Snake and Alligator Skulls: A Tour of the World’s Largest Voodoo Market

Snake and Alligator Skulls: A Tour of the World’s Largest Voodoo Market

Antelope horns, snake heads, horse bones, monkey skulls. These are some of the artifacts that can be bought at the Marché des Féticheurs (Magicians’ Market), a street festival in the Akodessewa region of the city of Lomé, capital of Togo, in West Africa.

Such objects from dead animals are used in religious ceremonies and traditional medicine in conjunction with voodoo practices that are widespread in this Frenchspeaking African country.

With dozens of tents spread across a dirt floor, the place is frequented by people with illnesses and other life problems who are in search of something specific that their healers have prescribed for them.

Bones and horns, for example, are crushed and put into potions which, after being ingested or thrown into cuts on the person’s body, are said to be able to cure diseases.

Marché des Féticheurs (Magicians' Market)  Getty Images  Getty Images

One of the market stalls: uses range from potions to lucky charms

Image: Getty Images

Amulets made of owl feathers and rabbit fur can bring good luck.

And there are also ingredients that, according to local belief, manage to increase physical strength: potions made with powdered horse bones, for example, would give increased strength and speed to those who drank them.

The possible combinations are almost unlimited: they can be mixed in the same healing or strengthening recipes, for example powdered horn of an animal with various African herbs.

Animal heads, horns and skins are among the most commonly found items at the fair  Getty Images  Getty Images

Animal heads, horns and skins are among the most commonly found items at the fair.

Image: Getty Images

You’ll be hard pressed to find what you need at the Marché des Féticheurs, the world’s largest market for voodoorelated items.

questions and controversies

The Marché des Féticheurs is not just a point of sale for remedies or items that fight bad luck and weakness.

There, the public can consult directly with healers, who welcome prospects into huts behind the tents selling the animal carcasses.

Marché des Féticheurs (Magicians' Market)  Getty Images  Getty Images

Behind the tents, healers diagnose and perform healing rituals

Image: Getty Images

In these secluded rooms, healers diagnose the physical and mental condition of their patients and prescribe the animal and herbal ingredients needed to solve the problem. And they usually carry out the healing rituals themselves in the hut itself as a paid service.

Due to its distinctive features, the Marché des Féticheurs has been visited by many foreign travelers visiting Togo.

Today, given this demand, several guides work at the entrance of the market, ready to show and explain the place to outsiders.

Marché des Féticheurs (Magicians' Market)  Getty Images  Getty Images

Alligator heads attract the attention of travelers: the market has also become a tourist attraction

Image: Getty Images

However, despite its importance to the country’s culture, the Marché des Féticheurs is not an undisputed place.

The sellers say all the animals sold there were found dead in Togo and other African countries. But it is impossible to know if this is true.

There are also reports that carcasses of endangered animals have already been sold on the site.

Animals traded there were found dead in Togo and other African countries  Getty Images  Getty Images

Officially, the animals sold there would have been found dead.

Image: Getty Images

the current voodoo

Much of what is seen in the Marché des Féticheurs is related to voodoo, a religious practice that originated in the western region of Africa (where Togo is located), the origin of which dates back thousands of years and is still very important to several living communities is the continent.

Voodoo devotees believe in the existence of deities that represent the forces of nature and for these devotees, healers have the gift of establishing communication with some of these entities.

Seller at the Marché des Féticheurs  Getty Images  Getty Images

Seller of the Marché des Féticheurs

Image: Getty Images Vendor displays monkey skulls for sale  Getty Images  Getty Images

Dealer displays a monkey skull for sale

Image: Getty Images

Under the guidance of these deities, the healers at the Marché des Féticheurs would be able to discern illnesses and other issues affecting humans—and for those involved in the ritual, dead animals have the power to aid in the healing process.

Throughout the 20th century, numerous films and books have portrayed voodoo as an evil religious practice used to curse or harm people. But their rituals are usually aimed at improving the lives of their followers, as evidenced by the Sorcerers’ Market in Togo.