Ouidah Voodoo Affair

Ouidah, Benin

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.

Ouidah Scenario

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.

18 thoughts on “Ouidah Voodoo Affair

  1. […] Uncountable tonnes ha ha ha to mention just a few: almost being arrested on the border with Lebanon and visiting voodoo priest in Benin. […]

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  3. Alberto

    Thank you this interesting post. Also the country seems a lovely country to discover!
    Alberto recently posted…Ferrara balloons festivalMy Profile

  4. Dan Bonser

    Love the pictures and such, and such a wonderful story. I always love a travel post that gets into learning about a culture, and the religious sites, and how it all relates to one another. Especially nice since not many people regard Voodoo without the stigma it gets. Makes me want to travel there and see it myself!

    • Thank you very much Dan, I’m always glad to make people interested in seeing the world or places I have visited :)

  5. Warren

    Woah, sooo many snakes, that’s not exactly my cup of tee… but rather snakes than spiders! I love the first title picture, it’s so calm and ritual… Also your feet, haha ;-) Fantastic! What’s the story about ” the Tree of Return”?

    • Thanks a lot. The Tree of Forgetting is very interesting, they need to walk around it seven times to release their souls and minds from remembering their land of origin…in this case Africa.

  6. I would say it is frightening, it is just prejudice. I think You should visit to make your own mind :)
    My Travel Affairs recently posted…Guest Post: Escape to EgyptMy Profile

  7. Shalu Sharma

    The practice of Voodoo seems frightening. I have heard of Ouidah before but not been there. Must visit the place to get some idea of this voodoo practice.

  8. Dee

    Add me to the list of those who didn’t know Voodoo was an official religion in Benin.
    Actually I didn’t know anything whatsoever about Benin so a very useful post.

    • No worries Big D, I have never met anybody who has been in Benin neither, except myself lol Glad I can be helpful :)

  9. Tracy

    Nice post, love your travel blog. I have never seen a voodoo ritual ever, so thanks for sharing about that!

    • My Travel Affairs

      It was a first time for me as well! It was interesting indeed :)

  10. Audrey

    Wow! Really loving your blog!

    I really liked this post. I never knew that voodoo was actually a religion in parts of the world. I think it’s amazing you actually got to experience a voodoo ritual! I’ve always been fascinated with world religions. :)

    And your pictures are beautiful! I’m kinda jealous about getting to hold the snakes.

    • My Travel Affairs

      Yes, it was really interesting to learn about the voodoo and its rituals. I really think that Benin is really underrated country to travel in!
      As for the snake….well, I wasn’t scared but it was a bit repellent on the start…but later I have got used to the feel and had a great fun with playing with one :)

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