Vodun #1: Shrines

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Christianity and Vodun are the two predominant religions in our region (L’Ouémé). The most common denomination is probably Celestial Christianity, which combines aspects of both. Vodun is highly individualized and localized and people are pretty private about the details, so it’s hard to get much firsthand information. In short, practioners believe in several gods which are linked with the natural elements, and priests or priestesses associated with each of the gods can perform ceremonies to request help or give thanks. Shrines, offerings and charms are everywhere around here. Simple altars like this are the most common, usually located along the roadside near the entryway to a concession. (This picture also shows how dusty all the roadside vegetation got during the rainy season. Our area gets morning dew, so it wasn’t nearly as bad as some parts of the country where there is literally no moisture for months. But it’s still pretty striking!)

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This shrine is made of cement, painted, and roofed with corrugated metal, making it the most permanent and substantial structure I’ve seen so far. The fabric-covered mound smelled strongly of palm oil, which has a pretty pungent odor. The building visible in the background is a church.

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