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In the tiny West African country of Benin, voodoo has been practised for 10,000 years, but efforts to preserve its ancient oral traditions are exacting a harsh toll on its faithful, splitting families and pushing people deeper into poverty.
Benin is unique in recognising voodoo as an official religion, followed by two-thirds of its 7.6 million people. It involves a pantheon of gods and spirits whose intercession is sought through animal blood sacrifice. But to survive, voodoo needs a new generation to pass on sacred mysteries, so thousands of children are initiated by its priests every year. But the price of the ceremonies can be unbearable and some parents are selling their children to repay voodoo debts.
In the village of Djejbe, a nine-year-old girl shuffles, . down, issuing guttural chants. Stripped to the waist she stares at the earth scoured by her naked feet as she emerges into the courtyard of the \'voodoo convent\' of Do Pa Tohizanli, one of many institutions for initiating children into the voodoo mysteries.