He doesn’t look like any other person because he is actually not like any other person. He has red eyes, wears a hat atop his dreds, and he walks with a limp. That is Papa Legba.
He is a Legend that emanated from Haitian Vodou or Folk Catholicism. As there has always been an intermingling of Vodou and Roman Catholicism it’s hard to pinpoint its original source. He serves as an intermediary between humanity and the Loa (spirits of Haitian Vodou) giving or denying permission to communicate with the Guinee (spirit world).
Papa Legba is believed to be a great elocutioner who understands every human language. He facilitates speech, communication, and understanding and is always associated with dogs which he constantly moves around with. Over the years, there have been several attempts to bring to life the character of Papa Legba in fiction, movies and popular culture.
His character has been brought to life in the television series American Horror Story where he is portrayed by the very talented actor- Lance Reddick.
The Story of Papa Legba
Papa Legba is a great communicator who speaks and understands every language, as said. He facilitates and opens the door of communication between spirits and human so he has to be saluted before any communication can occur. He is also to be called upon before and after any ceremony to guide any spirit summoned for a ritual back and forth the spirit world.
He is fond of riddles and is thought to be a trickster. Papa Legba is a benevolent and fatherly figure that doesn’t need much to be appeased but demands to be treated with respect. He is syncretized with Saint Lazarus, Saint Anthony, and Saint Peter.
That said, there are alternative views about Legba in different cultures and countries. For instance in Togo and Benin, Nigeria, Papa Legba is considered to be a virile and young trickster deity with his shrine located at the gate of the village. His alternative names are Atibon Legba, Legba Atibon or Ati-Gbon Legba.
His portrayal as the Creepy Voodoo Figure of ‘American Horror Story’
The TV Series is a horror anthology created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk. Each season is created as a miniseries. With a different set of storylines, characters, and settings. The plot is also self-contained with its own beginning, middle, and end. The show has had 9 seasons and 99 episodes.
Papa Legba portrayed by Lance Reddick first appeared in season 3: American Horror Story: Coven in 2014. He appeared in 3 episodes. He then reappeared in season 8: American Horror Story: Apocalypse in the episode titled “Traitor.”
In the TV series, he is portrayed as the gatekeeper of the spirit world and is the 6th immortal character on the series but the first Loa to appear in the American Horror Story.
It has been argued that his portrayal and characteristics are closer to Baron Samedi than Legba according to history. It is believed that this depiction is more of a crossroads demon of the two.
He is portrayed as having coal-red eyes, long black dreadlocks, and grey-white face paint shaped like a skull. His nails are yellow and long and he is always dressed in a dark long overcoat walking with a cane.
In the series, he has several servants and collected souls. Marie Laveau is the first to sell her soul to him in exchange for immortality. To make a deal with him, the individual must have true intent and desire to see him and also offer something that is valuable to pique his interest.
To summon Papa Legba, a spell has to be cast by the Voodoo Queen, and also small offerings must be made to call forth his attention. As seen in the series, some offered drugs while some offered wine and a special kind of expensive cigarette.
His position as the spirit of life and death allows him to grant several requests including immortality which allows Legba to possesses the individual’s soul. He then commands them to perform any acts he desires which includes a yearly sacrifice of innocent souls.
He has a variety of supernatural powers which include; immortality, transmutation, clairvoyance, pyrokinesis, telekinesis, granting and revoking immortality, the sovereignty of he’ll, soul collecting, the sovereignty of hell, cosmic awareness amongst others.
Although he appears antagonistic and sadistic, he is a fair and honest individual who explains clearly and honestly his terms before granting the request of people who consult him.
In the American Horror Story series, Queen is his temporary ally, Nan – a collected soul and right hand, Delphine LaLaurie, Fiona Goode, Michael Langdon, and Dinah Stevens are all his collected souls and servants.