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January 11, 2007

National Voodoo Day in Benin

Last year you may recall that I went to Dortmund to see Switzerland versus Togo in the World Cup, which meant I did a fair bit of research about the African country. Well, I looked it up on Wikipedia and the BBC News site anyway, which as I understand it passes for primary research for most people these days.

Anyway, in the course of it, I discovered that a lot of Togolese had fled to neighbouring Benin as refugees in 2005, and so, upon finding out more about Benin, I discovered that it celebrates National Voodoo day on January 10th each year. Although some of the population of Benin is Islamic and some Christian, the majority of the people follow indigenous animist beliefs, including voodoo. The country is thought to be the cradle of the religion, and the voodoo in the Americas got there when the belief was exported along with slaves from the region.

The religion is called Vodun in the region, and was formerly banned. One BBC observer at the event last year, James Copnall, wrote:

"There is little resembling the popular Western imagination on show - no dolls with pins stuck in them and certainly no zombie-like creatures lumbering around. Instead there were speeches praising the religion, emphasising the positive impact it has on people's lives."

I think they take it all a bit more seriously than the "Practical Voodoo" sketch from That Mitchell & Webb Sound (Download clip | Buy CD)

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