Voodoo Day is the not-to-be-missed event each January 10th in Benin. More than a simple holiday, it is a genuine cultural festival which takes place in the city of Ouidah and spotlights folk dances, songs and of course, voodoo deities. The city of Ouidah today is recognized as the capital of Voodoo. Let me take you for a walk there, especially at the Kpasse sacred forest museum, you'll even get the chance to contemplate a reconstructed 3D statue. Buckle up, we're leaving immediately.
Well, here we are, the holy forest of Kpasse. What is this forest about and why is it sacred? Legend has it that back to the 14th century, the King Kpasse (founder of the city of Ouidah) had miraculously disappeared right where an iroko tree magically appeared. He would have morphed into this iroko which remains over and over again through the centuries. This tree would be able to grant wishes. It's common for people to come and make offerings, touch it with the left hand while making a wish.
But there's more, this forest is even more sacred as it has been a ritual site. You can sense this will happen again on January 10th. Formerly the forest was closed to the public, serving as an initiation and training place for the insiders. The youngest sorcerers learned from the oldest. Today, a small part of the forest is open to the public as a museum. People can find there some sculptures, symbolizing deities and other aspects of the Voodoo cult, full of history. I'm inviting you to view 7 of these sculptures :
1 - Ogoun (god of iron) :
Often represented by a pile of scrap metal, it's the god protector of all those who work with iron every day. It might protect as well as punish. When you make offerings to this god, it's forbidden to put alcohol in it, under penalty of having a severe accident. During ceremonies for other deities, people prepare a small offering to him as well, because, without the knife which is an iron instrument, sacrifices can't be made. This deity has two representations: male and female. The 3D model below is its female version (you can play with it, rotate it in all directions) :
2 - The fetish tree :
This tree was formerly considered as ordinary until the day some lumberjacks tried to cut it down. The tree fell for sure but immediately got back up by itself. Since then, no one has ever touched it again. It's said that a spirit inhabits this tree. It's represented by the following statue :
3 - Tolegba :
It's the protective deity of the nation; "To" means country. It embodies good and evil, respectively represented by geomancy signs and horns. It represents fertility as well. It is shown by its big erect phallus. Rumor has it infertile people can find satisfaction with this deity.
4 - Heviosso (god of thunder) :
This deity has got two representations as well: male and female. It's the god of thunder and justice. Whoever does evil might get struck down. The picture below is its female representation:
5 - The fetish priest :
It pays tribute to the fetish men. With the Fa (divinatory geomancy), it could consult the ancestors deities upon an act that will be taken and would be able to predict whether the fate is in support of this act. Otherwise, it might also see the danger coming, and know which actions are to be carried out to ensure the success of the act.
6 - Heviossossi (the voodoo priest) :
This is the one deity that the insiders ask approval from before any action (exit, initiation, ceremony, ...).
7 - Dan ayidohouedo (the rainbow) :
It's the symbol of continuity and wealth.
Today, Voodoo has several adepts all over the world. Due to colonization, it is worshiped in Brazil, Haiti and elsewhere, this cult would have as its only starting point the city of Ouidah. It is common to meet people coming from the four corners of the world to experience this event on its mother earth.
"... Christianity and Islam have several days of celebration to commemorate personalities or moments of their history. It's a question of fairness to give endogenous religions... at least one festive day." - Nicéphore Dieudonné Soglo
These are the words of Nicéphore Soglo, former President of the Republic of Benin (1991 - 1996) to whom Benin owes the existence of the feast of Voodoo.