Religious Rituals

Around the world, people make religious rituals in many different ways – some shock, surprise and cause a stir. From an outsider’s point of view, some will merely present an interesting window of a rather bizarre sight that may confuse and boggle the mind. For viewing pleasure though here are from of the most remarkable and intriguing religious rituals from around the world.


Voodoo festival – Benin 

Voodoo Festival Benin

Flickr image by samurai_dave


Every year in January, the small West African country of Benin holds a festival in honour of their religion – Vodou. The religion has become geographically fragmented and certain aspects have been glorified through Hollywood – notoriously voodoo dolls and black magic.

Voodoo dolls, although one of the most famous aspects of the religion, actually only represent a very small part and is not widely practiced. However, this flamboyant festival is full of colour and vibrancy with different tents representing the different sects of the religion. The locals drink gin, there is a horse race on the beach, animal sacrifices are made and devotees adorned in animal skin and bones dance and chant together in trance. Intriguing voodoo alters with fetish offerings and voodoo talismans – such as dried animal parts, hair and nails are also on show.

Held in the city of Ouidah, it is said to be the historic centre and spiritual birthplace of voodoo worship. Thousands of people flock from all across Benin, Togo, Nigeria and other countries to receive blessings from the city’s priests, who in the voodoo religion are known as Houngans (male priests), or Mambos, (female priests). The festival is largely focused on voodoo spirits being represented from various ancestral backgrounds and clans. For many travellers, it presents a magical and mysterious sight, if a little spooky.


Karni Mata – India 

Karni Mata Temple

Flickr image by ℓ u m i è r e


Twice a year, there are two fairs held here at Deshnok. The largest one takes place during Navatras, in March and April where pilgrims flock to the temple. Devotees, wishing for a bit of good luck to come their way, are known to drink the milk that the rats are fed, as if the rats have had physical contact with the food, they have passed on their blessings and it is said to bring good luck. The white rats of the temple are thought to be manifestations of Karni Mata herself, and her family. Being not just any rats, but holy rats, if one runs under your feet and you accidently kill one, there’s a hefty fine of having to replace it with a rat made of gold. However, if you can pluck up the courage and allow one to run over your feet – it’s a blessing.


Coca Cola in Chamula – Mexico

Coca Cola in Chamula - Mexico

Flickr image by Darij & Ana


Chamula is an indigenous Mayan community town in the southern Chiapas region of Mexico, close to the nearby town of San Cristóbal. During the 1970’s, non-natives were forced out and to this day, only indigenous people are allowed to live here. The town is largely self-dependent, having its own police system and even a different time code. A large amount of the residents don’t speak Spanish, but instead, Tzotzil, the local Mayan dialect and they wear traditional clothes such as llama fur skirts and colourful woven throws. However, their religion is a mixture of Mayan and Catholic beliefs with a difference.

Given the fact that they’re fiercely independent from the outside world, it’s an unlikely place to find Coca Cola bottles being used as part of their daily worship. But, within the town’s church, carefully arranged Cola bottles are found in shrines, decorated with flowers and candles surrounding them. The Coca Cola plays a central part in their rituals which to outsiders, might seem very strange that a large branded soft drink that is commonly associated with the USA is used. The reason behind it is, that this hybrid religion uses iconography. They use food substances such as multi-coloured corn to represent different colours that bear spiritual significance. Coke, being the dark brown colour that it is, has therefore become a representation of the black corn that is sacred to these people. The fact that it is carbonated, also means that the drinking of this drink has a spiritual significance, as the Chamula people believe that burping purges the negative energy from your body. Isn’t that what every kid wants to hear?


Galungan – Bali

Galungan - Bali


In Bali, for the Hindu population, there is a very special time when the ancestral spirits come back to visit the Earth during the holiday of Galungan. On the last day, known as Kuninghan, spirits of the deceased come back to visit their former homes, and to make sure they are made to feel welcome, the host of the home provides offerings. These offerings are known as Banten, and are extravagantly and decorated parcels of leaves and multi-coloured rice, flowers, fruit cake and a number of other gifts. Women wrap themselves in brilliant and resplendent sarongs in colours of scarlet, magenta, emerald, gold and purple for the special occasion that adds to the colourfulness.

Through the course of the festival, the Balinese are expected to rid themselves of the six internal enemies, which are lust, greed, anger, drunkenness and confusion, and on the final day of the festival is Galungan – meaning victory. It is the most predominant festival celebrated by Balinese Hindus, and the festival represents the victory of good (Dharma) over evil (Adharma). This is a joyous celebration full of colour and gifts.

Date posted: 1st December, 2012

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