Voodoo, Witches & Fetish

February 8, 2015 Burkina Faso Write a Comment 12,713 Views

Voodoo, Witches & Fetish In Burkina Faso.

Burkina Faso is definitely not on every travellers agenda and actually this also applied to us, but a few circumstances still brought us to the Land of Upright People: an easy visa process (at least from Austria), a fair flight-deal with Air France – one of the few airlines flying to this location – and the month of February, which is considered the best time to visit Burkina Faso.

Hello Ouagadougou.

So off we were and Ouagadougo greeted us with mellow and dry 28° Celsius. We found a great little place to stay at called Pension Micha in the outskirts of the city. The owner was very helpful and a great source for any information. On top she even spoke German, English and French. She had been living in Burkina Faso for many years as an NGO-representative and therefore knew every corner of the country.

Off To Bobo Dioulasso & Banfora.

Since we just had two weeks, we quickly had to decide where to go; we opted for the South West and didn’t regret it for a second. Buses from Ouagadougou run frequently and one could even travel by train to Banfora (twice a week) and further down to the Ivory Coast. We went with the bus to Bobo Dioulasso. Here we settled into Villa Rose, a very nice and comfortable B&B run by a Dutch/Burkina couple.

Our trip continued further South West and after a few bush taxi rides, we arrived in Banfora. This town is the stepping off point to some very extraordinary natural sights like the Karfiguela Waterfalls and Sindou Rock formations. But Banfora especially caught our attention due to its market…

Voodoo, Witches And Fetish.

We always begin our exploration with a visit to the local market. And markets in Burkina Faso will definitely not disappoint you! A lot is on display and people are eager but not super persistent to sell you something.

The most interesting market section was a bit further away from the main section. Here men and women advertise their service in the field of home-made remedies. We could smell the Voodoo fetish market before we actually saw it: a stench of decomposition and an alley of mud-brick houses. The goods on sale here were desiccated heads, feed, insides of monkeys, buffaloes, cheetahs, chameleons, birds and crocodiles as well as varieties of snake skins and bat wings. It was indeed a gruesome gallery of lifeless faces staring at you.

We approached one vendor and pointed to his sign and his offers. He told us he was a traditional healer and could mix us a formula for any condition we might have. We kindly refused his offer, yet his is very original advertising banner caught our attention (see photo below). Instead of buying herbs, spices for our sexual desire, we just bought his banner.

As a matter of fact, these witch doctors are common in Burkina Faso and people still believe very strongly in their healing powers – or rather what we call Voodoo. Western Africa is where Voodoo originated, and where it still plays a significant part in everyday life. But forget zombies, black magic and sticking pins in dolls; real-life Voodoo is an animist belief system and on top also the official religion of Benin (which is based on respect and peace).

The entire experience is essentially benign, though not if you’re a wuss.

Once you’ve consulted a voodoo priest with your sickness, he’ll send you off to market with a shopping list…
In its original meaning, witch doctors were emphatically not witches themselves, but rather people who had remedies to protect others against witchcraft.
Desiccated heads, feed, insides, skin, hair & feathers can be found at the fetish markets in Burkina Faso.
Not only animal parts, but also herbs & spices are an essential part for any witch doctor in Western Africa.
The knowledge of traditional healing methods in Burkina is declining…Some specialists still know much about herbs, roots, and barks and the traditional bonesetters are still consulted in rural areas. Psychological problems are treated through possession rituals.
Traditional healers in Burkina Faso are well respected in the community.
The fetish market experience is essentially benign … unless you’re a chicken.
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