When: Before the second Sunday in September
Where: Aneho-Glidji, Togo
Togo as a country has a large ethnic population with indigenous beliefs, accounting for about 51% of the overall population. It is no surprise then that these native religious beliefs are celebrated in ‘voodoo’ fashion.
The Guin people of Glidjo-Aneho in Togo celebrate their spiritual beliefs in such a manner. Western travelers may see the event as an opportunity for ‘some serious carnivaling in autumn,’ but to the indigenous population, the Guin Festival 2012 is a continuation of 346 years of rituals and myths untouched by foreign rule.
The ceremony is called ‘kpessosso’ and marks the New Year for the Guin. While some other countries in Africa celebrate the start of the year with publicly sanctioned brawl, as in Mwaka Kogwa in Zanzibar, the indigenous inhabitants around Gbatchoume, a sacred forest in this area, start their year with a ritual around a sacred stone.
About the Event:
The Guin Festival 2012 is highly religious in nature, as far as the indigenous beliefs of the Guin people are taken into account. As such, on the day of the festival itself, voodoo priests and traditional chiefs take the lead in the ceremonies where rituals are performed around a new sacred stone to divine what the year has in store for the people.
The ceremony is open to the public, but only the practitioners and initiates follow the voodoo priests and chiefs into the forest where the sacred stone foretells the fate of the community. The stone’s color indicates the messages of the gods: a blue stone means the messages of the gods are mixed; a red one means the gods are angry; and a white one means peace and happiness will prevail in the community.
The ceremonies last for four days, and are performed in a sacred forest sandwiched between Glidji and Aneho, 45 kilometers east of Togo’s capital, Lome. The first two days are devoted to processions and all other sacred rituals, while the last two are celebratory in nature.
This year, the Guin Festival 2012 is scheduled (albeit unconfirmed) on September 13-17.
The first two days of the celebration are highly religious in nature, and travelers are warned not to look surprised when the initiates and followers slip into a deep trance. The third and fourth day, however, take on a more carnival character as people dance and parade around town. Western travelers often take this as a cue to join in the ecstatic dancing and wanton drinking, a form of purging from the stresses of modern Western living.
The Guin Festival 2012 is an ideal introduction to indigenous festivals that have been left untouched by foreign rule (French in the case of Togo) for hundreds of years, allowing travelers to witness authentic indigenous practices untainted by Western influences.