So why is that ? Loa's and Saints are elevated to those respective positions, according to way of life they led on earth, but they are two very different kind of spirits indeed. Well this is due to historical reasons, and also similarities Black people saw between their Lwa and Saints of Christianity they found when arrived to States.
But here is an excerpt from my recent Scribed publication that will illustrate this practice for You :
The first image shows St. Anthony often used to represent PaPa Legba in New Orleans Voodoo ( image source : http://www.sacredgrove.com/St_Anthony.gif ) , second picture shows Catholic image of Our Lady of Grace, an common representation of Androgynous king of white clooth Obatala ( Loa ) in New Orleans Voodoo ( found it in public domain and edited )
With the coming of enslaved black people to America, other than new “home” they were supposed to get also a New Religion, Christianity being that one. Their native believes and teachings were described as harmful and work of the De**l. So black people, in order to keep practicing, replaced the Images of their deities with Saints that were similar to them, so they could freely pray before a Saint’s image and same time petition some Loa. This Practice still remains and in New Orleans Voodoo it is very common to petition Loa, using Saints depictions as focus image/representation of them ( Loa ). It is commonly said by sociologist how Loa have been syncretized with Saints this way, yet from a Theological viewpoint. That statement is highly debatable, mostly due to different origin of the spirits.
Even under such, cruel and unfair treatment the Black folk managed to keep their believes and practices. Some Loa have almost same qualities as Saint Representing them, which according to Black people stands to show how Loas and Saint are not that different after all. In the end both were people that were powerful and virtuous by life, though virtue criteria may differ in places, between Christianity and Voodoo religions of course.
Not all Loa have Saint to represent, not to say camouflage their image lol , but ones of Seven African powers system certainly do, and here is the basic Saint-Loa correspondence list:
• PaPa Legba – St. Anthony , St. Michael the Archangel , St. Miguel Caballero
• Yemaya – Lady of Regla, Mary Star of the Sea
• Oya – Our Lady of Candelaria ( mostly Santeria ) and St. Teresa
• Ogun – St. George and sometimes Saint Anthony ( New Orleans Voodoo ) St. Peter ( Santeria and Palo )
• Chango – represented by image of St. Barbara, most often Greek Orthodox depiction , sometimes an image of St Jerome is also used as representation
• Obatala – Most often represented by Catholic depiction of Our Lady of Grace
• Oshun – Our Lady of Charity is a common depiction both in Santeria and New Orleans Voodoo
Another interesting Loa of Christian origin is Papa Lebat. I am adding this here simply to show how hard black people fought to maintain their believes, and how inventive they were while doing so. Also in a way it is one of many links of Christianity to Voodoo.
So the story goes that there was a Catholic Priest, in early 1900ies , named Father Jean Baptiste Lebat that tried to eradicate Voodoism in New Orleans. Even after many years of constant oppressions Voodooists managed to elevate this man to Loa status after his death. Voodoo people gave him the opposite function in the spiritual realm than his role in the physical realm. Instead of oppressor and squelcher of Spirit, he became the road opener and protector serving pretty much the same function as Papa Legba and is invoked before each ceremony, and is asked to clear the way, provide protection, and remove obstacles so that Voodooists may serve freely.
How cunning, wouldn’t ya’ say ?
Hope You liked my post , to read my whole publication on Creole Voodoo go here :
"Creole magick of Seven African Powers" by Shadow
Enjoy the weekend, Thank You for reading, and Blessings !