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Restorative Justice Voodoo Style

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Theo, the proprietor, joins us for breakfast. He speaks French, so our conversation is rather limited until Apollo shows up to translate. Meanwhile, we watch children cast their nets into the shallow lake, hoping to fill them with Tilapia.

            We jump into a taxi, en route to the town of Abomey. Passing through several villages, changing cars, we learn that Saturday marks a major market day. A good distance out into the countryside, we pass a small, mud-hut village, and Apollo makes the driver stop the car. He exits, while children come to our window and wave, shake hands with us, and giggle. The kids find us as fascinating as we find them.
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Apollo returns. “The elder men in the village are getting ready for a Voodoo ceremony. I’m trying to get permission from the Voodoonou for you to photograph them.”

The Voodoonou must consult the spirits. Eventually, we are granted permission.

Voodoo ceremonies have many purposes, and most seem similar to praying for good things to happen. This particular ceremony involves a member of the village, who had had something stolen from him. He consults the Voodoonou, and agrees to provide a goat, or it could be a chicken if he cannot afford a goat, for sacrifice.

After this ceremony, every villager is asked if they were the one who had stolen the item. If the person who steals the item denies doing it, he will die on the spot. The human skulls which anchor the fetish display give credence to this claim. Fetish priests can specialize in this power to cause death, but only after a long and complex, traditional ceremony. If the thief admits to stealing the item, he must restore it to the victim, along with an additional gift.

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I’m Innocent!

We are not permitted to watch this ceremony, but are privileged to be able to take a few photos.

As retired criminal justice professionals, Mare and I cannot help to correlate this concept of “Restorative Justice” to our profession. And we think of ourselves as pioneers of a new idea? This Voodoo origin predates all of us.

Apollo insists that prior to the introduction of Christianity, thievery was not an issue. We are not so sure about that claim, but it’s an interesting comment .

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Ma Mitchell #

    mama mia

    November 12, 2009
  2. Do you have a way of adding me to a list to notify of new entries? Very interesting I think we could use a little of this kind of justice here.

    November 25, 2009
    • Hi Tammy,

      I have no list…lucky to recently learn how to reply to messages. Still a learning amateur. But yes, the food was good, fun to eat with your hands. Men dressed in 3-piece suits do it, and I can´t figure out how they do not splash themselves. I get the stuff all over me, and those near to me.

      Peace and Love,


      November 26, 2009

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