Although Voodoo is most often 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 and an amazing expression of philosophy, language, art, dance, music and medicine. The yearly Fête du Vodoun, a festival dedicated to this vast body of knowledge and practices—gives a display of the amazingly beautiful pyramid straw costumes Zangbeto and a view what hides under the veil of Voodo.
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.
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.
“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 of Vodoun was slowly demonized by catholic missionaries who arrived in Africa in the 17th century and eventually banned. But today, an upturn in interest has led to more people being initiated. Vodoun was again 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.
An especially noticeable feature of the Fête du Vodoun are 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.