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The essay examines, with special reference to smallpox, the perception and interpretation of disease in pre-colonial Dahomey, present-day Republic of Benin. Because disease is seen primarily as a punishment from the gods and not just as a medical problem or a bodily disorder, traditional cult priests play a leading role in making diagnoses and prescribing remedies, mostly based on medicinal plants. The prominence of Sakpata, god of smallpox, coupled with the influence of its priests isdoi:10.1590/s0104-59702012000500003 pmid:23370098 fatcat:rpkcgaevgfgbvpy35ohdroz5by