The Old Man at the Crossroads
Bringer of Opportunity
Papa Legba, Haiti’s spirit of the crossroads, is a tattered old man dressed in rags. Where Ellegua and Exú dance suggestively, Legba leans on his cane and limps down la gran chemin, the eternal road that is the sun’s daily arc and the pathway between the mortal and divine worlds. Vodouisants sing of him "limping along” and of his “old, old bones.”
But though Legba may appear to be a feeble old man, Vodouisants believe that none of the lwa can “come down” to this world without his assistance. He is the gatekeeper and the catalyst: he stands in every time and every place where two ways are joined. Vodouisants believe that he carries blessings and curses in the straw makout (bag) he carries over his shoulder. He is the first lwa saluted in a Vodou ceremony: every wanga (magical operation) must begin with an offering to Legba if it is to succeed.
Legba is most often represented by images of St. Lazarus, the leprous lame beggar. Other staff-carrying saints have been pressed into service, notably St. Jude, St. Roch, and St. Christopher. In our house, Legba’s colors are yellow and white: other houses use red and white.
Legba is an easygoing and generally benevolent lwa. Vodouisants hail him as Atibon Legba or “Good Old Legba.” For a few drops of salt water he will open the way for Met Agwe, a sprinkling of Florida Water will suffice for Danto, and a libation of rum will persuade him to let Ogou come down. But Vodouisants also know that Legba can bring bad luck as well as good; he can open the way or put insurmountable obstacles in your path. Those who are wise will pay extra attention to this humble and unassuming spirit.
Perusing the Want Ads with Legba
When you’re unemployed, hunting for work can become its own special kind of torment. Joblessness isn’t just a threat to your finances, it’s a blow to your self-esteem. After spending weeks or months sending out resumes without a nibble, you can start thinking of yourself as unworthy, unqualified, and utterly useless. If you find yourself falling into that kind of spiral, you can call on Legba. When you ask him for work he will happily guide you toward new opportunities.
To perform this spell you will need your local newspaper(s). Look through the classifieds sections: circle anything that you find intriguing in red pen. Now go through the entire paper. Circle any story or advertisement that mentions a company where you might like to work or an industry that interests you. You can use multiple newspapers for this: you are also encouraged to include printouts of any online job offer that strikes your fancy. When you are finished cut out everything that you have circled in red ink and put them in a small white oven-safe ceramic baking dish. If you need to cut the printouts into smaller pieces to make sure they all fit, don’t worry about it: Legba enjoys unscrambling puzzles and will have no difficulty interpreting your request.
Draw Legba’s vévé on a sheet of brown grocery bag paper, using the red pen that you used before. Place it atop a yellow or red cloth. Get a cake pan that is large enough so that the smaller ceramic dish can fit inside it comfortably. Fill the pan approximately 1/3 full of water so that the smaller dish is surrounded: add a few drops of cane syrup or molasses. Place the pan, dish, and water atop the vévé; place a yellow 7-day candle in the pan.
Light the candle. Ask Bondye, the Highest Power, to look after you and yours and to grant you an audience with Legba. (Legba may be the opener of the gate, but like all the other lwa he can only act “as God wills.”) Now sprinkle a few drops of water from the pan on the ground. As you do, feel Papa Legba coming to greet you. You are calling on Atibon Legba (Good Old Legba), one of Legba’s most merciful and benevolent aspects. He is old and ragged, but his eyes twinkle with life and his step is surprisingly spry as he comes toward you on his crutch.
Tell your problems to Papa Legba. Explain to him how you have been hunting for work; tell him how much you need a job and how many people are relying on you. Be honest with him and don’t hold anything back. Papa Legba has walked down many roads and knows what it’s like to be poor and hungry and wandering with no place to go. He will gladly help you to find a job to call your own.
In exchange for his help, offer him a fire to warm his old bones. Now ignite the newspaper clippings and shredded printouts. As you watch the paper burn, feel the warmth flowing through you and through Legba: both of you stand silently absorbing its glow. As the papers crackle into dust, their message vanishes in this world and is conveyed to the land sonde miroir (behind the mirror), the place where Legba reigns, the place between what is and what was and what is to come.
When the paper has finished burning, take it to a crossroads and scatter it to the winds; as you do ask Legba to bring job opportunities your way. Now return home by the same way you came. Allow the 7-day candle to burn out, then pour out the water on your doorstep or in your front yard. Needless to say, you should accompany this spell with the usual mundane steps like putting out resumes, networking with friends, and looking for HELP WANTED signs. Legba likes to surprise you with unexpected blessings, but you have to be open to receiving them. And, as always, be sure to give Legba his due when he brings you a job.