Spirits in Vodou are known as Loa; Catholic Saints lithographs are used to represent them. During slavery in Haiti, white french masters forbade the slaves from pursuing Vodou as a religion and anyone caught practicing any religion other than Catholicism were severely punished. The slaves, still deeply attached to their African roots, were obliged to use Catholic Saint Image during Vodou ceremonies, pretending to be praying to them while deep in their heart they were praying to their African gods. This is the main characteristic that differentiate the Vodou that is practiced in Haiti and in Africa. Over 400 years have passed, but the tradition strangely still remain today; it is so deeply rooted in the religion that it is almost impossible to even imagine Haitian Vodou without the representation of the Loas with Catholic Saints' images.
When one says the word Vodou, the first spirit that comes to mind is Legba. Legba is undoubtedly the most important spirits in the hierarchy of Vodou; he is the guardian of the gates, crossroads, courtyards and all Vodou temples (Peristil). He is the necessary intermediary between the livings and the spiritual world, his powers are absolutely a must for any kind of interaction with the Loas. No Vodou ceremony of any sort can take place without his permission. Because of this important privilege Legba is always the first invoked in all Vodou ceremony.
Although his possession are extremely violent, his caring nature and politeness earned him the affectionate nickname "Papa Legba" He is a small, crooked lovable old man, his body covered with sores and his crutch or cane is always presented to him for support , old age prevents him from standing on his own. He wears a straw hat and carries his djakout (straw bag) full with rare herbs and plants that he uses and, his favorite drink clairin.
During his celebration, either a goat or a grey rooster, with yam and other roots vegetables are prepared for him as offerings, put inside the djakout, then hung on trees. In Haitian Vodou, the image of Saint Lazarus for the crutch that he uses for support or St Peter for the keys that he holds, are used to represent Papa Legba.
If you are a non initiate, you MUST acknowledge Legba and ask for his permission and guidance when addressing other Loa(s), by lighting a yellow candle and place it at the entrance of the door.
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