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Vodún, Spiritual Insecurity, and Religious Importation in Benin

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image of Journal of Religion in Africa

The Republic of Benin (formerly Dahomey) is known as the African source of New World Vodou and Voodoo, but the country’s religious landscape is best characterized by religious importation. Since precolonial times Beninois Vodún has exhibited ongoing amalgamation of deities introduced from neighboring peoples. This essay outlines historical Vodún imports along with more-recent spiritual influences from abroad. I argue that while Beninois people have always been accepting of foreign religions, today this process is largely motivated by the dangers and promises of witchcraft. The current constellation of spiritual traditions embodies a dynamic moment of religious transformation that prompts people to collect even more distant spiritual remedies to seemingly old problems. In this analysis we see that what scholars call syncretism is not necessarily an ideological or hegemonic process, but a product of Beninois people’s pragmatic response to life’s troubles, inequalities, and opportunities.

Affiliations: 1: Box 1097, Agnes Scott College, 141 E College Ave., Decatur, ga 30030


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