Today I went to a 9:30 session - Understanding Vodun: a West African Spirituality by Robert Houndohome Hounon of Benin. Also known as His Majesty Daagbo Hounion Houna II, Robert Houndohome Hounon is the Supreme Spiritual Leader of the Great Council of the Vodun Hwendo tradition. He was speaking in French with a translator. I understand that the East Coast Pagan community had contributed money to get him to the Parliament.
His basic message seems to be that the diaspora is doing it all wrong and should come back to Africa to get the pure religion from one of the countries of the Gulf of Guinea. He doesn't have a website yet. There was the inevitable "animal sacrifice" question...twice. He said yes, they do animal sacrifice but if the animal screams it gets a reprieve. Someone asked him about Vodun's views on modern issues like abortion, vegetarianism and euthanasia. He said that Vodun condemned abortion because all life is sacred, vegetarianism is an individual choice because one's food taboos are determined by the sign one is born under and he didn't respond about euthanasia.
January 10th is a national Vodun holiday in Benin and they have received some recognition there. There are monuments to the gate of departure (leaving for slavery) and the gate of return (slaves descendants returning). It was never discussed whether non-Africans could practice Vodun but His Magesty seemed to be talking only to the black members of the audience.
At the end of his presentation Angie Buchanan presented him with one of the beautiful shakers made by Julee Higginbotham. Hmm, have I mentioned those? There are four symbolic ceramic shakers that the Pagans were giving to various groups and elders - the Parliament committee in Chicago, the committee in Melbourne, this guy and hopefully the Dalai Lama. Here is an article on them from her local paper, St. Louis Today.
This presentation really made me glad that the Orixa have reached out to me with the new religious movement of Umbanda. I feel no need to go back to Africa for some kind of authenticity. I love the syncretic nature of Umbanda and I don't need an African "King" telling me what is truth. And his anti-abortion stance also put me off considerably as you might imagine.