So much was wrong with this Papa Legba, it’s hard to find a place to start. First off, Lord of Hell? In Vodou, Hell, as depicted/explained/understood by Christianity, is not even a thing. The afterlife is not so cut and dry, and eternal reward or punishment is not really in the Vodou mindset. The spirits of the dead transition to the other world, but remain around to be venerated and even prayed to. The distinction between spirits of the dead and the loa is not always clear, and some loa appear to have originally been the souls of departed humans, particularly in the Guede family of loa. Just as incorrect and even more damaging is the overall presentation of Papa Legba. This character doesn’t even look like Papa Legba! His iconography is much more drawn from the likes of loa like Baron Samedi, chief of the Guede loa. It is Baron Samedi and his compatriots who like the dark clothes, the painted face, the skulls, the top hats and tuxedo jackets, and who have a penchant for less than savory behavior. (Sound familiar? Think Dr. Facilier, “the Shadowman”, from The Princess and the Frog—his whole look and ambiance was totally inspired by Baron Samedi.)
Like I mentioned before, Papa Legba is treated with great respect and affection; people revere him for his key position as gatekeeper as well as his overall wisdom and power. There are already plenty of loa with not-so-nice reputations within Vodou itself that the AHS writers could have picked from to create their villain; for starters, the aforementioned Baron Samedi. Even infamous Haitian dictator François “Papa Doc” Duvalier would draw inspiration from Baron Samedi in constructing his public persona. If the writers had wanted to stick with a crossroads motif, there’s even a dark aspect to Legba, an evil twin if you will: Kalfu, a dark, mysterious, and much feared figure. To take a divinity as cherished and revered as Papa Legba and build such an evil character around him is, frankly, inexcusable. I think the appropriate course of action would have been to use a character already considered bad news by the tradition itself, or even create an entirely new character. TV shows, after all, are works of fiction anyway.
from “Oh, My Pop Culture Vodou: Loa Misrepresentation in American Horror Story: Coven, or Will the Real Papa Legba Please Stand Up?”, originally posted March 2014. (via hoodoo-seed)