Residence: Los Angeles, New York City
Date of Performance/Collection: 10 March 2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): French
The following is transcribed from a conversation between the interviewer and the informant.
Informant: My grandma showed this to me when I was younger, like 9 or 10. Whenever you feel like you’re stuck, or when there’s no way, you pray to Papa Legba, and he will make the way for you.
Interviewer: Can you describe who Papa Legba is?
Informant: Papa Legba is the lwa of crossroads. Lwa are the spirits that Haitians serve, they’re somewhere between humans and God, but praised higher than angels.
Interviewer: Can you describe the praying process?
Informant: You fill up a mug with water, then you call your spirit guides, like you pray. You then like spin around, start saluting all four directions, like east west north south. Because he’s the lwa of crossroads, he’s gonna listen to you and make the pathway himself.
Interviewer: Do you practice this prayer yourself?
Informant: Not really, because I don’t practice Voodoo. But I don’t think it’s invalid or has no truth to it, like, obviously praying to a higher being when you’re stuck will help you in some way, like it’ll help you clear your mind at least.
Background: My informant, a 20 year old USC student, is of Creole descent and comes from New York, home of a large Haitian community. Even though she doesn’t practice Voodoo, her grandmother was very much connected to the religion and exposed the informant to the culture from a very young age.
Context: The conversation took place at the informant’s apartment in Los Angeles, no other person was present during our talk.
My thoughts: The religion of Voodoo is often misunderstood and misrepresented in the Western media. It’s a practice that I wish to educate myself further on, and learning about this tradition was very helpful. I found particularly interesting how Voodoo has so many various deities and intricate rituals, all different depending on situations. For Papa Legba in particular, the prayer only requires one participant, which is why I think my informant knew a lot about it as it’s pretty easy to learn compared to other prayers.