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Market city.
Market city.
Voodoo markets.
Voodoo ceremony in full swing.

Voodoo

Wednesday, March 27, 2002
Keep an open mind and follow Sorrel as she unravels the ancient beliefs of voodoo.

Africa is the birthplace of humankind, so it stands to reason that it is home to the oldest cultures and religions on the planet.

Voodoo is one of those, and it began in West Africa — some say over 10,000 years ago — with the Yoruba people. From the 16th to 18th centuries, French and Spanish slave traders raided the Yoruba and transported them against their wishes to Caribbean islands as slaves to work on New World plantations. The conditions were so appalling, the only solace and relief they had was their religion, which even then had to be practiced in secrecy.

The mere mention of voodoo can still attract reactions of fear and intolerance, with images of dolls stuck with pins, human sacrifice and wandering zombies. In fact, voodooism is like other organised religions with beliefs, traditions and tools for personal worship. They say it is white magic for protection, definitely not black magic.

The supreme voodoo deity is Bon Dieu and there are hundreds of spirits called "Loa" controlling the nature, health, wealth and happiness of mortals. The serpent is predominant in the faith, and rituals include prayers, drumming, dancing, singing and animal sacrifice. In line with tradition, no animal can be killed and used as a fetish. Before being used for worship purposes, they must have died naturally.

Practices vary from area to area, but all require an offering to the spirits or gods, and such ingredients can only be found in a fetish market, and Lome's Marche des Feticheurs is Africa's largest. People travel from all over Africa to shop at the market, which is governed by a fetish priest. Not all ingredients are presented to the gods — many of them have special healing, protecting and invigorating powers for the individuals who purchase them.

Dancing is linked closely with voodoo worship and drums are the life and soul of every ceremony. In fact, drums are worshipped and are shown respect. They are sometimes played with such fierce passion, the worshippers go into a trance.

Ceremonies are usually held in the open, though some can be held secretly in huts. They usually take half a day, but some can last for weeks. Customs and techniques are closely guarded by the inner sanctum, but visitors are welcome to watch. Even as an outsider, the spectacle can create an adrenaline rush.

Location

Togo, West Africa.

Cost

TransAfrica has 17-day Africa Golden Kingdom tours, including accommodation, guide and most meals, for around $7300. Tours can be booked in Australia through The Classic Safari Company.
Qantas flies five times a week to Johannesburg, with connections to Accra. Return economy airfares start at $2325 from the east coast and Adelaide and $2054 from Perth, per person.
Please note prices are valid at time of transmission and to the best of our knowledge are inclusive of GST.

More information

The Classic Safari Company
156 Queen Street, Woollahra 2025
Ph: (02) 9327 0666/1300 130 218
www.classicsafaricompany.com.au
TransAfrica
BP265, Lome, Togo, West Africa
E-mail: transafr@café.tg
Qantas: Ph: 13 13 13
For a safe and healthy journey, talk to the travel doctor: 1300 658 844 or visit traveldoctor.com.au
Vaccinations: Yellow fever is mandatory, Tetanus/Diphtheria, Polio, Measles if under 30 and no previous booster, Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Meningitis. Long stay: Hepatitis B, Rabies, Tuberculosis. Malaria: High risk and medication recommended. Take plenty of sunscreen and DEET insect repellent. Permethrin impregnated bednets are advisable. Toothpaste is hard to find so take plenty. Drink lots of fluids and take water treatment tablets with you. It is wise to take a medical kit to treat any health problems quickly and effectively.

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