parts of the world.

Legba soon established its roots in the religious findings of imprisoned people in Haiti and the Caribbean along with various parts of the American colonies. It is believed that Papa Legba stands at the doors of spiritual crossroads and has the power to deny or grant permissions to talk with the spirits of Guinee.

He has the power to open the doors of the loa i.e. the doorway to the world of spirits. It is because of this reason; holy books say that he is the first or the last spirit invoked in any holy traditional ceremony.

Over several centuries, the term Legba got not only blended with various religions of the world but also started gaining associations with saints and priests like Saint Lazarus, Saint Peter and Saint Anthony.

As per the Haitian sacred beliefs of Vodou or Voodoo, Legba is seen as the intermediary between mortal men and the loa, or lwa. Papa Legba is the one who carries all the offerings, prayers and petitions of the practitioners to the lwa or loa.

The lwa or loa involves various heavenly spirits that are created by God and are responsible to carry out various daily tasks. This lwa or loa is further categorized into families like Ghede and Ogou.

Mythology, Petition and Devotion

Legba has evolved from its roots in African culture where it has been given names like the God of tricks or the fertility god. It’s depiction in ancient texts is someone who can be a male or female with a large stiff phallus.

Mythology, Petition and Devotion
Mythology, Petition and Devotion

In some parts of the country, he is preached as a protector god who has the power to grant forgiveness against the crimes. While some believers say that he is the protector of children or healer of pain and sufferings.

Other than this various cultures and communities who have been preaching Legba exist in different parts of Cuba, Trinidad and Brazil. The New Orleans Voodoo or the Haitian Vodou describes various forms of Papa Legba.

He is typically presented as an older man, who wears a straw hat or old ragged clothes, walking on the streets with a cane and is accompanied by a dog.

The colours black and red are usually associated with him. He has been referred several times in early 20th-century blue tunes from the Mississippi Delta and has a strong association with the crossroads magic.

The very well-known bluesman Robert Johnson is believed to have met the holy spirit on the crossroads, who offered his soul for the musical success. However, the story was tweaked by saying that Johnson met the Devil.

Musical legends believe that the story is formulated on dogmatic belief; instead, Johnson met Legba at the crossroads, where he had gone looking for direction, peace and wisdom.

The translator of the petitions and the one who delivers them to the loa is the master communicator, Papa Legba. He can speak all the human languages of the world and therefore has excellent communication skills.

Some of the roles that are often associated with Papa Legba are given below;

  1. The Trickster Divinity
  2. The Ultimate teacher
  3. The Warrior of justice and truth

He is the true warrior in the sense that it can eradicate all the life obstacles of others and help them find the true wisdom, justice and peace. Thereby, opening new doors of opportunity and life for them.

When life gets tough and you are unable to cope up with the situation then Legba is the loa to the petition. However, his service is not free and therefore you need to make payment for the help.

Prayer to God

I praise the mysteries and power of God!

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!

This may be in the form of anything as simple as candy or some toys that children love to play with and enjoy.

Summon Papa Legba – Magical Way

There are various religious and non-religious ways to summon Legba. However, here we will give you a petition method which you need to do with full faith for him to listen to you;

Papa Legba, open the door

Your children await

Open the door Papa Legba

So that I may pass

When I return, I will thank the loa

Magical Connections
Magical Connections

Before getting in touch with the Loa you need to call Legba at the open gate and keep in mind that red and black are his favorite colours. Therefore, try to incorporate the colours while decorating the nearby places.

Below are some gift suggestions that you can offer to Papa Legba and summon him easily for his help and blessings;

  1. Tobacco, Pipes and Cigars
  2. Coffee and Rum
  3. Peanuts and Candies
  4. Chicken and Beef
  5. Cakes and slices of bread
  6. Bananas and Sweet Potatoes
Summon Papa Legba – Magical Way
Summon Papa Legba – Magical Way

Although you can summon him anytime by your prayers and offerings but we advise you to do it on Saturday’s as that is his favorite day and number 3 is also the favorite number.

There are very few ways of summoning Legba, many of which are ancient traditions with specific rules that must be strictly obeyed. By working under the expert hand of a houngan or mambo, you can build a bond with Legba and the loa.

It is believed that people from African and Hoodoo traditions have developed a special connection via complete devotion and appropriate offerings to the spirits, as mentioned above.

There have been various incidents in the pop culture where Papa Legba has shown its presence. He was seen in Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and plays a part in Terry Pratchett’s Witches Abroad.

He is a recurring personality in the popular, American Horror Story, a TV series where he is mistakenly depicted demanding the loss of a human child.

The Ceremonial Bath of Legba

The religious baths in the Voodoo culture are done in traditional ways under proper care and caution. This is called the religious bath where cleansing of body and soul happens.

Holy Bath Constituents:

  1. One white candle
  2. One Pound Salt
  3. Three cans of evaporated milk
  4. A small amount of Star Anise
  5. Little quantity of Anise seed

Step by Step Instructions:

  1. Collect all the ingredients in a warm bath.
  2. Light the candle collected earlier.
  3. Soak in for 15 minutes and then turn to the left 3 times and say “I am clean”.
  4. Make sure to dress in white colour and sleep only on white bedsheets.
  5. Next day, collect all the seed leftovers from the bath and the candle and abandon at a crossroads.

Papa Legba Magic charm for Good Luck

Legba loves candies, pennies and toys. Make sure you spread them in different corners of your house. Follow the same along the street and the nearby crossroads. This might make Legba happy on us and he might shower his wisdom, charm and prosperity on us.

Legba Types and Images

Two-Headed Legba
Two-Headed Legba

Legba is classified into different types and has variations to it but before we jump to that we need to know the list of saints’ that were associated with it at different stages;

  1. Messenger, Opener of the Way, Trickster i.e. the Eleggua or Elegua/ Legba.
  2. Saint Simon Peter
  3. St. Lazarus
  4. El Nino de Atocha
  5. Saint Anthony (of Padua)

There are various images available of Legba that depict different personality traits some of which are like men while others are like women. Some believe that God wears rags and always has a hat and a pet dog.

Three-Headed Legba
Three-Headed Legba

Also, the traditional African scripts and writing say that there are two types of Papa Legba i.e.

  1. The Two-Headed Legba
  2. The Contemporary Legba
  3. The Three-Headed Legba

Conclusion – The Legends of Papa Legba

The evil voodoo figure of ‘American Horror Story’ Fame or Legend of the crossroads or the one that looks creepy, but he’s said to be a “fatherly” figure.

Papa Legba is the gatekeeper between the human and spirit worlds, and no one can reach the spirits without Papa Legba acting as the arbitrator.

People Also Ask (FAQs)

What should I offer to Papa Legba?

Some gift suggestions that you can offer to Papa Legba and summon him easily for his help and blessings are Tobacco, Pipes, Cigars, Coffee, Rum, Peanuts, Candies, Chicken, Beef, Cakes, loaves of bread, Bananas and Sweet Potatoes.

How to summon Papa Legba?

There are very few ways of summoning Legba, many of which are ancient traditions with specific rules that must be strictly obeyed. By working under the expert hand of a houngan or mambo, you can build a bond with Legba and the loa.

Who is the Voodoo God?

In the Haitian Vodou or Voodoo religion, Papa Legba is a loa, that serves as an intermediary between the humanity and the spirit world. He believed to be the true Voodoo God.