Meanwhile, we get another small clue as to another African spirit connected to Marie Laveau’s Voudou practice in one of the Louisiana Writers’ Project interviews of an ex-enslaved woman named Josephine McDuffy, born in 1853. She recounts hearing passersby on their way to a St. John’s Eve celebration and she tells her husband she wants to go join them. Despite his objections, she goes anyway. Along the way she meets up with a white woman from the neighborhood who asks her where she is going. “I’m going to see Marie Laveau,” Josephine says. “I’m going to see Papa Limba . . . Papa Limba [Labas] is supposed to be St. Peter” (Dillon 1940). This little reference tells us that syncretism was still functioning at that time as a cover for the African gods. Papa Limba, or Labas, is who we refer to as Papa Legba today; and St. Peter is the Catholic saint syncretized with him. Papa Legba is the gatekeeper to the spirit world and is represented by keys, among other things, while St. Peter holds the keys to the gates of heaven. Beyond this similarity, however, the two have little in common.
In New Orleans Voudou, syncretism manifests as Catholic icons representing African deities. The introduction of Catholic saints is a direct result of the implementation of the Louisiana Black Codes, which made the practice of any religion other than Catholicism illegal. Substituting images of Catholic saints that shared similar characteristics as the Voudou spirits allowed slaves to continue with their religions in a veiled manner. Over time, the saints became incorporated into New Orleans Voudou as separate entities unto themselves, not substitutions. In Louisiana, it was easy to blend Voudou and Catholicism because of the many similarities between the two traditions. Both believe in a Supreme Being along with lesser beings that act as intermediaries between people and God. Both include symbolic or actual rituals of sacrifice, and both use altars as focal points of devotion.