Papa Loko, a primal root lwa, is the spirit of the very first Vodou priest (houngan), a master magician and healer. He is the presiding spirit of Vodou and is now also associated with ceremonial magic. Papa Loko is a ritual specialist and an authority on esoteric arts and history. He is the guardian of sacred sanctuaries and religious secrets; the lwa of vegetation and discipline. Botanicals including herbs and trees communicated directly to him, revealing their secrets and powers.

In Africa, Loko is perceived as an ancestor of the royal family. His veneration was limited to the priest-kings; he is not a spirit of the masses. Having arrived in Haiti with victims of the slave trade, however, Papa Loko evolved into a more generalized spirit, associated with religion, rather than royalty.

Loko is an ancient African name and has nothing to with the American slang word “loco” meaning crazy or insane, which entered common usage in the 19th century. Papa Loko is an extremely erudite, sane spirit who must always be treated with respect.

Papa Loko is a ritual specialist. He is not overly concerned with independent practitioners and is not usually their patron. However, he offers spiritual guidance to those considering or seeking formal initiation into Vodou and may be invoked as needed. He is also petitioned for healing and empowerment.

Papa Loko is syncretized to Saint Joseph and is feted on Joseph’s feast day. Like Joseph, Loko assumes the paternal role for those who may not literally be his children. Papa Loko travels in the company of Papa Legba.

Also known as:

Papa Loko; Papa Loco; Loko Atisou; King Loko


Dahomey (Benin)




19 March

Favored people:

Vodouistes; Papa Loko is especially sympathetic toward men




Ayizan may be his wife


Gold; yellow; white; sometimes red and white

Sacred creatures:

Butterfly; roosters, especially fighting cocks; snakes

Sacred tree:

Mapou (the Haitian revolution began under a Mapou tree during a Vodou ceremony at Bois Caiman)


White rum; white rice; white foods; healing herbs; efforts on behalf of the reforestation of Haiti (i.e. plant trees)

See Also:

  • Ayizan
  • Eshu Elegbara
  • Gran Bois
  • Legba
  • Xtabay

Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses– Written by Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.