Legba is probably the best known Lwa of the Vodou pantheon. Addressed as Vye Legba (Old Legba), Legba Atibon and Papa Legba, he is the beloved opener of the way between this world, and the world of the Lwa.
One of his many praise names is Gran Chemin, meaning Big Road. It is one of the mysteries of Vodou, that the road we walk toward Ginen is also the Lwa who opens the way. Legba is also referred in song as the Poteau Mitan, the very axis by which the Lwa enter the peristyle. He is simply the spine that supports the world of the Vodoun, and as such, is exemplified as the pole, the post, the center axis, the poteau mitan of the world. His cane is but one of his many symbols, hiding within it's humble appearance, his real place in the Divine order of the Lwa. He is the bridge that the Vodun use to transverse into this realm.
Legba as Houngan Max Beauvoir puts it, is the Divinity that represents Humility and Communication. Humility is the one way of seeing a person's virtue or attitude. When you are humble, you are open to the opinion and views of others. And, when you are open, then you can communicate with others. These two things are elevated to the status of deity in Vodou through the auspices of Papa Legba.
"So humble and benevolent is Papa Legba that He never needs sacrifices of pigs, or bulls or big fiesta to be done in His honor . He is happy with a modest cup of coffee, a fistful of grilled or roasted corn or peanuts, some tobacco that He smokes in a noticeably simple pipe made of little bamboo and corncob. He goes about constantly throughout the "great road of Life", that is why He is also called "Met Gran Chemen" or the Master of the great Road. He stops here and there at the entrances of every Hounfo, just the time to distribute graciously His thoughtful advises to Hougans and Manbos." (Beauvoir, 1994)
As the messenger Lwa, it is fitting to see that every one has a Legba. My Legba is actually talking to you right now as you read this. Your Legba is interpreting what I am trying to say. So, in a sense my Legba is talking to your Legba. If I don't explain things completely, your Legba fills in the blanks. Legba facilitates understanding as He is the being of understanding, of comprehension and of sensitiveness. He is goodness made divine.
Legba is the first lwa named in the Vodou ceremonial order. He is the lwa who opens the doorway between the spiritual and material worlds, and permits communication between human beings and the lwa. Papa Legba is usually envisioned as an old, old man, so old that he is bent over. Sometimes he is said to have a broken leg. He is also called "Legba Do Miwa", Legba on the Back of the Mirror, and mirror symbology is important with Legba. Legba carries a stick, and a straw bag called a djakout. Sometimes people say he is accompanied by a dog. For this reason he is identified with Key 0, The Fool, in the Tarot.
Despite the seriousness of his duties and given his great age, Legba is typically of amiable. He is much loved by the people who greet him as "Papa". Every day belongs to Legba. I generally refresh his altars and offerings on Monday, as well as my ancestors. If he is not your Lwa Met Tet, then you must ask Legba to open the way for you own Lwa Met Tet, so you can receive offerings from them. He loves Red, but as he is served in both Rada and Petro rites, his colors then become Red and White. His symbols include a pair of crossed keys, a walking stick or cane, and crutches. He is syncretized with St. Anthony (lost items), St. Peter (the keys) and St. Lazarus(the crutches, the dogs and the old man aspect.)
Offerings: Grilled or smoked chicken, goat, sweet potatoes, white yams, bananas, any fresh fruit, black coffee (strong with no sugar). He likes pipes with tobacco, but I have also given him a really good cigar, and that seems to please him as well. I have a djakout I bought in Haiti hanging over his altar, with his pipe, his tobacco and a bottle of rum in it, for him when he arrives. I have read where he also likes mottled roosters, smoked fish, cassava, kleren candy, guava, beans (white or red) and rice. In his Petro aspect he is given peppered rum and foods peppered or with Tabasco sauce, cayenne peppers. NOTE: All of Legba's meats should be smoked on a grill if possible.
1.) http://www.haitianinternet.com/resources.php/9, accessed January 31, 2004.
2.) Sacred Arts of Vodou, Donald Constentino
3.) Divine Horsemen by Maya Deren