TOHOSSOU: Royal Guardian of the Physically & Mentally Gifted

[Tohosou child]

Classic phenotype of Tohossou child.
Regarded as sacred, powerful, and a blessing to any family that undergoes the required ceremonies.
Benin (Cotonou), West Africa. Copyright 2002, Mama Zogbe


For centuries, the world over, children born with special circumstances were often killed or segregated and labeled as an omen of "bad luck, evil and financial hardship" to their families- a perpetual source of shame and embarrassment for their parent's. Worst, many were institutionalized, and even killed to ward off a life of humiliating stares, social rejection and years of agonizing expense and work by their parents. There simply was no reward in having to sacrifice ones life to care for children born under these special circumstances. This was also the case in Dahomean culture (Togo, Benin), until a special Vodou named TOHOSSOU emerged to change all of this for them.

Historical Origins:

The TOHOSSOU, are a congregant of ancient evolved royal ancestors , who came on the scene during the reign of King Akaba, the second king of Dahomey (1685-1708). They were known as the "children and guardian of the three rivers," a place where all the ancestors lived, and all who died must past before entering this sacred underwater kingdom. These Tohossou were considered very powerful, and were often summoned into battle when all else failed, for they were a sure winner with one heavy blow of their powerful swords.


Albinism is a special class of childred of Tohossou. Scorned and discriminated against for centuries as an ancestral curse, these children are honored in the Vodoun tradition. When special ceremonies are performed for them, they bring wealth,good luck and prosperity to their families.

The Tohossou are grouped with the "Neusewe" Dahomeans most ancient ancestors, often known today as the "Loko". The first child being born with physical malformation under this group was Zumadunu, (first King: Webgaja's) eldest son, who heads this powerful group of Trowo (ancestral spirits). It was to this group that special sacrifices and honor was to be kept.

Unfortunately, it was during King Gele's reign that the greatest persecution of those who were born to the (village) kings families, physically and mentally challenged were often sacrificed, in order to spare the royal families years of grief, shame and humiliation.

What was more significant, is that these royal ancestors were often neglected, and ignored by the kings themselves. After repeated attempts to attract the attention of the reigning king, to encourage them to pay homage to them as is tradition, and the kings blatant refusal to do so, these ancestors became enraged. One day, in their anger, they descended on the royal court in the bodies of physically malformed adults and begin to reek havoc, confusion and despair upon all, completely destroying the entire court and village.

Immediately, the king called down the Afa diviners to ascertain what the problem was, and what could be done to appease these angry powerful spirits. After careful consultation, the Tohosou began to speak. Besides demanding that all kings erect a shrine next to the major Vodou and pay homage to them, they further demanded that the persecution of the physically and mentally challenged, ie., (born to them) be stopped. They then declared that now, they were their GUARDIAN PROTECTORS. Lastly, they also proposed that those who were born in this special manner, could now erect a small shrine to them in their homes, and all who choose to do so, would be rewarded with special blessings and prosperity.

Today, in Benin & Togo, children who are born physically challenged, are given a special ceremony, and a small place is consecrated in their home to the Tohosou. Thus, instead of bringing enormous financial hardship, and emotional pain to their families, they bring blessings. Those too who have been permanently disabled due to age, injury, or disease in their adult lives are also brought under the guardianship of the Tohosou.

Special Option

This service is now available to the West. Mamaissii Vivian Dansi Hounon, & both Mamaissii Dansi Hounon Artia & Daniel also have the Vodou Tohosou, and will install a special table consecrated to this powerful protector and guardian in your home if you or your children are born with (or have acquired) a physical impairment of any kind. Those who choose to have this special ceremony will never be without.

[Tohosou woman

Photo: Tohossou Initiation of "midget" in Benin: Taken from L'animisme au Bénin