|Statue of Shapona|
The Dahomey and Yoruba people are very careful not to anger Shapona, as they believe doing so will cause an outbreak. In fact, they often refuse to even speak his true name for fear of angering him. For a very long time, shrines to Shapona were maintained by a specific group of priests. The people believed that angering these holy men could cause an outbreak, thanks to their special relationship with Shapona. This exclusivity lead to the creation of powerful secret societies (cults of Shapona).
Priests in these societies would blackmail individuals into doing as they were told by promising the wrath of Shapona (in the form of smallpox) if they failed to perform as expected. When these individuals actually began falling ill with smallpox, it raised a few red flags. A doctor (Dr. Sapara) went undercover in one of these societies to investigate.
Come to find out, the priests were actually causing the outbreaks. They would intentionally infect villagers with the disease to punish him/her for not following orders. To make matters worse, they were a very vocal opponent to smallpox vaccinations. To avoid their wrath, and thus the wrath of Shapona, many refused these vaccinations. Which meant they continued to be vulnerable to the disease, which kept the priests in power.
Pretty horrible, right?
Based on the findings of Dr. Sapara, the Shapona societies were outlawed in 1907. However, worship of Shapona continues throughout Africa. After their history with the Shapona cults, I can't say I blame them for being extra careful! Luckily, with these societies out of the way, smallpox vaccination has flourished, and the wrath of Shapona has become a little less terrifying.
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