Priestesses communed with spirits through ecstatic dance ritual, hoping to guide and maintain the state’s ruling houses. A corps of Bori priestesses and their helpers was led by royal priestess, titled the “Inna”, or “Mother of us all”.The Inna oversaw this network, which was not only responsible for protecting society from malevolent forces through possession dances, but which provided healing and divination throughout the kingdom.

In spirit possession all over Africa the gender of the possessing spirit takes precedence over the gender of the possessed. A man possessed by a female spirit for ritual purposes takes the personality of a woman, while a woman possessed by a male spirit takes the personality of a man. This often has no relevance to everyday living. Bori possession cults exist in countries all over Africa under different names. However it is only found in some ethnic groups and is totally absent in most.

In modern Muslim Hausaland, Bori ritual survives in some places assimilated into syncretic practices. The pre-Muslim “babbaku” spirits of the Maguzaci have been added to over time with “Muslim” spirits (“farfaru”), and spirits of (or representing) other ethnic groups, even those of the European colonialists. The healing and “luck” aspects of Bori members performances, almost entirely women, give new social roles for their rituals and practitioners.Bori ritual societies, separated from governing structures, provide a powerful corporate identity for the women who belong to them through the practice of traditional healing, as well as through the performance of Bori festival like the girka initiation ritual.


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