Supernatural Beliefs in Benin
“In a lot of places in Benin they have beliefs about spirits and superstitions that are often just labeled as something called ‘gris-gris.’ And gris-gris can mean spells, it can mean [enchantments], it can be a little talisman that you wear, it can mean a lot of different things. It’s sort of a catch-all phrase. But people believe that it can really work to do a lot of different things. People really do believe in gris-gris in Benin, it isn’t just… It’s not a casual thing. Some people really believe in it. And they believe that these symbols mean things. So, in Benin, snakes are big gris-gris symbols. Pythons are sort of good gris-gris symbols, and any other snake is bad. So there was a man in my village and he owned one of these old Renault or Peugeot station wagons and he ran the transport business from our village to the big city in the North. He was very successful. One day he came out to his car in the morning, and he had left a window cracked, and sitting on one of the passenger seats was a snake. Not a python. This to him was an indication that someone had put some sort of bad curse on his car. Before he would move the car anywhere, he needed to be sure that his car was safe to drive ‘cause someone had put a curse on it. And he went to go to get the village ‘guérisseur,’ healer, gris-gris specialist. And the guérisseur told him ‘Your car has been cursed, and I believe that if you try to get this car to Parakou,’ this big town that he went to, ‘you will not survive.’ So, but while they believe in gris-gris, they’re very practical about it. So, it was also determined in this gris-gris analysis that certain parts of the car could be salvaged, such as the tires and a couple parts from the engine and whatnot. So they took all those parts off and then they torched the car. They burned it to a crisp because they believed a bad curse had been put on it and there was nothing they could do to salvage it.”
In this video, a Beninese expert discusses the supernatural in Benin.