Factors Contributing to the Survival of The Bori Cult in Northern Nigeria

In: Numen
Umar Habila Dadem Danfulani
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The paper examines factors responsible for the survival of the bori cult as a way of immortalizing maguzanci, i.e. Hausa traditional religion in Northern Nigeria. The paper regards bori as a part of maguzanci which survives as an island within the ocean of Islam. The paper reconstructs the origin and history of the bori cult in Hausaland. It locates this within maguzanci — from its earliest belief in "pagan" spirits (babbaku) to the introduction of "Muslim" spirits (farfaru) when Islam was introduced in Hausaland. Soldier spirits reflect totem spirits, famous hunters and war lords, while Fulani spirits mirror the advent of Fulani contact with the Hausa. The presence of European spirits in the bori cult reflects the pre-colonial and colonial epochs, a time when Europeans were in contact with Hausaland. The introduction of spirits from other ethnic groups in Nigeria into the cult merely mirror the interaction between Hausa and other ethnic groups in Nigeria. Thus the history of the bori cult reveals layers and historical epochs of Maguzawa contact with other peoples and cultures within their environment. The paper attributes the survival of the bori cult to a number of factors, among them the feminine nature of the cult, its control and domination by women and its provision of freedom for women, unequalled by both Islam and Christianity. Furthermore, bori provides an avenue for socio-cultural performance, festivals, and other types of interaction, and offers traditional medical and health care services to the public, factors that have endeared the cult to both members and non-members. The firm belief of the Hausa in the existence of spirits even in contemporary times to aid to the growth of bori. In a nutshell, this paper establishes that the major factor for the survival of the bori cult in a predominant hostile Muslim environment is its flexible and dexterous nature, particularly in accomodating Islamic practices alongside "pagan" ones.

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