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.
Togo, West Africa.
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