#1 Voodoo Culture (Vudú)
Vodoun comes from the traditional language of Ewe and means spirit, idol or god. The term is used today equally as 2 separate concepts. On the one hand, it is one of the oldest religions in the world, from West Africa and linked to cosmotoglogy and the those Neolithic belief systems, for it is a large interest within the area of paleoanthropology. In this religion they believe in a supernatural entity which they call Mawu, associated with femininity and the moon, and at the same time connected to the god Lisa, masculine and associated with the sun. Especially practiced in Togo, Benin, Nigeria and Ghana, and specifically by ethic groups such as Ewe, Kanye, Mina and Fon.
They say that the word Vudu is also used to identify the fusing of religions they arose fro the traffic of slaves coming from that area, that in the Carribbean mixed with Christian religion as they felt obligated to convert and the beliefs of the Taínos (native habitants of the Carribbean) even though the result of such a mix is so much different than the original religion.
In the Carribbean, the francophone influence changed the name of Mawu to Bondye, A term that comes from, Bon Dieu (good god). And among the different types of voodoo, where it is most practiced is in Haiti, followed by Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Brazil (candomblé), Cuba (santeria) and New Orleans, USA. It was precisely in Haiti where its bad fame arose, since Napoleon’s army described the experience as “fight against a canabal rebel army with satanist practices.” An idea that later became infinitely known, encouraged and deformed by novels and movies.
That which is commonly associated with witchcraft, animal sacrifices and sometimes human sacrifices, strange languages and evil rituals…are typical topics. And the bad part about those topics is not that they aren’t true but that they are incomplete.
It is true that there exist Voodoo priests that are dedicated to to use the spirits to do bad, and they are called Bokor (witch). Nonetheless, black magic would not be as nearly as bad for Africans, since it obviously does not mean that black is evil, they would call it in any case red magic and there are few occasions which deal with it.
The majority of people from Togo and Benin believe that culture and specifically Voodoo is the best in their country. This is also a motive behind the reason you should visit these countries. Actually, during the festival in January there is a peek in tourism in the area. But during my visit in December I was lucky to assist in a ceremony without running into the touristic festival and without paying 100 euros per group.
The truth is that in Togo, Benin or Nigeria, voodoo forms a part of daily life, and at any moment and in any place,, a ceremony could be taking place. As always, it is enough to make friends with a local that will help us behave ourselves properly. (For example, hiring a local guide-friend like www.afriendinthecity.com).
In Ouidah (Benin) you can visit the temple of python snakes, where they will explain some details of some practices related to their religion, like for example animal sacrifices.
And in Porto Novo you can visit an ethological museum for free to see some of the masks they illustrate stories of those that pretend to educate society.