Sunday, April 19, 2009

Voodoo Dolls

Togo and Benin are the voodoo centers of West Africa, originally called vodun meaning 'the hidden' or 'the mystery', from the Fon and Ewe of the Dahomey Kingdom.

For my second night in Togo I picked the border town Aneho, 2km west of the Benin border. The colonial capital till 1920 and a major slave trading point before that.

Voodoo is strong here, and the various components required by a practitioner to be found at the back of the Market; something I was determined to discover for myself.

Tuesday morning found me strolling around what is so reminiscent of a 'Pola' with vendors selling everything from fresh vegetables to rubber slippers from China.

Eventually I found myself at one corner and as expected, the wooden dolls, snake heads and monkey skulls so critical for the magic!

Voodoo got its current name in Haiti and Cuba when the religion brought by slaves from West Africa and mixed it with Catholicism. Originally known as Vodun it is for millions of Togolese and Beninese an ordinary part of every day life sans the dark side to it which has been what has been emphasized by Hollywood.

The practice conforms to the general pattern of West African religion, with one primary god Mawu surrounded by a host of lesser spirits ethnically tied to their followers and the part of the spirit world in habited by a persons ancestors.

Traditional priests or Juju men are consulted for their power to reach across the ether to consult with the gods and spirits involving a 'sacrifice' or gift of palm wine, gin or food such as eggs, chicken and goats. The grace of of the spirits is essential for protection and prosperity while some spirits can be called upon for darker deeds

Aneho is filled with dying buildings with faded paint, the remains of Colonial rule. A beautiful church offered a beautiful representation of the architecture from an era long gone.

PS:I'm probably too old for dolls, but I just had to get my own pair of voodoo ones!

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