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The night when voodoo awakes: sabbath of wizards and zombies
The powers of darkness are perfect at hiding. Outwardly, Les Coteaux in Tobago’s mountainous center doesn’t seem any different from other villages. And yet it’s the stronghold of Voodoo. The wizards, zombies, she-devils and vampires living there fear nothing more than the light of the public. They step out of darkness only once a year – for just one ghostly night...                                              

By Bernhard Grdseloff
Voodoo as a tradition: ghostly show in Tobago
Voodoo as a tradition: ghostly show in Tobago

The Witches’ Sabbath is the most mysterious event of the heritage festival taking place in Tobago each year in July. For two weeks running, there’s a different event organized by an other village each day to revive the old customs of the island. While the other places celebrate wedding rites, African music or the local art of cooking, the inhabitants of Les Coteaux go for Voodoo.

"Our village is regarded as the center of ‘Obeah’, which is the local term for witchcraft", reveals Sylvia Lewis, who produces the ghostly show on the side. She gets the ideas for the annual production on site. "Strange things happen here", she says. Along with ordinary zombies, there’s a number of other undead that haunt the place: diablesses – demonic women that come out to seduce men, duens – non-baptized infants that have turned into baby devils, and succoyants, which are vampires whizzing through the air as fire balls.

Of course these creatures of hell have little in common with the type of Voodoo used for domestic purposes. "Obeah is normally applied to everyday matters, such as passing an exam or getting rid of a rival", says Lewis. "Whether it’s fiction or truth – that’s up to you."
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