After a long day of travel and sightseeing, at six o’clock in the evening we head out to a Voodoo ceremony. Three people to a scooter, Mare sits between two men on one scooter, and I on another. I have never felt such closeness, sandwiched between two men before. Mare probably enjoys this better than I. The half-hour ride bounces over bumps, powdered dust, rocks and ruts. No riders around here wear goggles, and despite us wearing sunglasses, our eyes burn and water. We have never been so filthy.
The following account comes from my interpretation of what Mare and I experience at a genuine ceremony. Voodoo is complex, and this information we get through our guide, Apollo, by asking questions that he has to ask the family member who invited us.
Each family hires a fetish priest, a Voodoonou, once every seven years. The reasons vary, and each Voodoonou has his area of specialty, but this seven year ceremony is mostly for the family’s good heath and fortune. If a family has had a good year, they may sacrifice a cow, but most sacrifice goats.
Voodoo followers worship the Python. A python will not bite you, but if you kill one, even accidentally, you will die. These beliefs, as all of these beliefs, help the people to stay in touch with their ancestors.
So, we sit in a circular row of chairs around a House of Python. We sit, stare, sit some more, in between Apollo and Abell. Apollo says that they will protect us. They seem nervous.
Abell tells Apollo (in native tongue) to tell Mare to “Slowly give your camera to Apollo. He might be able to sneak a couple of shots.”
Villagers, friends and relatives of this family, begin to arrive. The Chief of this tribe shows up, with his wife, dressed in bright garb with a yellow sash. People approach both of them and bow down to their knees. Then they bend over and kiss the dust on the ground, while the Chief claps his hands together a few times. People use this same greeting for the Chief’s wife, and the many dignitaries, such as holy fetish priests, priestesses, who are Voodooshis, that are on a lower tier than the high Voodoonou. All in all, between 750 and 1,000 people are here, mostly greeting each other.
I feel like I’m going to pass-out. Mare is exhausted as well. She whispers into my ear, “The things I do for you.”
We are getting delirious. I remember a silly video that a friend sent to me prior to this trip. In it, a white man is captured by an African tribe and has his feet tied together, while his arms are tied around a log across his back. The villagers chase him, as he tries to hop away. They catch him, kill him, and cook him.
I whisper to Mare, “If I see a white man hopping, I’m taking off!”
We get a case of the giggles and try to hide our inappropriate laughter. We are pretty conspicuous as it is, being the only white people here, at a sacred ceremony, and do not want to appear disrespectful. I’m reminded of my altar boy days, trying not to laugh during mass.
Darkness descends, and still we sit and stare straight ahead. We ask Apollo questions, for him to interpret from Abell. Here is a summary…Most of Voodoo is for goodness, but there also is a dark side. For instance, if you go to a Voodoonou and ask for someone to be killed, he will put you through a rigorous number of tasks first, such as bringing him a woman’s menstrual blood. Also, you will bring him the heart of a dead person, which you will need to dig up. Even Apollo believes that a Voodoonou, who specializes in this area, has the power to kill a person without physically seeing them.
Many people believe that Rastafarians derive from Prince Ra Sta, who is believed to be embodied with a living god. But here, in the birthplace of Voodoo, a much older story teaches that a couple, who cannot produce children, will approach a Voodoonou (specialist) for fertility. However, after they have a child, he is not permitted to cut his hair, or he will die. The family must trade again with the Voodoonou, in order for the child to get a haircut. No wonder I see only two Rastafarians with dreadlocks in all these countries thus far. Rasta’s are discriminated against here, even by the government, like a Voodoo Child.