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    Grace Amos



      In the Republic of Benin, there is a very interesting and historical site to visit called the Temple of Python in Ouidah town. It is a site of historical and modern symbolism and spiritual practice among the people of Ouidah. The snakes in the Python Temple are a significant totem for Vodun followers, a religion that is practiced by groups of people in West and Central African countries including Ghana, Togo, and Benin. The serpents play a crucial role in the spirituality of the Ouidah people.


      According to the story of how the temple came into existence, the worship of pythons began with a war that took place in 1717 during the existence of the Kingdom of Dahomey. At that time, Ouidah was known as Houeda and was not part of the Kingdom of Benin. Ouidah was defeated during the war and the ruler of the Ouidah, King Kpasse fled the town and took refuge in a large forest in order to not be captured by the Ghezo warriors. While the warriors were in a search hunt for the king, pythons emerged out of the forest to protect the King of Ouidah from being captured. The pythons saved the king and thereafter he ordered that three monuments be built in that forest to commemorate the pythons for protecting him. The pythons are called Royal pythons, they are notable for their docility. They are either slinking around or tangled together.




      The Python Temple is a concrete building with a clay roof and inside the temple is a pit filled with dozens of snakes. The snakes are said to be harmless and as a sign of respect, they are not to be killed. Killing the snakes might incur bad luck. A ceremony is held every seven years in celebration of the significance and value of pythons in the temple. There are reportedly almost 60 pythons in the temple. The snakes are not fed, although they are released once a week to prey on mice and chickens. They occasionally enter neighborhood residences where they are greeted like common visitors before being taken back to the temple.


      The temple is accessible by anyone although there are certain huts that are inaccessible and initiation is the access to such huts. There are also guides in the temple who have been initiated and can be recognized by the striking scarification on their faces. Visitors are allowed to hold them and take pictures with them, although it is for an extra fee.



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