Beyonce’s words were mine too when I was invited to drape a 5-foot long royal python around my neck at the Temples des Pythons in Ouidah. I was not necessarily afraid of doing so – even though I am quite scared of snakes. But I just couldn’t bring myself to oblige as I have an associated fear inherited from my mother.
[Disclaimer]: Mum, if you’re reading this, I was never in that building!
Much like ‘he-who-must-not-be-named’, the slithering creatures get a different name in my household. There, they are referred to as ‘that-thing-you-don’t-like’ or simply, ‘ropes’. The context would typically clarify what kind of rope we were referring to.
In Ouidah though, snakes are not feared, rather they are seen as sacred animals in the voodoo religion – which is an official religion followed by nearly 40% of the population (according to this BBC’s report).
The temple itself is a pretty small building housing somewhere between 50-60 royal pythons. Our guide went on to demonstrate how harmless they were by holding one of them before handing it to our group. But even that could not persuade me to do the same.
We were told that every month, the snakes were released to go search for food for themselves and were welcomed into people’s homes where they would gladly help themselves and simultaneously take care of any rat or mice problem before slithering back to the temple.
It is not uncommon to see the voodoo religion practiced side by side with other religions. As in literally! I found it surprising to see the city’s cathedral directly opposite the temple.
In any case, this place was interesting to visit. The chances of me visiting again are very slim but if I do find myself in a similar situation, my answer would remain the same!
PS: I visited this temple during a 3 day tour of Nigeria and Benin Republic. You can read about it here.
So, what do you think about this place and would you drape a snake around your neck?