THE KINGDOM OF THIS WORLD
|Papa Legba (page 95 and hereafter)
Legba is one of many ancient Vodou gods or “Loas.” He is called the Lord of the Roads (as he is referred to on page 103 of the novel), the Loa of the Crossroads, Papa Legba, and Legba ati-bon among other variations. His origins can be traced to West African religions of Nigeria, Dahomey, and Ghana.
In Haitian Vodou, he acts as an intermediary between gods and humans, as well as opening the road to the spirit world. He is the keeper of all roads, intersections, doors, locks, and gates. Legba is also the god of travel, opportunity, and luck. When a Haitian prepares for a long journey, they would plan their route in an attempt to avoid all crossroads, which Legba described as a very dangerous place for people because of the presence of sorcerers and evil spirits. He also taught mankind how to use and interpret oracles.
While the African version was a noble type, the Haitian Legba is most often portrayed as an old man sprinkling water or using a crutch, sometimes smoking a pipe and usually dressed in rags.
The rat is Legba's sacred animal and his colors are black and red or black and white, green, rose, and red. His honor day is November 1st, when bonfires are lit in his honor. Besides that he has feast days on March 18th, 19th or 20th and June 29th.
Altar for Legba, it contains his color (red) and several symbols including crossed keys and a cane.
Because he is the one who opens the road to the spirit world and therefore the other loas, he is always the first god to be invoked in Haitian Vodou ceremonies. His role as communicator between the spirit and mortal worlds seems similar to the role of Hermes as messenger. He is symbolized by the dog.
In The Kingdom of This World, Ti Noel is traveling after becoming a free man when he sees a large gnarled tree root he compares to one of Legba's crutches. This illustrates just how real the Vodou loas were to their followers in Haiti. Gods were not merely an abstract concept or intangible presence, their tools and signs could be seen in physical form all over.
Also in The Kingdom of This World, Pauline Bonaparte carries an amulet of Papa Legba because she is pushed over the edge when her husband, General Leclerc, dies of Yellow Fever. She begins following Vodou so meticulously that she believes her worship of Papa Legba would not only connect her to the spirit world of other Loas, but also to the crossroads of her deceased husband. It is also ironic that Papa Legba opens the gates to the Vodou religion for her because Pauline’s belief in him and other Vodou practices is what opens up the gates for her to return to Rome.
Soliman also calls for “Papa Legba” in Rome when he feels the form of the statue of Pauline Bonaparte. He begs for him to deliver him back to Saint Domingue.
For more information, and further images relating to Papa Legba, go to:
http://www.mysticvoodoo.com/papa_legba.htm (inc. YouTube clips)