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Published: January 10th 2017
(image from google)
Before I write about today's festivities, I would like to apologise for the brevity of yesterday's. I had a minor contact lens incident and so didn't do as much as I usually would. I will be watching the rest of the full procession later in the week. And will write more about it at the weekend. Fête du Vodoun
is celebrated n Benin on 10th January. It is a national holiday that celebrates the country's Vodoun (voodoo) history. I have found a couple of videos from previous years showing different elements of the festival. It takes place all over the country, but especially in Ouidah, a coastal city. It's a relatively new festival, becoming a national holiday in 1996, but some of the traditions are ancient.
The evening before the festival starts, the Zangbeto dances. Men in costumes spin round as they are accompanied by quick drumming. The costumes are large and flare out as they spin. They are large and colourful.
On the 10th, the festival is opened by the Vodoun chief who sacrifices a goat to the python spirit at the Temple of Python. There is a 2 mile trek from the old slave auction block to the harbour led by the voodoonou ('voodoo pope') who stops at specific points for prayers along the way. There is singing, dancing, horse riding, magic displays, drumming and colourful masked Zangbeto (guardians of the night). Priests tear open the throats of live chicken with their teeth and drink the blood. People drink gin (my tippple for this evening) and wander round the tents that represent the various sects. Vodoun priests ask their gods to intervene on behalf of those who come to them. Women perform a sacrifice to the Mami Wata (Sea goddess) at the waterfront. They use herbs to cure the sick and sometimes ask for animals to sacrifice. Believers come to receive blessings from the Voodoo chief.
Voodoo is a part of everyday life in Benin, and is an official religion practiced by over 10 million people in the country. Vodoun was suppressed for many years during Matthew Kerekou's the Marxist, military rule that came to an end in 1991. When Kerekou was democratically elected, he acknowledged the spirits and declared the public holiday.
I have posted the links to the videos I watched. But a warning; there are images of ritual slaughters. Nothing has been censored.
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