You can’t confidently say you have been to the Benin Republic if you didn’t visit the Python temple in Ouidah, it’s one of the top tourist attractions in Africa.
Ouidah, a town in the Benin Republic, is recognized as the Benin Republic’s spiritual capital, while Porto-Novo is regarded as the country’s economic capital. The serpents play a significant role in the spirituality of Ouidah. According to a local legend, the king of Ouidah took refuge in a forest from those seeking to kill him during a war in the 1700s. When he was in hiding, pythons emerged from the wood and prevented him from being captured. To commemorate their role in his protection, he ordered the creation of three monuments.
In most parts of the world, snakes are feared, but in Benin, they are revered. Royal pythons are worshiped in Benin, especially in Ouidah. The townhouses, the ‘Temple des Pythons,’ are historical and modern symbolism and spiritual practice in the Benin republic. Ouidah’s Temple of Pythons is a concrete building topped with a clay roof. It also acts as a basilica for voodoo worshippers in West Africa. All over The snakes constitute a significant totem for Vodun’s followers, a religion practiced by groups of people within West and Central African nations such as Ghana, Togo, and Benin.
Vodun became somewhat widespread in southern regions of the New World as a result of the African diaspora. It became the inspiration for other religions such as Louisiana Voodoo and Haitian Vodou. Snakes are important religious symbols and are highly respected. According to theology, a rainbow serpent named Dan is a vital deity that serves as a middleman between the living and the spirits.
This temple is sacred with different sections — some access to the public and some not. It also has a small room of twelve square Inside; there’s a pit filled with dozens of snakes from a species known as the Royal python (notable for their humility), either lurking around or tangled together. It is reported that approximately sixty pythons make this temple their home.
The snakes aren’t fed, though they are let out about once a week to prey upon chickens and mice. These sacred reptiles occasionally make their way into local Beninese households where they are fed when the doors of the temple are opened at night. There is no fear; they’re treated as an honored guest before being returned to the temple.
However, if you are visiting, there are certain things you should know.
1)you should not be mentally unprepared; You are going to see and probably touch a whole lot of snakes, so it’s good to be mentally prepared for that adventure. Have it in mind that the snakes do not bite, so you do not have to be scared.
2)You should be financially prepared; you should be economically ready as there are a gate fee and lots of artifacts to be bought at the temple. Taking a picture with a python around your neck will cost you a price, offerings come from the tourists who pay $1.50 to enter the Temple of the Sacred Python.
3)You should not kill any snake; At monthly intervals, the snakes are released into the town to go and feed. They only feed on animals and are harmless to humans. It’s completely forbidden to kill a python in this town. If you do, you have to bring the body back to the temple for a series of cleansing ceremonies to be performed and the burial of the python in the temple graveyard. If you leave without these rites, it is said that something terrible will happen to you.
4)Do not touch/enter the shrines; The shrine in the temple is hundreds of years old and is only accessible to the priest and devotees, if you are not initiated, you shouldn’t be there.
5) Do not enter the graveyard; Entering the graveyard is wholly forbidden for visitors. Only devotees and priests are allowed.
6) Don’t let religious bias cloud your mind; Africans are guilty of throwing religious tantrums around, The Python temple is not a do or die affair; you must not go there. It’s utterly harmless as the people of Ouidah, and generally, Benin Republic does not see Voodoo as evil.
If you harm a python and claim religion or non-belief as your reason for avoiding the proper rites, you should take in the consequences.