One has little (or no) idea of the power that resides in Africa; even most Africans in Africa seem oblivious to it. Benin and Togo are the Land of the Vodũ and I would be willing to give a 100% guarantee that if one ever deigned to visit, especially under the guidance of Erick Gbodossou, one would be maximally impacted, willingly or no. Gbodossou is a practicing physician born and raised in Benin – the epicenter of the old empire of Dahomey – who, however, lives and works just outside of Dakar, Senegal. Under the tutelage of his grandfather he was deeply instructed in the world system of the Vodũ and today can be considered an adept. The Vodũ are the spiritual Powers of the Fon and Ewe people of Benin and Togo of which there are 41 major ones. Their direct counterparts elsewhere in Africa are the neters of ancient Egypt, the rabs of the Senegalese Lebu, the abosom of the Akan of Ghana, the nommo of the Dogon of Mali, and the orishas of the Nigerian Yoruba. The destinies of the Universe and of humanity are directed by these Powers. The Supreme Being of the Vodũ pantheon is Mawu, the Goddess of the Ocean, usually linked with Lissa, considered either her son or her husband. Or both.
The place – Benin/Togo – is intense with spiritual power everywhere making one fairly vibrate every waking moment. The tour starts with attendance at the annual Vodũ Festival (January 10th of every year since 1993), a day-long parade of chiefs, priests, priestesses, dummers, and dancers representing Vodũ temples from around the country. Indescribable is what it is. One co-traveler from the Bahamas wanted to leave straight-away to go back to Nassau so he could tell his countrymen who celebrate Junkanoo twice a year where their celebration comes from, virtually intact. It is veritably a feast for the eyes and the senses. The next day the rounds of the Vodũ temples begin, starting with the Temple of the Pythons, dedicated to Danh, the Rainbow Serpent of the Heaven. One has the option of having one of the pythons draped around one’s neck. These pythons, 4-5 feet long, are entirely tame and non-venomous. They are not captives; when it is time to eat they slide out of the temple and into the bush in search of prey. When they find one and make a meal of it, they then slither right back into the temple. The group then enters the temple where 15-20 of them live and if one silently beckons them, they will come and slither across the feet. One gets to like it, unaccountably so if one has customarily found snakes repellant as most people do. I could have stayed longer; strange as it may seem it is like I could have had a dialogue with them. It was that kind of place. One comes away with a different idea about snakes, at least the non-venomous ones.