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#1304: voodoo in benin (fwd)





Voodoo worshippers chase away the devil for
millennium

OUIDAH, Benin, Dec 8 (AFP) -

Wearing cowrie shell belts around their waist and necklaces, thousands
of voodoo
worshippers have invoked the spirits of their ancestors in this ancient
town in the
west African republic of Benin, to chase away the devil and usher peace
into the
third millennium.

In the streets of Ouidah, about 45 kilometres (25 miles) north-west of
the economic
capital Cotonou, voodoo followers carrying jars of purifying water are
chanting,
dancing and holding sacrifices to welcome the year 2000.

In this historic capital of voodoo, the Benin women from the Fon
community chant:
"With the power of our ancestors, no evil spirit, however powerful, can
resist us."

The women are carrying earthenware jars full of water with leaves
macerating
inside. "The water will purify whatever is dirty," says Hundjenukon who
was
standing in a crowd on Ouidah beach. "We are washing away everything
that is bad
with this water blessed by our ancestors."

Forming a circle on the beach, the worshippers dance to the beat of
talking drums,
chanting incantations before symbolically throwing the evil spirits into
the Bight of
Benin.

In the large brick-built house of voodoo high priest Daagbo Hunon Hunan,
libations
and sacrifices have been staged every night since the beginning of
November "to
neutralise the effects of the forces of evil" that the people have
accumulated during
the day.

The voodoo priesthood has brought forward the traditional season of
sacrifices,
dancing and trances by several weeks because of the millennium. The
season will
end on on January 10, date of the great annual voodoo feast, a paid
holiday in
Benin, which exported the religion to south America and the Caribbean.

"After consulting the oracles many times, the ancestors asked us not to
stay on the
sidelines of the millennium celebration and to stage ceremonies and
sacrifices
through the whole country before the end of the year," said Hounon
Hounan, a
70-year-old who walks with difficulty.

Hundreds of his followers have crowded into his compound and the rooms
of his
house are full of jujus (fetishes). In one corner there is the
sacrificial altar, a mound
of earth littered with kola nuts, palm oil mixed with flour and chicken
feathers,
encrusted with chicken's blood.

The high priest said that there were "very many evil spirits who will
cause trouble
and strife within the country if we fail to take the necessary steps."

Hounon Hounan said that most of the young people of Benin were "full of
evil
spirits."

"Everyone is out for himself," the high priest said before demanding a
fee of a
million CFA francs (about 1,700 dollars) for permission to photograph a
ceremony.






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