Ouidah is notable for its historical and cultural heritage. It was one of the highlights of my trip. I always try to learn about the countries I travel. The best from locals. Ouidah was like a huge open-air Encyclopedia about slavery and voodoo. Amazing!
Benin is a very relaxed place. Everything can be sort out on the spot. And that is my style of travelling. It felt like home.
I arrived with my driver at the square between the Basilica and the Serpent Temple. A great example of a peaceful coexistence of all religions. Religious freedom and tolerance are a great aspect of exploring this country.
But back to the main subject. I approached a few men standing around a mobile drink stand. Got a drink. A few calls after I was set up with an English-speaking young man. Who promised to walk me around. To explain everything and show some hidden gems of the Ouidah. Great. While he was riding on his bike to meet me I had some time to admire the Basilica. And to explore the Serpent Temple.
The Temple of the Sacred Python is a very important place to visit in Ouidah. Especially if you wish to learn about voodoo, my goal for that day.
I have been told that locals call ‘Voodoo’ Vudun, Orisha or Yoruba religion. It restores the harmony between mankind and the universe through mineral, herbal, animal and spiritual rituals. Like every religion, voodoo has its main elements and structures.
I have learnt about the importance of prayers. Music and dancing. Animal sacrifice, bloodletting and spell work.
About the Pe, the Oum’phor, the Peristyle and the Poteau-mitan, but mainly about the role of sacred pythons, asens and trees. The trees in the yards of temples are called reposoirs and they serve as sanctuaries for the gods. The gods abide in them permanently. When you spot a big crowd around a tree in some village you can be sure it is a voodoo ceremony.
Do not miss the Sacred Forest of Kpasse Zoun. With its numerous metal sculptures of voodoo symbols and gods. One large Iroko Tree is believed to be King Kpasse, the founder of Ouidah.
Be respectful, and obey the rules of this place. Benin is the only country in the whole world which recognises voodoo as a state religion. Voodoo is such an integral part of the culture here that even Christians and Muslims respect some of the superstitions and traditions.
There is a big chance that when in Ouidah you will be able to observe big, frenetic, intriguing voodoo ceremonies being conducted around the city. I wanted to experience was a real voodoo ceremony held at the house of a voodoo priest.
I asked Ode, my guide, about it. He looked a bit surprised, explained to me that he was Christian and asked if I was serious about it. I said “yes” and he said that at the end of our trip they would take me to THE place. He made some calls. Talked in a language I didn’t understand. And it was arranged. Easy peasy, happy me.
I spent a big part of the day learning about the history of Benin, Ouidah and the slavery period. I started with the Ouidah Museum of History located in the Old Fort. Portuguese conducted their slave trade there.
I walked down the Slave Route and admired some vodun statues on the way. I visited Palace Chacha where the slave auctions were held. Zomai Cabin. The Memorial of Remembrance, also called the Wall of Laments.
Do not miss the Tree of Return or Forgetting. The Point of No Return is the end of the route. In close distance there is a Christian monument. A memorial to more than a million individuals who were boarded from the beaches of Ouidah onto slave ships. Between the 17th and 19th centuries, when the slave trade was in full swing.
The time had come for my visit to the voodoo priest. We returned to the Basilica square. It seems like the place to be ha ha ha We met with a half- albino African called Odion. He told me he was a voodoo believer and that he would take me to the right place.
My driver started the engine and we drove out the town. Took a little alley into a bush and after a few kilometers we reached the house of the vodun priest. There were many people around the house. Usually women with kids.
From what I understood it is always the woman who goes to consult the priest. The priest agreed to see me right after the woman who was there in the room. It took about 20 minutes, two chickens and some other rituals and he was free to see me.
After entering his room I could still see some chicken feathers and white powder lying around. He didn’t ask much. Only to focus. I gave him a small coin for the gods and he started performing a ritual known as ‘fa’, the ‘okpele ifa oracle’.
He told me I’m a very lucky person with not too many problems! Of course I’m the luckies person ever! He agreed to perform a ritual for me for the one which I wanted to solve.
He told me it would take 12 hours and must be done during the night. That I would have to come back the next morning. As I would have to take part in the last part of the ritual. I was very happy with such a turn of events because I didn’t really want to see a chicken being killed.
The next morning I came back to receive my talisman. And had tea with the priest. The perfect end of my Ouidah trip.