We are in Benin, where dozens of snakes are housed and worshipped within the walls of this Vodun temple. The Temple of Pythons is a site of historical and modern symbolism and spiritual practice in the city of Ouidah: here a tangle of snakes lies in the corner of a nondescript indoor pit, while other serpents slither around them. Probably it’s an intimidating sight for many people, however, in this African temple the pythons aren’t feared but instead revered and worshipped and it’s considered a sign of good fortune should a snake cross one’s path. As symbols of peace, prosperity, and wisdom, illustrations of these hallowed serpents are ubiquitous in Benin.
The snakes are an important symbol for followers of Vodun, a religion practiced by groups of people within West and Central African nations like Ghana, Togo, and Benin.
Vodun became somewhat widespread in southern regions of the New World as a result of the African diaspora, and It became the inspiration for other religions like Louisiana Voodoo and Haitian Vodou.
So, snakes are highly respected and according to the theology, a rainbow serpent named Dan is an important deity that serves as a middleman between the living and the spirits.
The serpents play a large role in the spirituality of Ouidah. According to a local legend, the King Kpasse 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 forest and prevented him from being captured. To commemorate their role in his protection, he ordered the creation of three monuments.
In this Temple, which is a concrete building topped with a clay roof, there’s a pit filled dozens of snakes and It is reported that approximately sixty pythons live there.
The snakes aren’t fed, though they are let out about once a week to prey upon chickens and mice.
The royal pythons are not dangerous: these sacred reptiles are welcome in Beninese households where they are fed when the doors of the temple are opened at night, and the locals welcome these slithering pythons into their living rooms like an honoured guest before being returned to the temple.
The snakes are harmless and visitors can take a picture with a python around your neck or stroke the snakes. Several shrines were built for offerings to the snake-god Dagbe, but the biggest offerings come from the tourists who pay $1.50 to enter the Temple of the Sacred Python. Voodoo shrines and other relics can be viewed for this entry fee, but taking photos with the snakes could be expensive!