Thresholds

By Eileen Moyer
University of Amsterdam (formerly University of Iowa)

Fon people, Benin shrine with offerings. Photo by Dana Rush. 

Among Fon, Ewe, and Minah peoples who inhabit the coastal religion of Benin, Togo, and Ghana, the spirit of Legba often guards the thresholds of houses, compounds, and villages. Legba acts as  a divine messenger between the human and the spirit worlds. Every Vodun ceremony begins with an offering to Legba, for only he can open the gateway to spiritual communication. He is also known as a trickster figure who presides at the intersection of knowledge, wreaking havoc among his followers for the sake of his own amusement when not properly appeased. These figures at a Legba shrine in Godomey (Benin) act as guardians to a Vodun compound, keeping a watchful eye over all who enter. Offerings of yam, acassa (fermented corn), veve (a mixture of palm oil, corn meal, and water), animal blood, and azan (palm fronds) are made to Legba at tedudu (the annual yam ceremony) both to thank Legba for his services and to ensure that his good will continues (Rush 1997: personal communication).