A market in Africa, where you can find all the necessary commodities to practice black magic, the Lome Bazaar is one of the scariest sites in the country. From freshly killed animals to well-preserved animal remains, skeletons and other parts, one can find everything in this market.
For many of us, when we have a headache or minor medical complaint, it’s simply a matter of going down to the local drugstore and getting something to make us feel better, or perhaps seeing a doctor. In most developed countries, it’s the most natural thing in the word, to the point that many of us wouldn’t even think twice about it. Yet in West Africa, having a medical problem may entail going down to the market to pick up an alligator head, a monkey hand, and a lizard’s tail to grind up into a powder. Instead of a doctor, one might go to a healer who will burn animal parts into ashes to rub into wounds. Welcome to the world of West African voodoo, a world which to Western eyes may seem to be a dark, sinister place yet for many of the people here is an everyday fact of life. Perhaps nowhere else is voodoo so widespread and visible as the nation of Togo, and perhaps there is nowhere else that compares to the sheer amount of voodoo merchandise on offer at what is the world’s largest, and certainly most bizarre, emporium of such goods; The Akodessewa Fetish Market.
The West African nation of Togo is one of the smallest countries in Africa and is bordered by Ghana to the west, Benin to the east, and Burkina Faso to the north. Although in recent years it has become more known for violence, riots and human rights abuses, when one sees the beautiful beaches here and meets the warm, friendly people, it is not hard to see why Togo was once known as the “pearl of West Africa.” The capital city of Lomé, located on the Gulf of Guinea, is the largest and most populous city of this nation, and is famous for its colorful marketplaces, including the famous Lomé Grand Market, referred to in French as the Grande Marche, which occupies an entire city block, among many others. All things told, it is actually a rather pleasant and quaint place to pay a visit in peaceful times.
You might notice what from a distance appears to be merely just another of the cities many such markets. As you approach, you can probably make out the vendors going about their daily business and selling their wares, as well as tables piled high with something you cannot yet quite make out. Then, as you approach, the smell hits you. Even in the open air, the atmosphere becomes redolent with the thick, heady stench of what can only be described as the smell of rot and death.
Pervading the air is a potent brew of the scent of rotting animal carcasses, exotic smelling herbs, and sun caked mud, all coming together to form a nauseating stink that blankets the area and invades the nostrils. As you approach even closer, somehow suppressing the haunting, putrid stench which saturates the air, you may start to notice that the tables, which you at first may have assumed were packed with fruits, spices, meat, or dried fish like many of the markets here, are actually overflowing the macabre sight of desiccated blank-eyed animal heads in various states of decay, dried animals of all sorts, all manner of bones and skulls, the dismembered hands, paws, claws, tails, and other assorted amputated parts of who knows what creatures, as wells as spooky blood stained idols and creepy wooden dolls all vying for your attention in a gut wrenching ghastly display sure to leave you reeling with its sheer grotesqueness.
Yes, voodoo, or as the locals call it, Vodoun. While many have the image that voodoo is a product of Caribbean nations such as Haiti, it actually has its roots in West Africa, where it flourished for centuries in countries such as Togo, Nigeria, Ghana, and Benin before being taken by slaves to America and the Caribbean, where it became what we now know as voodoo. Today, voodoo is actively practiced in many West African nations such as Togo, where at least 60% of the people still maintain its traditions, and it is the official religion of neighboring Benin. Voodoo is a complex religion involving countless different rituals, spells, ceremonies, and indeed animal sacrifices, for which various exotic ingredients are needed which are not typically available in your ordinary market, or drugstore for that matter. People come from miles away just to stock up on all the products they may need in the near future.
Mingled together in row upon row upon simple wooden tables are the heads of monkeys, alligators, leopards, gazelles, antelopes, lions, rhinos, gorillas, dogs, and the dried remains of chameleons, assorted snakes such as cobras and vipers, lizards, birds, and insects, among others, as well as a myriad of animal parts such as horns, bones, paws, hands, and hooves or feet. There are also many different herbs, spices, statues, idols, and charms. The animals parts are used in a variety of concoctions, rituals and spells to cure a plethora of ails and problems, including curing sicknesses, treating infertility, cursing people, conversely removing curses, righting wrongs, smiting an enemy, making someone love you, increasing athletic prowess, bringing financial success, or mending the ways of an unfaithful lover. They can power rituals, be mixed into potions or elixirs, or be cooked up with special herbs to create special powders, lotions, or pastes to apply to the skin. It really seems that there is virtually nothing something from here can’t do.