Bori Religion In Hausaland

Bori religious dance
Bori Dancer

Bori is a traditional religion of the Hausa people of northern Nigeria which involves animism, magic and spiritual possession. The Bori religion was widely practiced in the Hausa’s pre-Islamic era but began to wane as Islam was introduced into Hausaland. “Boorii” is a Hausa word for spiritual force which can be found in physical and/or inanimate objects.  The Bori religion wields the power to control these forces through spiritual dance, rituals and music. These spirits or forces are controlled and used for many things like healing, protection and bringing luck on people or the society. The religion has so many spirits which are named (e.g. Daudu) and have specific powers. The royal priestess of the Bori religion is called ‘Inna‘ translated as “mother of us all”. She leads the other members of the religion in spiritual dances and rituals. She also plays an important role in the cleansing and protection of the society from evil forces, and the provision of healing and divination.

The Bori priestesses and other members showcase their prowesses during Bori festivals like the Girka initiation ritual.
An account was given by a researcher based on the way the Bori spiritual dance is performed. It goes this way:
“The Bori folk gather for the dance in the afternoon about two hours before sundown. Soon the sounds of fiddles (Goye) and guitars (Molo) strike the ear, accompanied by the calabashes (Koko) either beaten with sticks or, if furnished with grooves, held before the player’s chest, who scratches them with his nails in turning them round and so produces a humming sort of sound. Then the Magadja rises to her feet. She wears two girdles of cloth (called [564] Damara), in which the amulets are sewn, knotted together over her breasts and hips and in her hand she holds a slender rod of bronze.
Scarcely lifting her feet from the ground, she steps slowly forwards her movements soon get more lively and she follows the accelerando music by beating its time on the ground with the soles of her feet. Suddenly she makes a leap and falls on the earth with her legs spread apart, only to get up and repeat this performance. A large mortar is brought along. The Magadja gets on to this and ventures the jump as aforesaid also from this, shaking the firm earth as she falls on it. She does this three or four times, until she falls exhausted into the arms of her attendants, who comfortingly cover her with cloth while the hitherto breathlessly gazing crowd thanks the dancer and musicians with an ample largesse of cowrie and kola”. (The Bori Magadjiyar: Max Dashu-
Bori priestesses

As stated earlier on, the introduction of Islam into Hausaland faded the practice of the Bori religion. The roles and functions of the priestesses disappeared or were passed unto Islamic institutions. However, in Hausaland till today, many Bori members still refer to themselves as Muslims, while some Muslims also make use of some aspect of the Bori religion to keep their homes safe from evil spirits (Jinn).

The Bori religion is still being practiced today in some Hausa areas like Kooni and Dogondutchi, presently the south of Niger.



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2 thoughts on “Bori Religion In Hausaland

