Python Temple of Ouidah Benin

Many people, including my wife, are terrified of snakes. It seems to be a natural human reaction to these slithering reptiles whose deadly venom or muscular contractions can pose a threat to people.

I’m not terrified of snakes, in fact, I find them quite fascinating and just beautiful in the way poetic way they move; to me they look to be somewhat regal, especially in the way they seem to float across the ground when they move, and because of the hypnotic looks they give you as they gaze deep into your eyes with a demeanour that is either very threatening or mischievously curious.

It appears that I’m not alone in my appreciation of snakes as the people of the West African country of Benin also venerate the reptiles. In fact, if you visit the coastal town of Ouidah you can visit the Temple of the Pythons, where there are lots of them slithering around the place or just having a welcome snooze.

Ouidah actually has an unfortunate history, as it was a deportation port for slaves who were taken to Ouidah to be sold, branded then transported to the New World.

Voodoo and Christianity are still both practised in Benin, and the Python Temple is situated in Ouidah’s main square, right opposite the imposing Roman Catholic basilica. The Python Temple is a place of worship by people of the Vodun religion, which is modern name for Voodoo, and it is fast becoming a favourite tourist attraction.

You enter the temple via a small wooden doorway which leads to a walled compound. The temple is contained within a relatively small area of about 12 square metres and it is dedicated to the “snake god” Dagbe, much of which is inhabited by pythons of the same type. They are not venomous, and they are used to being treated well by humans as they are fed and revered by the locals.

Apparently, the pythons can move around as they like, and will often slither into people homes, where they will be fed then returned to the temple.

There is a charge to enter the temple, and another fee if you wish to have your photo taken with a python looped around your neck. As well as the snakes there are altars where priests make offering and paintings depicting snakes adorning the temple walls.

The Temple of Snakes in Ouidah offers an interesting insight into the beliefs of Vodun, a religion which combines Christian beliefs with age old animist traditions.

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