Thursday, September 20, 2012

EKPE EKPE VOODOO FESTIVAL (ROOTS OF VOODOO IN AFRICA AND THE WORLD)




African Voodoo

Voodoo originated in the African kingdoms of Fon and Kongo as many as 6,000 years ago. The word "voodoo" comes from the Fon language, in which it means "sacred," "spirit" or "deity." Other words used in Voodoo today also come from the Fon and Kongo languages. For example, a Voodoo priestess is often referred to as a mambo or manbo. This is a combination of the Fon word for "mother" or "magical charm" and the Kongo word for "healer.

                            Les Festivals Des Divinites Noires (Togo)
The Fon kingdom was located in what is now southern Benin, a region some anthropologists refer to as the "cradle of Voodoo." People also practice Voodoo in Togo, Ghana and other countries in northwestern Africa. Approximately 30 million people in Togo, Ghana and Benin practice Voodoo today [source: National Public Radio: Radio Expeditions]. Voodoo is also an official religion in Benin, where as many as 60 percent of the people are followers [Source: BBC].
                                         Voodoo shrine
Since Voodoo is primarily an oral tradition, the names of gods, as well as the specifics of different rituals, can change in different regions or from generation to generation. However, African Voodoo has several consistent qualities no matter where people practice it. Along with the belief in multiple gods and spiritual possession, these include:
                                         voodoo Priest
  • Veneration of ancestors
  • Rituals or objects used to convey magical protection
  • Animal sacrifices used to show respect for a god, to gain its favor or to give thanks
  • The use of fetishes, or objects meant to contain the essence or power of particular spirits
  • Ceremonial dances, which often involve elaborate costumes and masks
  • Ceremonial music and instruments, especially including drums
  • Divination using the interpretation of physical activities, like tossing seed hulls or pulling a stone of a certain color from a tree
  • The association of colors, foods, plants and other items with specific loa and the use of these items to pay tribute to the loa


                             Vodoun priest dancing in Benin


Many of these traits, particularly ancestor worship, polytheism, and the importance of music and dance, are also important in other African religions. So, in practice, Voodoo looks a lot like other traditional African religions. Many observances appear to be part celebration, part religious service incorporating rhythmic music, dancing and songs. Many rituals take advantage of the natural landscape, such as rivers, mountains or trees. Through decoration and consecration, ordinary objects, like pots, bottles or parts of slaughtered animals, become sacred objects for use in rituals.
In parts of Africa, people who want to become spiritual leaders in the Voodoo community can enter religious centers, which are much like convents or monasteries. In some communities, initiates symbolically die, spending three days and nights in complete seclusion before being returned to the outside world. Initiates learn the rituals, colors, foods and objects associated with different deities, as well as how to communicate with the loa. The spirits have different personalities and different requirements of their followers, much like the gods in Greek and Roman myths.
            


                 Assisi, 1986 - Pope John Paul II greets an African voodoo "priest." 

Some people associate Voodoo with evil, but many of its rituals, even those that include the sacrifice of live animals, focus on respect and peace. Its religious leaders become community leaders, providing guidance and settling disputes. Leaders also frequently provide medical care in the form of folk medicine. Priests, priestesses and other practitioners typically dedicate their work to helping and caring for others. Curses, witchcraft and spells designed to do harm fall instead into the category of bo. However, most anthropologists agree that Voodoo leaders have a working knowledge of bo, which is separate from Voodoo, believing that understanding how it works is necessary to fighting it. Sorcerers known as botono, rather than Voodoo priests and priestesses, are said to control more sinister spells. In some cases, though, people act as both priests and botono, depending on the situation.
                      Voodoo shrine houses in Aneho, Togo
This African form of Voodoo is a precursor to the Voodoo practiced in Haiti and other parts of the Western hemisphere. The regions of Africa where Voodoo has thrived are also areas that were heavily trafficked during the slave trade. Slavery brought Voodoo to the Americas. 


                                VOODOO FESTIVAL DES DIVINITES NOIRE

VOODOO RENAISSANCE AND EKPE EKPE FESTIVAL


                                Voodoo practitioners at Ekpe Ekpe Festival
The list of reasons to employ and summon a voodoo (or Vodu or Vaudou) god is endless, but
increasingly prominent among them is the search for cure and healing. The worshippers believe that
voodoo is their natural medicine’

.
Voodoo cure is of two kinds: healing and cleansing of an individual or an entire city. While healing
could involve mineral, herbal and animal and spiritual rituals, cleansing on the other hand passes
through acknowledgement of a wrong deed and subsequent appeasement of the relevant(s) spirit (s)
and the offended. To this point, and to mainstream voodoo healing practice into peace, stability and
harmony, an NGO headed by one Prof Beatrice Aguessy, the Institute of Development and
Endogenous Exchanges (IDEE) in 1998 led the officials of the city of Ouidah in Benin Republic on a
3km long trek and kneeling for forgiveness on the ‘Route de l’Esclave’ (Slave Route) and repentance
from the sins committed against their brothers and sisters who were sold by the Chiefs of the city
during the slave trade.

