Scores of Malawi vampire-hunting vigilantes arrested
Police in the southern African country have detained 140 people linked to mob attacks on people accused of being "bloodsucking vampires." Nine people have been killed after rumors of evil spirits spread.
Authorities in Malawi rounded up dozens of people linked to attacks on people they accused of being vampires. On Firday, Malawi police inspector general Lexon Kachama said further arrests were expected.
Authorities have imposed a nighttime curfew and say they are keen to ensure the mob attacks don't spread to other cities. The United Nations — which is involved in food aid and agricultural programs in the country — has pulled its workers out of some areas for safety reasons.
Police say thieves and robbers have taken advantage of the fear in some communities and have stepped up their harassment of local residents by mounting illegal roadblocks.
Voodoo public holiday
Benin's Voodoo Festival attracts followers of the traditional religion, tourists and people who are simply curious. Voodoo Day, January 10, was declared an annual public holiday by President Mathieu Kerekou in 1998.
Ouidah Voodoo Festival
The biggest of Benin's Voodoo festivals is held in Ouidah, the country's center of Voodoo worship, near the Point of No Return monument. The gate signfies the end of the old slave route, which runs through the city and has been proposed as UNESCO World Heritage site.
Walking on stilts along the beach
There is plenty to see along the Ouidah-Cotonou beach route during the Voodoo Festival. The emphasis is not just on religious rites or ceremonies but also on public festivities. For some local residents, this is one of the most important days of the year.
Every village has its own ceremony
Voodoo plays a key part in Benin's national life not only along the coast, but also in the interior as well. Small ceremonies are held in many villages, such as here in Kpetepa, near Abomey, which was once the capital of the former kingdom of Dahomey.
Voodoo: simply a part of everday life
Nobody knows exactly how many followers of Voodoo live in Benin. One official estimate put the figure at 1.2 million, but the true figure may be a lot higher, It is not unusual in Benin to claim to be a Christian while practicing Voodoo at the same time.
God of smallpox
Because Voodoo is so widespread, nobody is suprised by the numerous Voodoo altars found in most villages. This one is devoted to Zappata, God of Earth - and of smallpox.
Beer and spirits for the Gods
Altars on their own are not considered a sufficient sign of respect for the Gods. Ceremonies and offerings are also important. In order to placate the Gods, it is acceptable in Benin to bring them spirits, beer and cigarettes. Or perhaps a chicken or a goat. Every God has his own preferences.
Those who want to know what the future holds, can consult the Fa oracle. Not every question is permissible. You are not allowed to ask when you are going to die.
Keeping traditional medicine alive
But there is more to Voodoo than ceremonies or oracles. There is also a fund of knowledge of medicinal herbs, which includes a centuries-old treatment for malaria. Victor Adohounanon is seeking to preserve such knowledge.
Fetish markets appear to conform to the usual cliches about Voodoo and for visitors they are often taboo. But that doesn't apply to the market in Lome in neighboring Togo. Here you can find everything you need for Voodoo ceremonies, leopard skulls included.
A souvenir to take home
This is perhaps a better souvenir than a leopard's skull. It's supposed to bring you luck if you're in a long-term relationship and was probably made specially for tourists.
Voodoo and politics
Voodoo makes its influence felt in many walks of life, including politics. Daagbo Heounon, Ouidah's highest Voodoo representative, says all candidates ask for his blessing before elections. Asked whether he exerts political influence himself, he declined to comment.