2006.12.16: December 16, 2006: Headlines: COS - Benin: COS - Senegal: VooDoo: San Antonio Express: Senegal RPCV Karla Held writes: I had my 90-day tourist visa in hand and my Dakar-Cotonou plane ticket booked. My voodoo adventure (the locals prefer the term vodoun) in Benin had just begun

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Benin: Peace Corps Benin : The Peace Corps in Benin: 2006.12.16: December 16, 2006: Headlines: COS - Benin: COS - Senegal: VooDoo: San Antonio Express: Senegal RPCV Karla Held writes: I had my 90-day tourist visa in hand and my Dakar-Cotonou plane ticket booked. My voodoo adventure (the locals prefer the term vodoun) in Benin had just begun

By Admin1 (admin) (ppp-70-249-83-39.dsl.okcyok.swbell.net - 70.249.83.39) on Monday, March 05, 2007 - 9:45 am: Edit Post

Senegal RPCV Karla Held writes: I had my 90-day tourist visa in hand and my Dakar-Cotonou plane ticket booked. My voodoo adventure (the locals prefer the term vodoun) in Benin had just begun

Senegal RPCV Karla Held writes: I had my 90-day tourist visa in hand and my Dakar-Cotonou plane ticket booked. My voodoo adventure (the locals prefer the term vodoun) in Benin had just begun

Ouidah is a center of the Vodoun religion in Benin, and perhaps the world. In 1992 Ouidah held the first international festival, and by last year was drawing upward of 10,000 people, with visitors from Australia, Europe, the U.S., Haiti, and Brazil returning each year to attend the festival. The annual Festival of Vodoun on Jan. 10 has been declared a national holiday within the Republic of Benin. The festival is celebrated throughout the country.

Senegal RPCV Karla Held writes: I had my 90-day tourist visa in hand and my Dakar-Cotonou plane ticket booked. My voodoo adventure (the locals prefer the term vodoun) in Benin had just begun

Voodoo festival in West Africa celebrates ancestors with sacrifices, color and dancing

Web Posted: 12/16/2006 09:21 PM CST

Caption: A Vodounsi dances on one leg in front of the sacred forest in Ouidah, Benin, West Africa. Photo: Karla Held

OUIDAH, Benin, West Africa "Mmmm interesting," I thought when a fellow traveler informed me of the annual Voodoo Festival last January in Benin in West Africa. After revisiting people and places in Senegal, where I had served as a Peace Corps volunteer 10 years prior, I had my 90-day tourist visa in hand and my Dakar-Cotonou plane ticket booked. My voodoo adventure (the locals prefer the term vodoun) had just begun.

Eventually I found myself at the home of the chief of the Ganbada Sect in Ouidah. I'm led to a corner of the compound that serves as the temple.

Gin is poured on the fetishes, or objects with magical powers, while prayers are recited in the local language of Fon. Next comes chicken blood from chicken "sacrificed" seconds ago. Seeing my reaction, my newfound friend Andoch explains to me, through translation from the chief, that offerings are useful through their metaphysical properties to protect man in the world of the gods. Sacrifice is the fundamental condition to live in harmony with the voodoo deities. I'm soon told to take a bite of bitter cola nuts before passing them around to the other members of the covenant. Finally it's time for a bit of "Fa," or divination. I am told there is a snake in my ancestor's path guarding over me, and that my road is wide open. Not a bad start.

Although the practice of animism and vodoun date back hundreds of years when Benin was part of the kingdom of Dahomey, editor and folklorist Donald Cosentino suggested that the word vodoun first appeared in print during 1658 after the Portuguese established trading posts throughout the kingdom. Although vodoun was temporarily banned when Mathieu Kerekou led the country through a Marxist regime, the French recommended that Kerekou make constitutional changes. In 1989 a new constitution was drafted, Marxism was renounced and democracy restored. Vodoun was made an official religion in 1996.

Ouidah is a center of the Vodoun religion in Benin, and perhaps the world. In 1992 Ouidah held the first international festival, and by last year was drawing upward of 10,000 people, with visitors from Australia, Europe, the U.S., Haiti, and Brazil returning each year to attend the festival. The annual Festival of Vodoun on Jan. 10 has been declared a national holiday within the Republic of Benin. The festival is celebrated throughout the country.

It's a feast of color and dancing, a celebration of ancestors who are considered intermediaries to the spiritual worlds. A popular joke says that in Benin you will find that among the population there are 30 percent Christians, 20 percent Muslims and 100 percent Vodoun. So, for those looking for a truly unique way to spend the new year, few things are as strangely fascinating as the voodoo festival in Benin.
Karla Held has spent the better part of the last decade working and living abroad. Her experiences in West Africa included living in a hut for two years while serving in the Peace Corps in a Pulaar village in southern Senegal and more recently shooting for EPA (European PhotoPress Agency).

San Antonio Express-News publish date Dec. 17, 2006




Links to Related Topics (Tags):

Headlines: December, 2006; Peace Corps Benin; Directory of Benin RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Benin RPCVs; Peace Corps Senegal; Directory of Senegal RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Senegal RPCVs





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Story Source: San Antonio Express

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Benin; COS - Senegal; VooDoo

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