Dahomey: Random Facts and Trivia

Some random facts and trivia for the country of the world Dahomey, name origins, biography of King Gezo, scar rituals.



The name Dahomey ("Dan-ho-mey") means "on the belly of Dan." Dan was a haughty native chieftain who threatened to eat King Ouegbadja of Abomey with the words, "You'll soon be building on my stomach." Ouegbadja, with a touch of irony perhaps, had Dan killed, devoured him himself, and built a palace upon his remains.

King Gezo (1818-1858), "the Redeemer of the Dahomeyan Empire," was a Fon warrior who, with 18,000 Amazons, fought the Yorubas and freed his countrymen from these harsh overlords. A harsh man himself, Gezo's palace walls were made of human skulls; nonetheless, he ended a cruel tradition by requesting that his family and retainers not be sacrificed upon his death and buried with him. He signed a treaty with France in 1851, but war between the 2 nations broke out 7 years later, at the end of Gezo's rule.

Scarification is still practiced in Dahomey. Young girls receive 12 sets of deep cuts which leave scars bearing ritual significance. Many of the cuts are intended to augment the sexual act. Among the standard cuts are parallel lines near the temples which become livid and pulsate when a woman falls in love, and numerous sets of scars to be caressed in sexual play, including 3 on the neck, several at the base of the spine, and 81 cuts on each inner thigh, called zido, or "push me" cuts.

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