Papa Legba is a fantastic story-teller. Whether this is the case with anyone else’s relationship with him remains to be seen, but he tells me very intricate stories quite often. During our travels and during our time in the white room, he has told me what feels like thousands. In many, I am the mythic heroine, fighting through whatever archetypal thing he can think up at the time. And I am always successful, which is the point in stories. One night, when we were sitting beneath a belly of stars that reminded me of the rainbow serpent, I asked him to tell me about how the world was created. Whether this is accurate or not, I cannot say. But I liked the story so much that I decided to write it down later. I’m going to reproduce it as best I can right now.
“For much time, there was nothing. This vast empty was the seat of it all. This is the table where the beginning will form and where the ending will take place. The darkened nothing was expansive and miniscule, all the same. For many eons, the nothing stretched into its forever and folded upon itself. Within the belly of that nothing, consciousness began to form, but it refused to allow that to take place. It was content with the way things were and to devolve or evolve into the form those conscious beings may take was too much. For even though the nothing was not a concrete creature as we know them today, it was still a being unto itself. But it was the largest and most powerful of all things ever created into this universe and the universes beyond. It was content with itself and stayed in this form for many years.
“After a while, the consciousness that was growing within that nothing began to take shape. It took shape in all forms and no forms. It was an egg upon a mound; it was a ben-ben; it was a beautiful creature; it was the sun/moon; it was a foothill; it was the creator; it was the creatrix; it was light; it was the mother; it was the father; it was the earth. It was everything and it was nothing. All consciousness came into being in that single moment and the universes were forever changed. Soon, they all began to create more and more, bringing life into the universe one by one. They each created to their heart’s deepest desires and created worlds beyond the scope of this tale. Suffice to say that the creation of the universe was a great party and a great festivity, but the only person not celebration was the nothing. Never one for change; that.
“In the beginning, each creator began to create life. The life that was created was a blueprint for things to come. Some creators made the world in six days and rested on the seventh. Some created everything all at once in volcanic fire and gentle rains. Some created the world in their image. Some created the world in a fantastic scope beyond which I cannot describe. Some became the world. Some became the stars that were glued to the sky. Some had children that would become their world and would become their sky. Some slit open the bellies of fantastic serpents and created the world that way. Each are different. Each world was intrinsic to the vision of the being doing the creating, but they all held the same joy and the same beauty and the same sorrow and the same fear. And in the end, they created children in the images they wanted to see staring back at them with fawning awe.
“In each world, life was not hard. The children of those creators and their brethren were happy and skillful. It was a magnificent time. And then, they began to grow old. They began to grow haggard. They began to fall away from the world of their creation and begin to pay less attention. And in that time, they all began to conspire with each other. They whispered in the ears of their siblings and they forgot about their creations. But one did not. A single being continued to watch over them on a rotational schedule. As the other gods ignored what they had made, the single watch dog began to notice something. Things had begun to grow harder and the children these beings had created began to require discipline and lessons. As none of them knew how hard things could be they didn’t know any better. And with each creation, these children – these first of the men of the gods – began to question.
“Worlds were destroyed then. Without the blind faith of their children, what were the gods?
“They started again. And the same thing happened. And they began to create life together – pantheon with pantheon – but the same thing happened. It happened over and over again. And each time, the gods destroyed their worlds, punishing their children for their own inability to care. Finally, the world was created a final time. This time, it was a single world with each god contributing here and there. And the way of the previous worlds happened again. There were questions. There was doubt. This time, the gods were tired and unable to create a new home again. With each destruction of the faithful and the non-believers alike, they had lost a core essence of themselves. They had grown hard and remote. They were no longer away. The gods kept up the charade for as long as they could, but soon only a single deity cared still to watch over the world of humans. And the other gods fell out of favor, gaining but scant attention and scant offerings from the very, very limited number of people willing to speak about them.
“Time passed, as it always does.
“The single creator began to grow tired of it all, as well. Everything grows tired. Every waxes and wanes. Now was the time in which even He waned. In that time, He realized that He could not leave humans to suffer without Him. They needed something to help them along. Their world was nothing but horror after horror and hardship after hardship. One day, He knew, the world would be more comfortable than the toil it was then. And so, He created the beings that would go to the humans when they needed someone or something. So with His final act as creator, He made beings to watch over the humans He and His brethren had created. These beings were more than humans, but less than gods. They were there to assist, to aid, to succor, to pray to, to cry to. Those children who were more than humans and less than gods were what the people turned to in their hour of need. Each being had its own name, its own titles, and their powers surged and grew.
