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Who Is Papa Legba?

Papa Legba, also written as Papa Lebga , Papa Légbá , or Papa Lebgaw is an intermediary between the living and the dead in Voodoo. His gate, depicted as a door or a gateway, is the passageway between both worlds.

* He usually appears as an old man on a crutch or with his leg bandaged because he was once crippled . Since death cannot die, Papa Legba acts as guardian of cemeteries too.

* Voodoo practitioners believe that through Papa Legba one can contact their ancestors and spirits of the other world to gain favors from them – such as protection, fertility and prosperity (he has been linked to Santa Claus).   Papa Legba is also considered a psychopomp , someone who ushers souls into the afterlife.

* Papa Legba can tap into knowledge from other realms, and this enables him to tell the future. As such, when approached for divination he is often depicted holding a ouanga bag . Papa Legba’s favorite tool is an axe which symbolizes death and destruction (he uses it during storms).

* Papa Legba presides over cemeteries and appears with a machete or hammer in hand. He wears large rings on his fingers that jingle when he walks and traditional images of Papa Legba show him wearing a black hat, smoking a cigar and carrying his cane.

* Papa Legba is always shown with one foot in the grave, one at the door of his house, and accompanied by a black dog. Papa Legba is usually paired with Maman Brigitte , his female counterpart.

* Papa Legba can appear as either an old man on crutches or as an invisible spirit who strikes people dumb (the dumbness is said to last until Papa Legba grants them their voice).

* Papa Legba’s number is 5, which symbolizes change and upheaval – on this basis some voodoo practitioners believe that Papa Legba can grant or prevent divorces . Some Haitian families hang up coral rocks outside of their homes in order to keep Papa Legba content with their family matters – so he doesn’t curse them through magic spells.

* Papa Legba is also called Papa Lebga , Papa Légbá , Papa Lebgaw and Papa Ligba. His equivalent in Louisiana Voodoo is Papa Guédé .

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