Voodoo ceremonies on the beach. The biggest voodoo market in the world. This you will find in Togo. But for centuries the religion has been associated with black magic used for evil purposes. Furthermore, based on animal and human sacrifices. However, is voodoo a force of good or evil?
I was walking on the beach in Lomé, talking to some strong little guys that were playing. Then I observed a group of people dressed in white having a voodoo ceremony. Naturally I was attracted to that and wanted to take a closer look. “Stay away. There are bad spirits” I was told by the locals. Though, I do not actually believe in voodoo, it scared me and I kept a distance.
However, I still wanted to learn more about this practice. And I started to search for the biggest voodoo market that is also located in the capital of Togo. At the Akodessewa Fetish Market the locals come to seek treatment for everything from a flu to removing the blackest of curses.
In this marked you will see different kinds of animal heads. Crocodiles, owls, monkeys, snakes, and dogs, for mention some. There is a unique recipe for every illness or need. Voodoo priests will bless and create fetishes and medicines, by cooking ground animal heads and herbs until it turns into a black powder. Thereafter, the healer cuts the chest or the back of the patient three times before rubbing the powder into the flesh.
For me this indicate a religion that centers around healing and herbalism. Rather than wielding power to damage the spirit and body, which voodoo often is associated with.
Furthermore, I learned that followers believe in a supreme God and spirits who link the human with the divine. For the believers, spirits exist in many things. In the earth, wind, thunder, giant baobab trees and pythons.
I experienced this when I was holding a python. Before getting the snake around my neck, I asked “Will it not bite me?”. And I got the simple answer: “No the python doesn’t bite. I was thinking: That’s weird. Maybe they took out the poison or something. However, later I understood that this belief that the snake do not bite was a part of their traditional voodoo religion. Furthermore, they believe that if you are about to kill a python, you will die.
Voodoo is for sure a fascinating religion. And I learned and understood much more of the religion than I did before going to Togo and Benin. That being said, the tourist industry in these two countries are not well developed. However, as you see there are still plenty of opportunities for independent travelers to get under the skin of this religion. As voodoo is the state religion in Togo and Benin, and the majority of the population describe Voodoo as their main religion it is not hard to find people that would like to explain more about this tradition.
That being said, I observed that some feared voodoo. While others do not see the religion as black magic, but a way to heal. What do you think, is voodoo a force of good or evil?