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D'you do Voodoo, Part 2
5pm on a dusty road in Grand Popo, Benin. A battered Chinese motorbike bumps towards me, driven by Gastone, the man who will take me to a voodoo ceremony. We drive out of the village as dusk turns to darkness.I’m sure my face is bleeding from bug strikes as we speed along, swerving pot holes at the last minute. We race along dusty tracks through candlelit villages where toddlers scream in terror as my white face flashes past.We wind through narrow alleys of thatched mud houses and arrive at a sandy enclosure. A group of middle aged men await. None return my smile. Gaston explains that I’m lucky. Tonight a man has come to take ‘the power’, which makes men immune to injury.He has a dispute with a neighbour and needs protection.We sit in a dark hut as the Hougan casts his spells, amid incantations from his adepts. After an hour we emerge. They see that I’m confused by what I’ve seen. The man with the dispute is handed an empty liquor bottle. He taps it on the floor twice, smashes it on his forehead , then bites into the broken glass. There’s no blood. He then places his bare feet on the broken glass and twists it into the dirt. Again no blood.He smiles, shakes my hand and leaves. He’s safe now- he has the power.I bid my farewells and we leave. I can’t explain what I’ve seen but am left wondering whether these people, with their rich oral traditions handed down across generations, have simply remembered skills and beliefs that our modern world has long since forgotten?
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