A forest full of voodoo deities

1043 Reviews

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Things to do


Date of travel

January, 2024

Product name

The Sacred Forest

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The Sacred Forest or Forest of Kpassè is located on the outskirts of Ouidah, in Benin. According to folklore, when King Kpassè, a 16th century ruler of the kingdom of Whydah, felt he was going to die, he didn’t want his body to be seen by his children, but after many signs from a peacock and panther, they discovered that the King had turned into an Iroko tree.

At the entrance were two colourful murals: the head of a panther baring its teeth with the words ‘Hwendo Man Bou’ and a second of two panthers under a tree with a peacock in the branches.

Part of the forest is open for tourists and having walked through the gates, we were greeted by a statue of a Legba with a rather large erection: he is always placed at the entrance or in a central area as his role is to protect the whole place.

We continued with the guide telling us about each of the named deities arranged around a circular path. For example, Heviosso, the god of lightening and justice, and Gou, the god of war and blacksmiths. A double headed god was said to be the king’s spy as he could see out of the back of his head. The figures were either in concrete or in abstract metal work and we were told they were made by some form of collective brotherhood.

A temple led to the section of the forest where only those initiated into voodoo could enter, women on the left and men on the right. It was adorned with colourful murals and at the entrance was the circular statue ‘Dan Ayidohouedo’, a serpent-like dragon consuming its own tail.

We passed the giant iroko tree which King Kpassè turned into, and as this is the main sacred tree in the forest, priests pray every five days. We were told that if we had positive thoughts and left an offering, it would come to pass. Another tree was near a wall with a fallen tree painted on it, and according to legend, it fell and remained so for 41 days and then up righted itself again. Tour over, we had to leave via a different exit.

This was a pleasant way to spend a hot afternoon as the forest was cool and shady.

Helen Jackson

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