Although to many Voodoo is known as the practice of black magic, in reality Voodoo, or traditionally known as “Vodoun”, is a belief system, a religion, a way of living. The practice of Vodoun as a religion was exported by African slaves to spread in Haiti, Cuba, Brazil, and New Orleans in America.
Fête du Vodoun
While Vodoun it is practiced among the Fon people along the West African coast in Togo, Benin and parts of southwest Nigeria, the undisputed capital of Vodoun is Ouidah, about 40 kilometers west of Cotonou the commercial capital of Benin. And today Vodoun enjoys a resurgence in its country of birth.
As a culture Vodoun beholds philosophy, language, art, dance, music and medicine. It has a hierarchy of deities and tribal spirits of nature and its followers consider magical practices and healing remedies to be divine. In reality it has very little do with the “Voodoo” we know from Hollywood films where it is identified with dark practices of witchcraft.
One followers of Vodoun says: “People can’t imagine the good that is Vodoun doing for he country. This is something respected and that we must adore. It is we, ourselves, who have lost our way by taking a different path.”
The religion was demonized by catholic missionaries and eventually banned. But an upturn in interest has led to more people being initiated. Vodoun was officially declared a religion in Benin in 1996 and the yearly Fête du Vodoun is a festival dedicated to this vast body of knowledge and practices—the biggest and most colorful festival in Benin giving us a view what hides under the veil of Voodo.
The amazingly beautiful pyramid straw costumes of the Vodoun are called Zangbeto. Zangbeto means guardians of the night, "Men of the night" or “Night-watchmen" in the local Gun language.
The Zangbeto costumes are made from an intricate mass of tiny strands of hay, raffia or other threadlike materials, sometimes dyed in very colourful hues.
The Zangbetos are to be said, to be able to fall into a trance which (according to tradition) enables their bodies to be inhabited by spirits who possess special knowledge of the actions of people.