Togo

Today Togo has a Population 6.5 million with a median age 19 and is a big, typical African city with mixed influences and traditions.

One of the most interesting markets you will ever is the “Fetish Market” in Togo which caters to followers of Vodun, the parent tradition of what we call in the Americas Voodoo or Santeria. Here you will find all kinds of mostly animal fetishes believed to have magical qualities “guaranteed” to protect you from evil and resolve the problems in your life. For many of us this is strange and very different. It is a complicated system of spirits and other elements of divine essence that govern the Earth, a system, believe it or not, that is in some ways similar to the role of saints and angels in Roman Catholicism. And in Western Voodoo and Santeria this traditional Vodun and Roman Catholicism are often mixed together. In Vodun there is the idea that the spirits of the dead live side by side with the world of the living, and influence what happens in the world of the living.

These “jaguar” heads in the fetish market were drying in the sun – the painted “spots” were all the same size and drying as well. It’s not nice to fool “mother nature”, but with wild animals protected, what can you do?

In Vodun all creation is considered divine and contains divine power. So herbal remedies, oils, fetishes thought to have healing and spiritual powers and so you enter into a spirit world of blessings and curses. [“Blessings and curses” – very Old Testament if you will.] And you have Sorcerers and sorceresses who are believed to have power to call on spirits to bring misfortune and this is typical in many indigenous cultures . . . even with the Gnobe Bugle Indians who pick our coffee in Panama! So rather than being “weird” or strange, this is just “different” and has lots of connections to stuff we take for granted in other contexts. In Vodun animal sacrifice shows respect and thankfulness to the gods, which really shouldn’t seem that strange to us, especially when many of us are celebrating what . . . Passover! Which historically is what? The sacrifice of a lamb to celebrate God’s passing over and delivering his people while smiting down their oppressors.

Typically each family of spirits has its own female priesthood and the supreme “Mama”, or Queen Mothers are generally elderly women chosen by predecessors who not only supervise the religion but also markets and community events and ceremonies, kind of a Mother Superior. Traditionally Queen Mothers led prayer ceremonies for all women each morning to ensure the safe return of their men from hunting or war

In the afternoon I was able to join a tour group that went out to a rural village to watch part of a Vodun ceremony. We were met by the high priest of this particular group, welcomed and blessed and then saw a traditional type of Vodun ceremony.

Advertising in the fetish market: guaranteed to be better than Viagra!

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