In the mysterious heartland of Voodoo
Voodoo or Vodun is a collective term for the African Traditional Religions of Coastal West Africa from Ghana to Nigeria. Vodun recognizes one god — an androgynous being called Mawu or Nana Buluku — with many helpers called Orishas. In one tradition, Mawu is believed to have engendered seven children, each of whom reigns over a realm of nature. All creation is deemed divine, which might explain the use of fetishes or voodoo talismans in the form of dried animal parts or statues.
Ouidah in Benin is believed to be the heartland of Voodoo, and is thought to be the spiritual birthplace of Voodoo or Vodun as it known in Benin. Shrouded in mystery and often misunderstood, Voodoo was acknowledged as an official religion in Benin in 1989, and is increasing in popularity with around 17 percent of the population following it. A week of activity centred around the worship of Voodoo culminates on the 10th of January when people from across Benin as well as Togo and Nigeria decend on the town for the annual Voodoo festival.
These pictures represent a Voodoo celebration in January 2012. Photos: Getty Images