  1. Origin and Meaning of Kanuri:
    Kanuri /kəˈnuːri/ is a dialect continuum spoken by some four million people, as of 1987, in mainly in North –Eastern Nigeria, Western Niger, South –Eastern Chad and Northern Cameroon, as well as small minorities in southern Libya and by a diaspora in Sudan.
    The Kanuri Kingdom with its remnant cities ,provinces and states like Borno Nigeria, Damagaram (Zinder) in Niger, Mao Chad and Kusri as well as Kanem in Cameroon among others were said to have originated from the East; Some experts interpreted this East as the Southern Arabian Penisular which equals to the modern geographical description of the territories of Al Hudaydah (Arabic: ﺍﻟﺤﺪﻳﺪﺓ ), also known in English as Hodeida or Hudaiyya in Kanuri in Yemen geographically located at 14°48′08″N 42°57′04″E . These Kanuri people were said to have come all the way from the Arabian Peninsula and get settled at about 640 kilometers north of the present day Lake Chad which was latter emerged as Kanem Empire( One of the two great Empires in the history of Africa).”Although this historical findings were based on extractions from available existing historical sources both and abroad including the British Library London, the American Museum of Natural History New York ,as well as in the Suleymaniye Library in Istanbul ( Turkey), but yet with the advent of modern technological advancements in the field of DNA testing and identifications I believe that further research needed to be done with time in the field of geo-archaeological t and geo-biological investigations to further prove prove these findings beyond reasonable doubts. However considering the similarities between Kanuri and Arabic languages as in counting days, numbers and some of the existing nouns in the language one can easily conclude that the Kanuri language is a product of decayed or decaying local Arabic mixed with some indigenous African languages. This is one of the main reason that Anthropologists classified the Knauri language under the Nilo-Saharan language family.
    Despite the fact that the Lake chad environment which is the heart of the Kanuri settlement and the Kanem-Bornu Empire as a whole is a very dusty environment as such that if a person doesn’t wash his body more often or regularly the dust gets settle on the Skin and makes the Skin looks very dusty looking, but because the Kanuris are practicing Muslims they regularly wash their faces, feet and hands five times a day hence making them have more fresher looking Skin at all times. It was in view of this fresher looking Skin of theirs in the middle of this dusty Lake Chad environment that makes some of the neighboring ethnic groups such as “Sau” (reputedly a race of giants) that lived around the present day Ngala area referred to them as the Kanuris or Kanuri.
    The NAME Kanuri is from the combination of two Kanuri words ; “Ka” meaning Skin and a word derived from the Arabic word NUR or “Nuri” meaning Light (Though in Kanuri itself Nur means light).
    Reason for calling the Kanuri as KA + NURI= KANURI ,was that the Kanuri on arrival they were mainly Pastoralists engaged in rearing of cattle and Sheep ,so as a normal tradition almost every pastoralist carry stick with him that help him guide his animals while grazing and chasing them back home so same it was with the Kanuris. For the Sau people they know that there were a lot of pastoralists living within their environment but this Kanuri people have more fresher Skin complexion and they always hold sticks with them so in other to differentiate them with the other Pastoralists holding same Skins makes them refer to them as the “Fresher (Nur) looking people with Stick (Ka) hence this resulted in calling them KaNuri literally translated as the Fresher skin people with sticks.
    The Kanuri were also called with different names by different ethnic groups for example Beri Beri by the present day Hausas and Barnowaji by the Najdi, Baggara and Hejazi tribes living in in Chad and Sudan republics.
    The Kanuri language was the major language of the precolonial Kanem Bornu Empire and remains a major language in southeastern Borno and Yobe sates in modern Nigeria,Diffa and Damagaram in Niger republic as well as Mao,Kusri and Kanem in the Chad and Cameroon republis as well, yet having some few presents in Western Sudan and Southern Libya as well.
    The Kanuri kingdom started with the Dynasty of Safeway which was was founded by Sayf ibn Dhi Yazan who many historians considered him to be an Arab from the Arabian Peninsula as indicated ealier. Yazan ruled and controlled the Kanem Empire for about 800 years. So with this historical facts it said that the ancient Kanem Empire was founded in the 9th Century and its first capital was a town in the north-eastern part of Lake Chad known as Njimi.
    The Sayfawa Dynasty and their subjects fled to Birnin Gazargamu when the Bulala people attacked them. Birnin Gazargamu remained as capital even after the reclaiming of Njimi in the 16th Century. However over the years towns/cities like Monguno, Kukawa, Dikwa ,Old Maiduguri and now Maidugrui/Yerwa were all capitals at different times since the last 1000 years ago .The rulers of the El-Kanemi family were brought in to rule the kingdom after some lapses that occurred and that even cost the office of the ruling Mai as at that time. So a prominent Islamic scholar and a warrior in Ngala known as Sheikh all Hajj Muhammad al Amin ibn Muhammad al Kanemi, was brought in as a ruler to checkmate attacks and return the kingdom to a required status. So with this we can say that the Sayfawa Dynasty came to an end in the year 1846. Many of the decendants of the Mais of the Saifawa dynasty are still living in Maiduguri with many of them living in the Lawan Bukar Kaacha,Shehuri North and the Fezzan ward areas of Maiduguri.
    For a period of several centuries, the efforts of the Saifawa to consolidate their power and expand their kingdom’s boundaries led to the incorporation of many distinctive groups within Kanuri society. This process has not ended. Intermarriage, commerce, politics, and other factors have combined to produce a people who are culturally heterogeneous.
    The Kanuri have had a strong influence on surrounding peoples, which include the Budum of Lake Chad, the Mandara and Kotoko (or Mogori) who live southeast of the Kanuri, the Marghi of the Damboa district, the Babur in the hills south of the Kanuri, the Bolewa located southwest of the Kanuri, and the Bede of Gashua, within the Kanuri territory. All of these groups have acquired various aspects of Kanuri culture, mainly the Kanuri language and Islam. Many, including the Hausa, were at one time subjects of the Kanuri Empire.
    Final WORDS:
    I wish to say thank you all for reading this piece and my previous other articles, and at this point I would like take this opportunity to thank everybody for having time to read my postings in the recent pasts . With this I conclude my final


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