Benin voodooists ready to welcome pope

2011-11-17 14:06

kalahari.com

Ouidah - The old man in a worn tunic stands in the voodoo temple across from the Roman Catholic basilica that will welcome the pope this week and caresses the python draped over his shoulder.

"We are ready to receive the pope," he had said a few minutes earlier before haltingly walking with the help of a cane into the Temple of Pythons, a centre of voodoo in a city considered its heartland.

Pope Benedict XVI makes his second visit to Africa as pontiff when he arrives in Benin on Friday, and he will meet a situation where Catholic and traditional beliefs exist side-by-side and often mix.

It is particularly the case in Ouidah, a city heavy with symbolism which had been a major West African slave port and where missionaries arrived 150 years ago.

Benedict will visit the basilica on Saturday and formally sign an apostolic exhortation entitled "The Pledge for Africa".

He will also meet traditional religious leaders, including voodoo chiefs, in Benin's commercial capital Cotonou during the three-day trip.

For many Benin residents, there is nothing unusual about mixing Catholic and traditional beliefs, though tensions can occasionally arise. It is believed that most of Benin's nine million citizens are animists of some kind.

The Temple of Pythons is situated outdoors, though it is hidden behind walls, with a sacred jar used to "purify" the city, plants and trees throughout and a stack of iron representing the god Ogou.

Beliefs


And, of course, pythons. It houses some 30 snakes between 1m and a 1.5m in length, and they hold particular significance, with the python god Dangbe worshipped in the region.

The deities recognised in voodoo - also spelled vodun - would seem to conflict with Christian beliefs, but many in Benin see it differently.

"There are not two Gods," said Agbotabatoh Dah Deh, the old man with the python who helps take care of the voodoo temple.

"The God who is here is also over there," he said, referring to the basilica.

Examples of those who mix their beliefs are not difficult to find.

Magloire Fadjikpe, a former army chief warrant officer, throws water or oil on his fetish representing Ogou - the god of iron - each time he has to drive somewhere. He says Ogou protects him from danger.

But Fadjikpe also says his Catholic prayers each morning and night, while attending mass on Sundays.

"We have mixed up" voodoo and Catholicism, he said.

"We worship the same God. The priests always tell us that we cannot do both at the same time. They forget that we had worshipped voodoo before the missionaries arrived."

Not everyone is convinced, however. Severin Adantonon, an official with a Catholic group in Ouidah, says those who dabble in both Catholicism and voodoo must definitively choose Jesus.

Deliverance prayers


"But leaving that environment behind is difficult," he said, adding that most people were raised according to traditional beliefs. "It means saying no to their parents."

Adantonon's group, which falls under the so-called charismatic movement, organises "deliverance prayers" to rid sinners of their voodoo beliefs. He admits that voodoo practitioners sometimes object to his group's efforts.

"There is no lack of hostility," said Adantonon. "We are told that the Catholic faith is an imported religion."

Roger Gbegnonvi, a prominent member of a civil society group in Benin, says that the religions manage to co-exist peacefully in the city.

He has no link to voodoo - and that makes him unusual in Ouidah, he said.

"Me who was already Catholic in my mother's womb," said Gbegnonvi. "For 99% of the residents, I seem a bit bizarre."

Read more on:    roman catholic  |  voodoo  |  pope benedict xvi  |  benin  |  religion  |  west africa
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
8 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Wednesday Langa - 08:02 AM
    Road name: N7 Vanguard Drive Northbound
    DELAYS between Turf Hall Road and Jakkalsvlei Avenue
  • Wednesday Bellville - 07:59 AM
    Road name: N1 Outbound
    DELAYS approaching the Durban Road exit
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

APARTMENTS / FLATS FOR SALE IN Hermanus

Apartments / Flats R 1 825 000

HOUSES FOR SALE IN Somerset West

Houses R 6 750 000

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as kalahari.com’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Samsung Galaxy Note 16GB

GALAXY Note combines the market's largest HD Super AMOLED display,...

From R3899.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may find yourself fascinated by something which could draw you in to obsessively exploring this subject in depth....read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.