Togo: Death Does Not Scare Easily

The night before, by local belief, demons of death stalked the village of Sotouboua (pop. 500) in northern Togo. Streets were deserted, and only the throb of a tom-tom broke the still ness. Next day the men of the village sallied forth to perform the ritual that is supposed to frighten demons away. Some wore fluttery feather headdresses and grotesque carved masks; others chewed the bark of a native bush until the drool stained their chins a deep orange color. Several of them gripped snakes and rats between their teeth.

Hundreds of onlookers,...

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