Zangbeto are the traditional voodoo guardians of the night in the Yoruba religion of Benin and Togo which are known as the "Nightwatchmen". Similar to Egunguns, they are highly revered and act as an unofficial police force patrolling the streets, watching over people and tracking down criminals and presenting them to the community to punish. Originally created to scare the enemy away, Zangbeto will wander around the streets to detect thieves and witches, and to provide law and order.
Zangbeto are a costume that resembles a haystack. They are able to fall into a trance which, according to tradition, enables their bodies to be inhabited by spirits who possess special knowledge of the actions of people. However Yoruba legend tells that there are no humans under the costume, only spirits of the night.
Traditionally, the Zangbetos were the policemen of Benin and were the main guardians of law in the country before the official law establishment. They are said to form a secret society which can only be strictly attended by Zangbetos, and when in a trance are said to have magical abilities, such as swallowing splinters of glass without coming to any harm and scaring away even witches. In a trance, the Zangbeto are said to evoke a power that inhabited the earth long before the appearance of man and provide a source of wisdom and continuity for the people of Benin.
- Butler 2006, p. 32.
- Butler, Stuart (2006), Benin, Guilford, Connecticut: Bradt Travel Guides, The Globe Pequot Press, ISBN 1-84162-148-X
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