Nana Buruku

Nana Buruku

One vision of Creation describes life emerging from some primeval swamp. Nana Buruku, ancient mother, presides over that swamp. Lady of marshes, swamps, mud, and clay, she is the primordial mother, the root ancestress. Nana Buruku, like her son Babalu Ayé, appears throughout West Africa and is incorporated into Fon, Yoruba, and Keto pantheons. Thus she is significant to various African Diaspora spiritual traditions. Nana Buruku is an ancient root lwa, eldest of the watery orishas.

Nana Buruku is an old fierce swamp witch, an austere, severe spirit. In Africa, her altars are traditionally maintained outside—she’s considered too volatile to safely bring indoors. She is extremely generous with those she loves. Nana Buruku is a fearless warrior who is petitioned for victory.

Nana Buruku, divine herbalist, presides over medicinal plants and may be petitioned to help discover herbal solutions to health issues. Ask her to empower and enhance herbal remedies. Nana Buruku is present in clay, which also has therapeutic uses. She may be requested to enhance its magical and medicinal powers. Nana Buruku is traditionally believed able to identify and heal illnesses which physicians are unable to locate, treat, or acknowledge. She is invoked for personal fertility but is also a guardian of the dead. If angered, she may cause illnesses characterized by a swollen abdomen. Nana Buruku is syncretized to Saint Anne.

Nana Buruku prefers bamboo knives to those made of iron. Anthropologist and author Lydia Cabrera suggests that this is because she predates the Iron Age.

In Fon cosmology, Nana Buruku may originally have been a hermaphroditic being who independently gave birth to all the deities but was eventually eclipsed by younger spirits.


Nana Bukwu; Buklu; Bukúu


West Africa


Herbalists, healers, root doctors, potters


Nana Buruku appears in the guise of an incredibly old woman and travels in the form of a freshwater snake.


Nana Buruku carries a special staff constructed from palm fronds and decorated with cowrie shells.


She lives in swamps and earthen mounds.

Spirit ally:

Her son, Babalu Ayé




Snakes, especially pythons


Camwood (Baphianitida), also known as African sandalwood, which is the source of a blood-red dye


Dark blue, black, pink, white




Monday, Saturday


7, 9


Roses, mandrake and other roots, swamp plants


  • Babalu Ayé
  • Lwa
  • Orisha
  • Oshumare


Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses – Written by : Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.

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