10 March, 2009

Papa Legba, Guardian of the Crossroads—And Our Threshold

I think our previous owner—or perhaps it was the previous-previous owner—only bought paint if it was on sale. The only colors we have at The Box House are white, battleship gray, a pukey tan, and baby-diarrhea yellow, which is a particularly vile shade of mustard that fills our stairwell. They had to be on sale, there's no way anyone would have picked these colors on purpose.

Unfortunately, we won't be rehabbing the stairwell anytime soon. It falls pretty far down on the list of jobs. There are bulges in the plaster and dings to the wood that we're just going to have to live with for the time being. BUT, I really can't stand this mustard color. For now, I can at least slap a coat of venetian plaster over it to soften the look. The mustard is a high-gloss paint to boot, so I had to prime it first. I'm partway done.

Here it is before:

Honestly, it looks much worse, sort of grim and dark, in person. Trust me. The flash of the camera lightened it up quite a bit. This is a view I took from the front door looking up toward the door of our unit, which is open. That's Maggie and Seamus sneaking out because they think I'm not paying attention. The Madonna and Child? That was done by my grandfather. I LOVE this painting. I'll have to blog his artwork sometime.

Here's part of the wall I plastered:

The view is from our unit door, looking down toward the front door. Don't believe Mom and Ted when they say the plaster looks the same as the old paint. It certainly does not, thank you very much. The new color is warm and soft, like butter.

*Sheesh.* Okay, I'll take better pictures during the day sometime to prove it to you.

But what is that in the corner by the door?

Look closer (well, not too close, I really did just slap that plaster on as a temporary thing):

It's a veve, a mystic diagram, for Papa Legba. I used a copper paint pen and drew it freehand from a sketch I found online. In Haitian folklore and belief, crossroads and thresholds are dangerous places, a favorite haunt of evil spirits. Papa Legba is the protector of both roads/paths and barriers/partitions, so we placed the symbol there to protect our home from any evil that might wish to cross over the threshold. It works sort of the same way that haint blue paint on Southern porches keeps out evil. (Check out houseblogger Jenni's blog for a photo and the folklore behind her blue-ceilinged porch, and then wander on over to the Stucco House to see the amazing job they did with their porch.)

Ted and Mom have voted me down on using haint blue on our porch--instead we may try to strip it down and restain the ceiling--but I might be able to convince them to paint our door blue, like the Old Order Amish do in the community I used to live in. It is a well-known fact that a witch or a demon cannot cross a blue windowsill or threshold.

Anyway, for now, Papa Legba's veve will hopefully protect the house.

1 comment:

Lady Quilter said...

OK, you have my vote for a blue front door and lets get one of the protective signs at the back door as well. can't leave that one "wide open."