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.

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