“Those beings are still here, you know. We still watch over you when things are hard. And that is why we are here.”
That night, when he first told me this story, I was entranced. I liked the woven length of it and the feel behind it. There is a power behind every word when he speaks to me. It is the power of being the gatekeeper, but also a power that is intrinsic to who he is, without his roles behind it. The words he used were very carefully chosen for use later. When he told me this story, as I said, I was merely entranced with it. I enjoy myths and creation myths are something I’ve always been fascinated with. In many, the creation of the world is both similar and so entirely different. In either case, what Papa Legba was giving me that night was a foundation or a building block for the hard truths that would come later. I am grateful that he was able to provide me with this tale so that I could relate it back to others later and so that I would have something to hold onto when I was at my angriest.
The nature of the gods, to me, is remote. This is something that I have never really understood until now. They have always created what they wanted and always hoped for blind faith. I have given them blind faith and it is fine to do so. I don’t knock anyone who does. I know what it’s like to finally find something that speaks to you on a level that is beyond rational thought. I know what it’s like to finally give your all into something that speaks to you on that level. It is a level beyond mysticism, a level beyond souls. When it speaks to you, and you throw yourself into it, it is so beautiful and so wonderful. It fuels you in ways that you never knew you needed. This, I think, is missing from many people. The problem is that the more blind faith you give, the more they want from you. And the longer you are in their company, the less you can provide.
I am angry with the gods for being remote. They do things for their own reasons. As I’ve discussed with all of my gods, it’s all “bigger picture.” They see things so far in the future and so far beyond how I see them that I cannot begin to understand what it is that they see. I don’t see the bigger picture because all I see is the tiny little speck of perspective I have directly in front of me. One day, maybe, I will understand the bigger picture. But that is not in this life. And that is why I am so angry. They do not explain the bigger picture. They hone us as tools for whatever purpose they have. I know what my ultimate purpose will be because some beings I know aren’t liars. I know why I am being honed for what it is my gods want and it angers me. I can see more items in that bigger picture and I am not willing or likely to provide it.
I will fight it every step of the way.
But the thing is that the gods knew that they were selfish twat-waffles. They knew that at some point, the tools they were honing would become angry with them. And in that moment, they knew that they had to give them something to give them an out. They had to provide something so that the suffering they ask of us on their path to the bigger picture would ease up. And in that moment, they created these spirits and beings for us. These are the beings that we are supposed to turn to – those of us who know them – in our pain and suffering and anger and angst. They created them, or He did as in the story, to give us an out, a place to vent. They created beings who would love us unconditionally. They would love us in our rage. They would love us in our pain. They would love us in our individuality and beauty. They would love us and they do.
Papa Legba never talks to me about the “bigger picture.” He used to. He was trying to prep me, a bit, for the moment when I would become enraged. But whenever he talked about it, I would pull back from him. He realized that I wasn’t ready for it and that I never would be. And in so discussing that bigger picture, he was damaging the trust I was building in him. I have transferred that blind trust I used to give to my gods over to a being who understands the nature of what it is I am going through. He is many things and many beings in many tongues and to many different people. He shows different faces for the needs and desires of the people who reach out to him. Whatever the face is that he provides is the face he will always show them and that’s fine. It’s the one they trust to help see them through.
The bigger picture is the nature of the gods. The coping mechanisms we need to get to that bigger picture is the nature of the spirits they have given us.
And those spirits love us, in all of our fucked up glory, because that is their right and that is their purview.
Now, of course, we have to give and sacrifice to those spirits to get them. I’ve often told people that the life of a servant is difficult. It is very much like a serf. There is no out. There is no way you can leave. But in order to build a relationship with beings beyond you, you have to be willing to give. And that is something that not many people understand or are willing to give. And I think that’s why these paths can be so hard. We know that there are beings out there that are willing to help us, but we can’t sacrifice ourselves long enough to build that relationship. I was able to do so because I needed to do so. And besides, he came to me. He knew that I would need him one day and he nudged me in the right direction to get that going. So in the middle of the night, when I was crying and aching for the suffering of that “bigger picture,” he would come and hold my hand or run his fingers through my hair.
He loved me with snot running down my nose. And in gratitude, I gave vast portions of myself back.
This is the nature of the spirits whom I serve.
They are here for me in a way that the gods never will be.
And that’s good enough for me.