He who owns the sea

Voodoo Kingdom


He who owns the sea

Voodoo is one of the oldest religions of West Africa, originating in the rainforests and savannahs of Benin, Togo, and eastern Ghana. The word Voodoo, variously known as Vodou, Vodun, and Vodoun, originated among the Fon people of Benin. It means “spirit” or “god.”

In the Voodoo pantheon there are thousands of deities who inhabit nature—the earth, the trees, the stones—and they are also embodied by inanimate objects ranging from humanlike figures to mounds of earth containing herbs and sacred substances.

Our friend, Godfried Agbezudor, an initiated Voodoo priest, invited us to the coronation of the Voodoo King Daagbo Hounan, known as “The One Who Owns the Sea.” That day, Daagbo Hounan was becoming the supreme ruler of thirty million Voodoo believers in West Africa, a dynasty dating back to the fifteenth century.

On his coronation day King Hounan wore elegant, voluminous white robes with a green and white embroidered crown. His royal attendants twirled large embroidered umbrellas to shield him from the sun. As he walked he stopped along the roadside at sacred mounds where priests made offerings by spraying alcohol from their mouths. Thousands of priests, priestesses, and devotees followed the procession. The king then made his way to the Tree of Slaves, an elaborately carved trunk depicting the history of Voodoo and the Atlantic slave trade. The procession continued to the Gate of No Return by the sea where nearly a million slaves were boarded on ships to cross the Atlantic, carrying the Voodoo religion to Cuba, Haiti and Brazil.

For the next four days, the king sat in state greeting chiefs, high priests, and dignitaries from all across West Africa. Voodoo dancers twirled endlessly to the beat of drums and finally, possessed by their own deities, collapsed on the ground in states of ecstasy. King Hounan explained to us that his followers thought of him as their Pope, “There are women who cannot conceive children, men who cannot find work, elders who cannot find peace. Voodoo restores hope, it protects our land and brings the cool breeze.”