Crossroads (culture)

Crossroads (culture)

A crossroads (the word rarely appears in singular) is a road junction, where two or more roads meet (there are three or more arms). "Crossroads" is also an alternate name for a hamlet located at such a junction. The term is often used metaphorically, as an abstraction of places or occasions where people meet.

In British English it is specifically defined as being where two roads cross each other (there are exactly 4 arms). Unlike the terms "road intersection" and "road junction", "crossroads" is used in a more figurative or poetic sense (similar to "fork in the road").


Another interpretation of the crossroad hinted at by some blues songs is that point at which a particular road is taken in life - similar to Robert Frost's "road not taken".

Originally the blues "Crossroads" was a literal right-angle crossing of two railroads - "where the Southern cross the Dog" - in Moorhead, Mississippi. The "Southern" was a line of the Southern Railway, sold to the Columbus and Greenville Railway in 1920, and the "Dog" was the "Yellow Dog", officially the Yazoo Delta Railroad, part of the Illinois Central Railroad system after 1897. This place is mentioned in a number of blues, including the recorded works of W. C. Handy and Bessie Smith.


In the folk magic of many cultures, the crossroads is a location "between the worlds" and, as such, a site where supernatural spirits can be contacted and paranormal events can take place. Symbolically, it can mean a locality where two realms touch and therefore represents liminality, a place literally "neither here nor there".

This is particularly pronounced in conjure, rootwork, and hoodoo, a form of African American magical spirituality. In conjure practice, it is said that in order to acquire facility at various manual and body skills, such as playing a musical instrument, throwing dice, or dancing, one may attend upon a crossroads a certain number of times, either at midnight or just before dawn,and one will meet a "black man," whom some call the Devil, who will bestow upon one the desired skills. Evidence of this practice can be found in 20th century blues songs, such as "Sold It to the Devil" by Black Spider Dumpling (John D. Twitty). Although many modern listeners believe that the premier song about soul-selling at a crossroads is "Crossroads Blues" by Robert Johnson, the song may be a description of standing at a cross roads and trying to "flag a ride" or hitch-hike; the sense of foreboding coming from the singer's apprehension of finding himself, a young black man in the 1920s deep south, alone after dark and at the mercy of passing motorists.Fact|date=November 2007 Others believe Robert Johnson sang this song in regards to the deal that was made with Legba in which Johnson exchanged his soul for his extraordinary guitar skills that seemed to appear suddenly. It should be noted, however that the idea of selling your soul for instrumental skills pre-dates the American South as several virtuoso classical musicians such as Paganini had stories told about selling their soul for music prowess (and that story may reference back to medieval troubadour doing something similar). The selling your soul for guitar power story has become a staple in both rock and metal guitarists.

In the Vodou tradition, Papa Legba is the lwa of crossroads.

Crossroads are very important both in Brazilian mythology (related to the headless mule, the devil, the Besta Fera and the Brazilian version of the werewolf) and religions (as the favourite place for the manifestation of "left-hand" entities such as Exus and where to place offerings to the Orishas).

There is also the now illegal tradition within England of burying criminals (particularly suicides) at crossroads. This may have been due to the crossroads marking the boundaries of the settlement coupled with a desire to bury those outside of the law outside the settlement, or that the many roads would confuse the dead. [] (See also Burial)

Symbolically, the crossroads can be used as a metaphor for the afterlife.

In Lore

Some professors refer to the crossroads as a turning point with an unpredictable outcome. In ancient literature some scripts have references to other dimensional worlds with their own crossroads. In these texts the crossroads seem to have four different endings, a golden age, nothing changed, apocalypse, and a bad event that varies with every different world.Fact|date=June 2007


In some Asian cultures further interpretations and traditions about what crossroads are diverge from the explanations given above.

See also

* Fork in the road (metaphor)
* Crossroads (disambiguation) (for other meanings of Crossroads)
* Crossroads village

External links

* [ What is the Crossroads? - The Blue Shoe Times]
* [ The Crossroads in Hoodoo] by catherine yronwode at
* [ A photo of "where the Southern cross the Dog"] at

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Crossroads Theatre — is a prize winning theatre located in New Brunswick, New Jersey and founded in 1978. It is the winner of the 1999 Regional Theatre Tony Award.[1] Contents 1 Mission 2 History 3 Legacy …   Wikipedia

  • Crossroads Cultural Center — is a non profit cultural organization established in New York in 2004 at the initiative of members of Communion and Liberation, the international movement in the Roman Catholic Church that was founded in Italy by Father Luigi Giussani. Crossroads …   Wikipedia

  • Crossroads (2002 film) — Crossroads Theatrical release poster Directed by Tamra Davis Produced by Dav …   Wikipedia

  • Crossroads Mall (Omaha) — Crossroads Mall Omaha The north wing of Crossroads Mall completed in 1988, now mostly vacant Location Omaha, Nebraska, United States Coordinates …   Wikipedia

  • Crossroads, Kansas City — The Crossroads (officially the Crossroads Arts District) is a historic neighborhood near Downtown Kansas City, Missouri. It is centered at approximately 19th Street and Baltimore Avenue, directly south of the downtown loop and north of Crown… …   Wikipedia

  • Crossroads of America — The Crossroads of America is a nickname given to the state of Indiana as it, and, more specifically, the city of Indianapolis is the hub for several major Interstate highways that criss cross the state, connecting Hoosiers to the rest of the… …   Wikipedia

  • Culture of the Southern United States — Modern definition The states in dark red are almost always included in modern day definitions of the South, while those in red are usually included. Those in dark red are also called the deep south. The striped states are sometimes/occasionally… …   Wikipedia

  • Culture of Quebec — The Culture of Quebec emerged over the last few hundred years, resulting from the shared history of the French speaking majority in Quebec. It is unique to the Western World; Quebec is the only region in North America with a French speaking… …   Wikipedia

  • Culture of Sindh — Part of a series on Sindhis Etymology · History Language · Culture · Diaspora · Sindhology Tribes · …   Wikipedia

  • Culture of Croatia — The culture of Croatia has roots in a long history: the Croatian people have been inhabiting the area for fourteen centuries, but there are important remnants of the earlier periods still preserved in the country. Part of a series on the Culture… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.