Craig Sherod Photography



Voodoo: From Its Birthplace in W. Africa:

Sticking pins in voodoo dolls is all most people know about the voodoo. I guessed there was a lot more to it and went to voodoo’s birthplace for a month to find out more in this documentary photography project.

Turns out the pin-sticking is mostly pure Hollywood. At least, in the birthplace off voodoo, where 30-50% of Benin’s 17 million residents practice it as their primary religion. This 6000 year-old religion is alive and well and is all about “doing good – not evil” for its followers. I spent almost a month in a small town with a voodoo priestess to find out more. She took me to meet, photograph, and record interviews with other voodoo priests, each specializing in one of voodoo’s many deities (which number as high as 200). I met Thunder priests, Mermaid priests, Lejba priests and even the Pope of voodoo. Voodoo, also known as vodun, is an animist and spiritist tradition, which puts a lot of focus on ancestor spirits. Ceremonies, offerings, sacrifices, and music are all a part of voodoo. Amongst its other functions, voodoo also fights witchcraft. Witches are common in Benin and they are given a wide birth. I did a portrait of a witch before I knew that she was (reportedly) a witch. A diviner told me that I was safe from witches because I had an aura that protected me. I never felt unsafe during my visit and the priests I met were all trying to use their religion to help people in their daily lives.

I was in the city of Ouidah, which was also one of the three main slave ports sending slaves to the West for 350 years. The priestess I stayed with was the great great (not sure how many greats are needed here) granddaughter of the head slave trader (a Brazillian) designated by the King. Slavery existed here already and was not imported by the West. The story of the slaves is powerful and was omnipresent for me. Child trafficking is another big issue there and I met several children who escaped. I also traveled with an NGO that educates parents in villages how to avoid being a victim of the trafficker’s scams.

I had no pre-existing fascination with voodoo but DID have a bad case of cabin-fever in late 2013 when I made this trip. Let’s just say that voodoo, slavery, witches, and child trafficking, were a more than adequate antidote for my cabin fever. Next, I’m working with the local NGO to purchase a home (and provide services) for homeless street children in that area. Let me know if you’d like to help.



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