The process of cleansing was immortalised by a set of monuments to which the stability and social
progress ever since obtainable in the land are attributed. The cleansing is thus replicated every third
Sunday of the month of January.
                      Voodoo practitioners from Ghana on foot to Glidji in Lome


                                 On  the way to Glidji


Cities are increasingly becoming voodoo fiefdoms. In the neighbouring capital Lome, Togo, a
renowned market serves as the regional voodoo medicine market where merchants sell basics of life;
all kinds of materials are purchased for rituals, protection and cure from all kinds diseases. About
30 miles from Lome is another city called Glidji where the Ewe tribes, particularly the Guen, gather
every year for the Ekpe Ekpe or Kpesoso Festival in which the priest is to seek, find and show to the
gathered crowd the Ekpe (sacred Stone) picked from a walled sacred forest of the city. The features
of the Ekpe is the colour and inscriptions thereon which are a set to be unveiled by the priest. The
2011 Ekpe is white and portends happiness, health and accident-free year. The health implication is
that difficult diseases will be cured that year, and that the adherent will survive challenging and
risky modern surgery. If the Ekpe portends otherwise, people would be found resisting surgery,
orthopaedic services for fear of amputation and other life saving treatments. Patient behaviour will
be completely strange to health service providers who are not part of or do not understand voodoo
society.
                 Voodoo followers from the Guen tribe gather for their annual Epe Ekpe ..
Voodoo easily syncretised with the orthodox faiths and those believers intrinsically think and act
first as a member of voodoo society. Therefore health choice and behaviour of millions of people are
being shaped by Ekpe or other divinities. Health awareness and education has to take into
consideration these peculiar realities of the people.Many other festivals across West Africa celebrate new yam, new grains in which food is dedicated to
voodoo first and foremost before humans begin consumption. This is believed to guarantee good
health, cleansing from diseases related to nutrition, and plenty harvest the year to come.
                                          sacred stone


                                crowd around the sacred stone
Although voodoo is deep seated and rooted in these societies, the recrudescence in voodoo can be
also explained by objective circumstances of life such as the declining living standard, poverty,
ineffective and incompatible modern health delivery system.
                                            voodoo priest



A goat is sacrificed during the Epe Ekpe ceremony, in Aneho, Togo. Epe Ekpe marks Voodoo New Year in Togo. During the ceremony, Voodoo priests look for a stone in the sacred forest; depending on the color of the stone, a prophecy for the New Year is made.

Patronage for religious and wonder cure will continue to be on the increase as long as the orthodox
and modern health delivery remain underdeveloped and inefficient. And this is likely to be so for the
many decades to come, as indeed, there is no trustworthy revolutionary modern health development
plan in the horizon.
-Paul Yao Ahiave
              mami wata worshipping voodoo woman in trance

                                                          voodoo ceremony mask egungun


                               mami wata voodoo women dance during the epe ekpe ceremony , in aneho , togo . epe ekpe marks voodoo new year in togo . during the ceremony , voodoo priests look for a stone in the sacred forest ; depending on the color of the stone , a prophecy for the new year is made . voodoo is a very complicated religion ; often not understood fully by westerners . it is estimated that voodoo is about 4000 years old . voodoos cradle in west africa is benin and togo 


                                  vodussi


     African albino woman during Ekpe Ekpe Voodoo festival in Aneho


Young adepts of Voodoo sleep after a long ceremony, in Aneho, Togo, on Thursday. It takes years of initialization to become Voodoo priest, so it is necessary to start this process at very young age. Voodoo is a very complicated religion; often not understood by westerners. It is estimated that Voodoo is about 4000 years old. Voodoos' cradle in West Africa is Benin and Togo...September 2006..MORE PICTURES AVILABLE ON REQUEST
Young adepts of Voodoo sleep after a long ceremony, in Aneho, Togo, on Thursday. It takes years of initialization to become Voodoo priest, so it is necessary to start this process at very young age. Voodoo is a very complicated religion; often not understood by westerners. It is estimated that Voodoo is about 4000 years old. Voodoos' cradle in West Africa is Benin and Togo.


A priest from the Togolese Guen tribe blesses voodoo followers with holy water


                                         Voodoo folllower carrying his vudu (gods)

         In Lomé in Togo (West Africa) is a market that is not your usually fruits and vegetable stalls. They sell elephants’ feet, the heads of leopards, hands of chimpanzees, hearts of a horse, and any other animal part you may or may not imagine. These items are not bound for the cooking pot; these are objects of traditional medicine. Ground up and drunk, swallowed or rubbed on the skin, they are said to cure a multitude of illnesses. Traditional voodoo priests and medicine men will administer the potions. The animal parts come from all over West Africa, and so do the customers.             

        Voodoo follower being cleansed by a vodussi with holy water



               snake in a snake shrine, Quida Benin

              Kpasse s Sacred Forest (Quida,Benin)

     mami wata voodoo priest baptizes women with a fluid made of sodabe alcohol and herbs , a ceremony that secures fertility , in aneho , togo epe ekpe marks voodoo new year in togo during the ceremony , voodoo priests look for a stone in the sacred forest ; depending on the color of the stone , a prophecy for the new year is made 



                       Voodoo priest mami wata portrait, Aneho, Togo 
















Africa | Voodoo festival 2012, Ouidah, Benin | © Luca Gargano.



























   A goat is sacrificed during the Epe Ekpe ceremony, in Aneho, Togo.


Voodoo dancer in Sacred Forest Togo


                                        Tourist visitors worshipping at voodoo shrine


                   Villagers performing a voodoo ritual dance in Togo. Picture: Getty Images













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