Bori: Jinn of the Hausa People

Ben Enwonwu, Head of Hausa, 1958

Ben Enwonwu, Head of Hausa, 1958

Bori are a type of supernatural being found among the Hausa of northern Nigeria.They are frequently identified as jinn, but are in fact are a distinct kindred that existed in Nigeria long before Islamization. They are called aljanu (“jinn,” singular, aljan) or iskoki (“winds,” singular, iska).

Bori are revered for their healing powers—though they also inflict diseases. Although they can be benevolent toward humans, their presence is deeply dreaded. They are dangerous spirits, and no one treats with them unless the bori itself thrusts it upon them.

As with other intermediate spirits from West Africa such as abosom, loa, and orishas, bori often deal with the mortal world through “riding” willing human hosts, almost always women. Among the Hausa, a particular dancing-rite is involved in inducing the bori to enter them to grant them immunity to diseases.

Some bori are Muslims (called Farfaru); others are pagans (called Babbaku). The name of their city is Jangare, where they live in twelve “houses” divided by family, ethnicity, and occupation.

100 Years Ago, Middle Earth Was Born

Fascinating.

A century ago today [24 Sep 2014], Russian forces were beginning the 133-day siege of Przemyśl and the German army took Péronne. Meanwhile, in a Nottinghamshire farmhouse, a young man wrote a poem about a mariner who sails off the earth into the sky. The Voyage of Éarendel the Evening Star deserves its day in the spotlight alongside war commemorations. It was the founding moment of Middle-earth.

Neither elves nor hobbits were yet in JRR Tolkien’s mind. But the star mariner is remembered in The Lord of the Rings, as Eärendil, forefather of kings, whose light in a phial wards off Mordor’s darkness. In the vast backstory of The Silmarillion, he carries the last Silmaril, a jewel preserving unsullied Edenic light, seeking aid against the primal Dark Lord.

Magnus Chase

Rick Riordan has announced the title of his Norse mythology series: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard. Book titles will be forthcoming, but…

And yes, I know what you’re wondering. Chase . . . hmm, where have I heard that name before? Isn’t that Annabeth’s last name? Yes, it is. And no, that’s not simply a coincidence. Beyond that, I’m afraid I’ll have to leave you guessing.

I know an eighth-grader who dressed as Annabeth for “spirit week” on Monday who may soon be jumping up and down.

Cernunnos: The Antlered God

The horned or antlered human is a very old symbol found in many parts of the world from prehistoric times. At the Welsh Mythology blog, Gwilym Morus-Baird takes a look at a particular Celtic representation of this figure and what it might mean: the ancient horned god Cernunnos.

Scholars have interpreted this figure [on the Gundestrup Cauldron] as being a representation of an old Celtic god called Cernunnos, which translates as the ‘horned one’. Its rather obvious why he’s called that, but this also gives us a clue as to what potentially conflicting elements have been harmonised in this symbolic figure. If this mythic symbol is an expression of the collective unconscious, according to Jung we should be able to perceive within it some conflicting influences that have been brought together in a more or less stable form.

The Boobrie

For some reason, horses and faeries often go together in Celtic folklore. Not only are faeries sometimes depicted riding ghostly horses with bells adorning their tack, there are also pookas and other creatures that often assume the form of a horse. And then there are water horses (or kelpies)—horses that live underwater, as the name might suggest. There are also, it turns out, faeries who turn into water horses.

The boobrie is such a faery, and Flossie Benton Rogers has provided us an introduction to these creatures over at her blog, Conjuring the Magic:

Not to be confused with a Kelpie, the Boobrie is a Scottish fae that possesses the wondrous ability to shapeshift into a water horse. Since the Boobrie salivates at the thought of cows and fat lambs—its favorite snacks, along with succulent otters, ships transporting barnyard animals along the coast of Scotland risk being accosted. Boobries can even gallop on top of the waves to reach their destinations and are often mistaken by sailors for ghost horses.

In addition to a water horse, the Boobrie can take the appearance of a black feathered waterbird, something akin to a fierce cormorant. This is perhaps the Boobrie’s default form. Its strange claws appear like the wizened hands of a demon, and its caw roars like the bellow of a bull. Some legends insist the bull is one of the Boobrie’s possible forms and that it can stray from the coast to nestle among thickets of purple heather. Whether or not this fae can hug the land, it’s a rare loch in Scotland without the menacing presence of a resident Boobrie. As a bird it loves flying low over the turbulent seacoast, its huge ebony wings casting sinister shadows on the moon spattered waters below.