On January 11 every year, Benin celebrates its Voodoo Festival. One of the best places to observe the festival is in Ouidah, a town an hour’s drive from Cotonou. CNN has called this festival one of Africa’s top five festivals not to be missed. Festivities begin two days before the main festival. There are private celebrations happening in and around town and MTT seeks permission for any of its travelers to attend them.
Voodoo originated in Haiti during French colonial times, but its foundations are the tribal religions of West Africa which incorporated ancestor worship, singing, dancing, drumming, and spirit possession.
These ancient beliefs were brought to Haiti by slaves in the seventeenth century who were captured mainly from the Dahomey Kingdom. The word ‘voodoo’ derives from the word ‘vodu’ in the Dahomey language of Fon and means “spirit.” In Haiti, the slaves created a new religion which combined West African beliefs with Haiti’s indigenous beliefs and it is this colorful melange of ritualistic spectacles that they brought back to Africa and which forms the core of voodoo today.