Every once in a while Adam and I bump into a costumed character like this who is out and about. Usually we don’t take photos because it seems intrusive, but this time we were told—without asking—that we could pay for some photos, so we did. This type of costume is called an egoun. When we encountered this guy he was sitting at the bar giving out blessings (for a fee). A crowd of people holding twigs surrounded him and followed him around, and anyone who came too close was pushed away by a bodyguard who carried a fake rifle made of cement (and took pictures with his cell phone).
When these characters are out and about, they are not believed to be people in costumes, but channeled spirits. Egouns are fairly common around here, as are zangbetos, which look like haystacks.
January 10th is Vodun Festival here in Benin, and Adam and I were lucky to catch an exhibition of photos by Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou in Porto Novo in honor of the holiday. Check out his work if you’re interested in seeing more about the Vodun religion. Here is a link to an article about the artist.