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Ouidah – festival du voodoo

Voodoo pope

The who is who of voodoo in Benin, the "pope" is the person with the green hat

The tranquility of Ouidah changes abruptly on the 10th of January when the town hosts Benin’s annual Voodoo-festival. The ceremony starts in the morning at the house of “the pope”, together with “the who is who of voodism” he leads the two-hour long procession through Oudiah.

The ever-increasing crowd chants, dances, plays instruments, all dressed for the occasion, lots of white or identical clothes worn by small groups.

There are quite a few stops where sacrifices are performed, a few goats and lots of chicken die that day by having their throats cut. Even more gin is used to please the many gods, poured onto chickens about to be killed, sprinkled on voodoo statuettes and drank as well.

Voodoo, boy possesed

Ouidah, voodoo festival, boy in trance

After the procession in the center of Oudiah, around noon, events move out of town, to the beach. Until sunset the large sandy area in front of the memorial Porte du Non Retour, at the end of the Route des Esclaves, becomes the site of serious dancing, singing, drumming, masks scaring spectators, more sacrifices or people becoming obsessed by the spirits. Those are quickly rushed away and covered with white cloths. Because elections are due soon in Benin, every politician running for office, high-ranking military and other celebrities did not miss the opportunity to be seen in the VIP stands.

Since Oudiah is easily assessable by a currently built motorway, many tour operators in West Africa plan their itinerary around the festival in Ouidah. After having seen exactly four tourists in the two weeks prior to the festival, the about 100 “foreigners” seemed like a huge crowd to me. Also expats living in Benin, Togo and Ghana arrive to see this unique the spectacle.

Voodoo, dancer

dancers at Voodoo festival


Voodoo, close up women

Procession through Oudiah


Voodoo, kids drinking

boys dressed for the occasion sharing a bottle of gin


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