An Ethnic Ewe girl in her full traditional white vodoun dress and beads

An Ethnic Ewe girl in her full traditional white vodoun dress and beads

An Ethnic Ewe girl in her full traditional white vodoun dress and beads from Aneho at the Celebration of Ekpe Ekpe Voodoo Festival at Ouidah in Benin. Voodoo originated in the African kingdom of Dahomey (Fon, Ewe, Aja and Guen {Mina} people) as many as 6,000 years ago. The word "voodoo" comes from the Fon language, "Vudu" in which it means "sacred," "spirit" or "deity."
The Fon kingdom of Dahomey was located in what is now southern Benin, a region some anthropologists refer to as the "cradle of Voodoo." People also practice Voodoo in Togo, Ghana and other countries in northwestern Africa. Approximately 30 million people in Togo, Ghana and Benin practice Voodoo today [source: National Public Radio: Radio Expeditions]. Voodoo is also an official religion in Benin, where as many as 60 percent of the people are followers.
Since Voodoo is primarily an oral tradition, the names of gods, as well as the specifics of different rituals, can change in different regions or from generation to generation. However, African Voodoo has several consistent qualities no matter where people practice it. Along with the belief in multiple gods and spiritual possession, these include:
Veneration of ancestors
Rituals or objects used to convey magical protection
Animal sacrifices used to show respect for a god, to gain its favor or to give thanks
The use of fetishes, or objects meant to contain the essence or power of particular spirits
Ceremonial dances, which often involve elaborate costumes and masks
Ceremonial music and instruments, especially including drums
Divination using the interpretation of physical activities, like tossing seed hulls or pulling a stone of a certain color from a tree
The association of colors, foods, plants and other items with specific loa and the use of these items to pay tribute to the loa.
Some people associate Voodoo with evil, but many of its rituals, even those that include the sacrifice of live animals, focus on respect and peace. Its religious leaders become community leaders, providing guidance and settling disputes. Leaders also frequently provide medical care in the form of folk medicine. Priests, priestesses and other practitioners typically dedicate their work to helping and caring for others. Curses, witchcraft and spells designed to do harm fall instead into the category of bo. However, most anthropologists agree that Voodoo leaders have a working knowledge of bo, which is separate from Voodoo, believing that understanding how it works is necessary to fighting it. Sorcerers known as bokono, rather than Voodoo priests and priestesses, are said to control more sinister spells. In some cases, though, people act as both priests and botono, depending on the situation.
This African form of Voodoo is a precursor to the Voodoo practiced in Haiti and other parts of the Western hemisphere. The regions of Africa where Voodoo has thrived are also areas that were heavily trafficked during the slave trade. Slavery brought Voodoo to the Americas.
The list of reasons to employ and summon a voodoo (or Vodu or Vaudou) god is endless, but increasingly prominent among them is the search for cure and healing. The worshippers believe that
voodoo is their natural medicine’
Voodoo cure is of two kinds: healing and cleansing of an individual or an entire city. While healing could involve mineral, herbal and animal and spiritual rituals, cleansing on the other hand passes
through acknowledgement of a wrong deed and subsequent appeasement of the relevant(s) spirit (s) and the offended. To this point, and to mainstream voodoo healing practice into peace, stability and harmony, an NGO headed by one Prof Beatrice Aguessy, the Institute of Development and Endogenous Exchanges (IDEE) in 1998 led the officials of the city of Ouidah in Benin Republic on a 3km long trek and kneeling for forgiveness on the ‘Route de l’Esclave’ (Slave Route) and repentance from the sins committed against their brothers and sisters who were sold by the Chiefs of the city during the slave trade.

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