Benin: Land of fetishes and spirits and lions and leopards

Benin’s annual Voodoo Festival celebrates both its dominant belief system and the rich and complex history of this small West African nation. Carved out of land between Togo and Nigeria it’s a country of breath taking natural beauty. From palm fringed beaches to Parc National de la Pendjari jungles. It is a country of fetishes and spirits and lions and leopards. It’s a country waiting to greet you with a smile.

The Ancien Pont Bridge in Cotonou with the city in the background. (Image: Shubert Ciencia, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr)

The Ancien Pont Bridge in Cotonou with the city in the background. (Image: Shubert Ciencia, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr)

Benin's Foret Sacree de Kpasse at Ouidah, repository for the country's most important voodoo fetishes. (Image: David Stanley, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr)

Benin’s Foret Sacree de Kpasse at Ouidah, repository for the country’s most important voodoo fetishes. (Image: David Stanley, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr)

Benin is voodoo country, it's a society driven by ancient natural rhythms. (Image: David Stanley, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr)

Benin is voodoo country, it’s a society driven by ancient natural rhythms. (Image: David Stanley, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr)

Voodoo guides life in Benin. The way Beninese relate to the world around them is directed by their naturalist belief system. (Image: jbdodane, CC BY-NC 2.0, via Flickr)

Voodoo guides life in Benin. The way Beninese relate to the world around them is directed by their naturalist belief system. (Image: jbdodane, CC BY-NC 2.0, via Flickr)

A consultation on your future. (Image: Helina Rautavaaran museo, CC BY-ND 2.0, via Flickr)

A consultation on your future. (Image: Helina Rautavaaran museo, CC BY-ND 2.0, via Flickr)

For the Beninese, belief in God can take many forms. The mosque at Ganvie. (Image: David Stanley, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr)

For the Beninese, belief in God can take many forms. The mosque at Ganvie. (Image: David Stanley, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr)

A Catholic church in Ouidah. (Image: jbdodane, CC BY-NC 2.0, via Flickr)

A Catholic church in Ouidah. (Image: jbdodane, CC BY-NC 2.0, via Flickr)

Benin is where you will find Ganvie, the Venice of Africa. (Image: jbdodane, CC BY-NC 2.0, via Flickr)

Benin is where you will find Ganvie, the Venice of Africa. (Image: jbdodane, CC BY-NC 2.0, via Flickr)

Living on the water in Abomey Calavi should not crimp your sense of style. (Image: David Stanley, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr)

Living on the water in Abomey Calavi should not crimp your sense of style. (Image: David Stanley, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr)

Traditional fabric brightens up a Cotonou sidewalk. (Image: Loic Pinseel, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, via Flickr)

Traditional fabric brightens up a Cotonou sidewalk. (Image: Loic Pinseel, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, via Flickr)

Benin is a nation of colour that lives close to the Earth. A market in Cotonou where you can get local produce, herbs and advice. (Image: Helina Rautavaaran museo, CC BY-ND 2.0, via Flickr)

Benin is a nation of colour that lives close to the Earth. A market in Cotonou where you can get local produce, herbs and advice. (Image: Helina Rautavaaran museo, CC BY-ND 2.0, via Flickr)

It's a culture rich in history, as a visit to the historical city of Abomey reveals. (Image: jbdodane, CC BY-NC 2.0, via Flickr)

It’s a culture rich in history, as a visit to the historical city of Abomey reveals. (Image: jbdodane, CC BY-NC 2.0, via Flickr)

The Door of No Return UNESCO Heritage site leads to the departure dock that carried African slaves to the New World. (Image: Shubert Ciencia, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr)

The Door of No Return UNESCO Heritage site leads to the departure dock that carried African slaves to the New World. (Image: Shubert Ciencia, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr)