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Nana Buruku

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As humans we have difficulty with concepts of supreme beings and spiritual entities. Our spirituality depends on our ability to take the supernatural and define it in parameters that are much closer to our own level of existence. A long time ago I learned as a Christian that god created man in his own image. But what is probably more accurate is to say that Christians defined god in man’s image. To think that god walks around in a human form is evidence of humanity’s god sized ego. We are very full of ourselves and our arrogance knows no bounds.

In the African spiritual tradition known as Ifa, we are constantly putting human weaknesses and failings on the Orisas and the Supreme Being we call Olodumare. I was taught to think of the Orisa community in rather simplistic terms based on Odu verses and patakis, African fables that have been passed verbally from one generation to another. There is the pataki of Ogun, the Orisa of technology, assaulting Yemonja, the Orisa of the ocean and mother of all Orisas and life of the planet itself. There is the story of how Osun, the Orisa of the river, seducing Ogun to return to the Orisa community after he exiled himself after his assault on Yemonja. There is the story of how Esu, the Orisa hell bent on teaching humanity lessons by trickery, tricked Obatala and wound up in Orisa jail. There is a story for almost everything.

But Orisas are not humans. They don’t lose their temper because somebody walked into a room without bowing to their Orisa pot. The worth of the Orisas isn’t dependant on the subjugation of people. That would be akin to people getting angry because ants refuse to bow when they come into our presence. The traditional way of thinking about Orisas has a way of making us appear more equal than we are. But in all honesty an Orisa wouldn’t care if we bowed, danced a jig, or did somersaults when we walked into their presence. Their presence is all around us and not in any ceramic pot, terra cotta pot, or any other pot you want to apply. We have trouble understanding people who exists outside our culture. How in the world are we going to understand Orisa? It is beyond our comprehension.

Even if we could understand the nature of Orisa, understanding the spiritual entity known in Ifa circles as Nana Buruku would still escape us. We associate Iya Nana Buruku with the Orisa community, but she is unlike any other Orisa. Orisas are infinitely old, but Nana Buruku is older still. Not a very easy concept for a human to wrap his or her conscious around. We have the misfortune of comprehending time literally as linearly. That’s okay because at this level of existence that is the only way we can interpret or experience time. But Orisas have a relationship with time that is beyond a start and finish. It has depths and dimensions and directions that we cannot fathom. Don’t try to understand it. It’s like trying to imagine a new color in the spectrum of visible light. It can’t be done.

To hear Iya Nana Buruku tell the story she is the beginning and the end of time at the Orisa level. She was there to watch the creation of Olodumare, the Supreme Being. She was actually in a state of waiting when Olodumare started the universe. She was waiting again when Olodumare sent Obatala to create order and humans on Earth. She is connected to the Earth itself. Ask her what does that mean and the Iya frowns from the effort of trying to put such a concept into words. It cannot be put into words the things that she represents. Nana Buruku has the ability to see deep within people to discern who they are, what they want, and what ails them. She was, is, and will be a consort of Babalu Aye, the Orisa of health. Iya is able to overlook Baba’s various wounds, bandages, and crutches and focus on the inner being. Her ability to see what ails people also makes her an asset in Baba’s work to help heal people and to keep disease from becoming rampant and getting out of hand.

Iya Nana Buruku is represented by the colors black and a pinkish purple or a mauve color. She has made the choice to be a part of the Orisa community and to exist at their level. But she is truly something else to behold. As humans with severely limited understanding of all things that exist on the Orisa level we cannot truly look at her and comprehend her truth and continue to exist as humans. To interact with Iya Nana Buruku is almost like interacting with a distant memory. There is something familiar and yet, at the same time it is far way and unusual. To experience her is not something to be taken lightly. This may sound a little vague and unclear. But despite what we have learned we are not supposed to understand things beyond our comprehension.

Saturday, March 15, 2008 - Posted by | Ifa, Orisa, Religion, Spirituality | ,


  1. It sounds a little vague and unclear because our understanding of things beyond us is just that. You are correct that we can’t understand things beyond our comprehension. We all know this by looking at how we educate our children. We don’t start them off with calculus, string theory and English comprehension. We start with the basics such as the ABC’s and counting.

    We have to start somewhere and life is just that a start. Once we pass on we will enter another level of comprehension and will be able to fathom things that we could never at this time. Who knows it probably grows from there.

    Great post. More people should know who this great Orisha is.


    Comment by theblacksentinel | Sunday, March 23, 2008 | Reply

    • Beautifully written. Thank you for sharing that.

      Comment by Mamigirl | Sunday, February 21, 2010 | Reply

  2. aboru,aboye,abosise baba,

    beautiful sentiment and wonderfully spoken.

    nana is the self-created one, like neith in ancient kemet, without beginning or end, mother or father, the self-begotten, owned entirely unto herself.

    the grandmother, iya’gba if you will, of the energies that we currently contact as orisha.

    to contemplate her is to open worlds of wonder.


    Comment by iyanifa onifa | Saturday, June 14, 2008 | Reply

  3. Thanks for the feedback iyanifa onifa,


    Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Saturday, June 14, 2008 | Reply

  4. It was very uninformative. All it says is Orisa Nana Buruku is really old.Most people in the Orisa community already know that. I also feel the need to state that my Orisa ,Orisa Obatala is the oldest orisa in the Yoruba pantheon.
    Much Respect,
    Oludare Akinola

    Comment by Oludare Akinola | Wednesday, June 25, 2008 | Reply

  5. Thanks for the feedback Oludare Akinola,

    “It was very uninformative.”

    Kind of like your comment. Nevertheless, I’m sorry to disappoint you. Maybe you can add more to our understanding of the Orisa Nana Buruku. My understanding is that we as humans cannot even begin to comprehend who or what Nana Buruku is. The point I was trying to make is that we need not try to apply our limited human experiences to this Orisa but to simply accept the fact that she exist. My apologies if this point was lost on you.


    Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Wednesday, June 25, 2008 | Reply

  6. My comment was not meant to be very informative.As I am fairly young and would not consider myself an authority on the Ifa/Orisa religion. I got the point of your article,and thats just it ,I GOT THE POINT.You stated the point over and over when all you really had to write was five or six sentences as you did in your comment to me.
    Much Respect,
    Oludare Akinola

    Comment by Oludare Akinola | Friday, June 27, 2008 | Reply

  7. Oludare Akinola,

    If all you require is information then you may have come to the wrong place. Like a pataki or an odu not only are my articles meant to inform, they are meant to do so in a way that entertains and keeps readers coming back for more. That is the point of this site. As iyanifa onifa said, “beautiful sentiment and wonderfully spoken.” Some people appreciate not simply getting to the point and being strictly informative.

    In your original comment you did not mention whether or not you understood the point of the article was not to apply human understandings to Nana Buruku. You comment was, “All it says is Orisa Nana Buruku is really old.” You did not mention anything about understanding that human concepts should not be applied to Orisa. This only reinforces my response that your comment was uninformative. If you had gotten the point you could have been more informative if you had mentioned so.

    The fact that others may write or appreciate things that you obviously care little about is probably another point that you have not mentioned whether or not you fully comprehend. Therefore, if this additional point was lost on you than I apologize again.


    Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Friday, June 27, 2008 | Reply

  8. As stated in my previous comment, my comments are not meant to be very informative.However,it seems you would like them to be so get ready,hear it comes!!I understood what you were trying to say in the article and as Iyanifa Onifa said, it was wonderfully spoken and filled with beautiful sentiment.However, there are some things that I did not agree with(as I am human).In your article you made it seem as if the Orisa did not care what we did. You made it seem as if one could do whatever he or she feels without worrying about disrespecting Orisa.In my native Trinidad,Sometimes when the orisa bless us with their presence and they view people who are not elders, idly sitting down and not singing or dancing,the Orisa will signal for these people to get up. This clearly shows that some of our actions do concern the Orisa. My issue was not how well spoken or beautifully sentimented your article was with the level of information presented within the article.I probably know more about Orisa Nana Buruku than you presented in the article. Nana Buruku was originally a deity from the Benin pople. The Yoruba people worship her as a deity of healing,In some cases she is known as a warrior deity.Nana Buruku is a motherly orisha,and is the mother of Orisa Babalu-Aye(shakpana,Soponna,Obalu-Aye.In some places she is also known as deity of the swamp.Nana buruku has unfathomable knowledge.You asked for it and you got it!!!
    Much respect,
    Oludare Akinola

    Comment by Oludare Akinola(osun`s baby) | Friday, June 27, 2008 | Reply

  9. Oh my goodness! I had no idea that I had stumbled upon such a true expert on Orisa Nana Buruku! Let’s revisit the now much more complete picture: a deity originally from Benin, the mother of Babalu Aye, the deity of the swamp, deity of healing, deity of war, and she has unfathomable knowledge. I feel like I know everything about her now! I am so glad we got that straightened out.

    Unfortunately, I really do believe that you may have missed the point of the article. You want to apply such limited concepts to Nana Buruku. She is much more than just the deity of the swamp or a warrior deity. Who are the Orisas at war with, each other? When we try to apply such human concepts to Orisa, to Olodumare, to spirituality in general, we fail to truly appreciate how limited our understanding of their level of existence is. Deity of the swamp. Don’t insult her like that. And what Orisa doesn’t have unfathomable knowledge? Compared to humans they all are unfathomable!

    Like your opinion of what I write, I disagree with your much more informative interpretation of Nana Buruku. Like you, I am human and have limited understanding. I have never said that Orisas do not care. They would not interact with us if they did not care. But to think that we can understand who they are is true demonstration of human arrogance.


    PS – Trinidad is really wonderful. I must’ve been to at least a dozen shrines while I was there. I saw lots of people manifest their Orisa. Truly spectacular stuff to experience.

    Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Friday, June 27, 2008 | Reply

  10. I wouldn`t consider myself an expert on any Orisa(well maybe Osun or Yemoja).My expertise lies in the area of fashion and things of that nature(osun`s baby).Now before I begin, I would like to thank you for keeping a leveled head during this debate.In Yoruba culture the ability to maintain cool and calm is greatly appreciated,as it speaks to the spiritual level in which you reside.I do a lot of internet commentary,and you wouldn`t believe how many people have cussed me out and insulted me for something as small as this discussion.Anyway,When I refer to Orisa Nana Buruku as Deity of the Swamp,I do not limit her to the Swamp.I know she is not limited to the Swamp. However, the swamp is one of the many natural things of which Nana Buruku chooses to represent herself.Also,after contemplating your last comment I have come to the conclusion that I did not receive the point of the article.However,I am a very curious and smart person(Obatala rules my head). Therefore I will most assuredly receive the point after reading the article once more.
    Much respect,
    Oludare Akinola

    Comment by oludare Nelson(Osun`s Baby) | Tuesday, July 1, 2008 | Reply

  11. Thanks for the feedback oludare Nelson(Osun`s Baby),


    Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Tuesday, July 1, 2008 | Reply

  12. I just came across this forum via another sight. I am an ordained priestess going on 3 yrs now. Nana is my mother. I’vve researched her extinsively but cannot find much. In trying to stay with the post, would the same advise and information be provided for me. I do so much with Oshun and with Yemaya but I never know quite what to do with my Nana. Anything that is of further detail would be fantastic.


    Comment by Sandra | Saturday, July 5, 2008 | Reply

  13. Thanks for the feedback Sandra,

    But honestly, I cannot for the life of me figure out why people insist on showing their appreciation through some official appreciation ritual. My suggestion is do what feels honest and right for you. Don’t limit your appreciation for an Orisa based on what others say is proper or is protocol. Exacting rituals and ceremonies are not required by any spiritual entity. It is humans who require things to be exact and correct.


    PS – My deepest apologies for taking so long to reply!

    Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Monday, July 28, 2008 | Reply

  14. I stumbled upon this article by accident and I thank the author for your reflection. I will begin by saying that I am not formally initiated so I know that many would say that I have no understanding of what I speak. That said, I have experienced “Spirit” in the form of Orisha, Deities, etc since I was a small child. If I have discovered one thing it is this. People experience God, Orisha, etc. according to their level of consciousness. If you are operating from a human level of consciousness, then that is the lens through which you will base your experience. If Nana Baruku is older than time itself, the self created one, etc., then your mind will only hold the part of her that you can conceive. If it is from a cosmic consciousness, well your understanding is probably much broader. My experience of Nana is of primal energy or primal matter through which spirit takes form. I have experienced her as she who gives birth to universes ( plural)The energy of creation herself. I would say, given her expansiveness and timelessness, if I had to put it in perspective that she is more closer to Olodumare or an aspect thereof. That is just my experience with her powerful energy.

    Comment by Sarita Kalu | Wednesday, July 30, 2008 | Reply

  15. Thanks for the feedback Sarita Kalu,

    True words of wisdom! Nana is more than just an Orisa. But what does that mean? We don’t fully comprehend what an Orisa is so how can we qualify this reference to Nana Baruku? It truly tickles me to hear people say that they have a solid foundation for superior understanding.


    Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Wednesday, July 30, 2008 | Reply

  16. peace,

    for some reason i relate nana buruku to time itself. she deals a lot with healing and it is said that time heals all wounds… so i figure that coupled with her discerning spirit and her ability to see what ails others is like this… (bear with me i’m kinda figuring this out as i write) they say that physical sickness begins with a mental sickness so if she see what ails and she heals then to me she’s like time… time existed before anything, time waits, time heals, time is every where so i’m sure the ability to discern is there. i dunno… just a thought… i’d like to see what you think about it though… i’m learning more about her.

    Comment by oddbutcomplete | Thursday, August 28, 2008 | Reply

  17. I came across your article as I was seeking information about Nana. What a wonderful job you have done in sharing some of the essence of a primordial energy like Nana! Too many times, we, as humans, want to qualify an energy – as you have pointed out about the young man making Nana just a swamp deity or warrior – and when that occurs, we miss what you have captured…the essence!
    I enjoyed your article and I love the picture!
    Another example of Nana would be Binah in the Qabala which also puts Her beyond human comprehension.

    Comment by shaktiwomyn | Saturday, October 11, 2008 | Reply

  18. solicito informacion en español , de babalu aye, de nana burucu y de nanu, soy hija de san lazaro y me gustaria tener esta informacion,
    por favor.

    Comment by socorro subias | Saturday, January 31, 2009 | Reply

  19. Peace, Peace, Peace… I guess it’s ok when we speak of things we don’t know or understand. Peace is one of those vague thoughts that sound great until we try to define it. Then wow, we have war. Well all of you new age gurus managed to obtain that fuzzy feeling of peace again (smug and somewhat tantalizing to the intellect, but void of any reality). What is interesting in this article is how far off base the writer really is. The Christian God is not as you inaccurately promote, mans attempt to fantasize a religion that strokes his incredible ego, it is God humbling Himself to rescue men who could not make it on their own. This Christian religion in reality doesn’t bode well for mans ego. Wow! This may not register with squishy, feely, check out your brain at the counter folks. The same ones who speak of peace and then slam a religion their intelect is truly incapable of understanding. Even the basics.

    Comment by Randy Koch | Thursday, September 10, 2009 | Reply

  20. Thanks for the feedback Randy Koch,

    And of course you know everything about your religion. Your god is so simple and that’s why you’ve got him figured out so easily. If I’m a new age guru then you must be one of those old fart gurus. And its not the principles of Christianity that makes it inappropriate but the way the majority of Christians put their beliefs to practice. Talk about people checking their brains at the counter. The Christian bible teaches that Jesus threw the money changers out of the church. And yet, mega churches are popping up everywhere telling people god wants them to be rich. But of course, old fart gurus like your self see nothing wrong with this practice.

    Old fart gurus say things like Christianity “is God humbling Himself to rescue men who cannot make it on their own.” Now that’s a real “don’t make sense” thought if I ever heard one. Why is god humbling himself to rescue men? To get man’s approval? If that’s the case, why isn’t god doing more to save all men? Why is the Supreme Being, creator of the universe, wasting his time and energy humbling himself trying to save men he made too weak in the first place? And this is the major flaw of people who practice Christianity. All too often the Christian concepts that people speak of only lead to more questions and it’s only a matter of time before it all boils down to “you just got to have faith”. If that’s your idea of understanding then you can keep it.

    I’m not pretending to understand the Supreme Being. I wouldn’t be so egotistical to think that I can understand why he does what he does or why he doesn’t do what I think he should do. But the way some Christians tell the story you would think that they’ve studied god in a lab somewhere and did their thesis on the subject. Their only real “proof” is what’s written in the bible by somebody thousands of years ago who thought that the Earth was flat and the center of the universe. That was old fart thinking. Who knew it would endure for so long? God wants to save man? Why doesn’t he do it the easy way and just snap his fingers and make it so? Better yet, why did god make man so weak in the first place? Why doesn’t he just come out with a better model that is more resistant to our current plague of weaknesses?

    By the way, Peacemaker is my name. That’s why I end my comments with “Peace”. Sort of like you putting your name at the end of a letter as Randy even though your name might be Randolph. Peace can mean more than just the absence of war. Expand your thought processes for a moment and you might be able to see things from a different perspective once in a while.

    And while it is true that I mostly enjoy the double meaning of “Peace” at the end of a comment, some times it is just my name. As egotistical as you are, I could not care less about you achieving some sense of peace. Honestly, I wouldn’t mind if you spent every waking moment of your life in turmoil. That way, when you do obtain some sense of peace, you might really appreciate it.


    Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Thursday, September 10, 2009 | Reply

  21. Great comment Brotherpeacemaker! I just love how some people feign knowledge of something that has to be so far above anything they or us could fathom.

    It is always their way or the highway. And this is precisely why I don’t bother myself with Christianity. You can’t question, or seek any other information without being chastised and called some sort of heathen.

    Why doesn’t Randy answer those question you asked? Because they would contradict his Christian based thinking and we know he can’t have that. You just gotta have faith, ya know.

    Anyhow while he seems to think he is the utmost knowledge on god he can answer a few questions for me as well. Since Mary wasn’t married when she conceived Jesus, did she go to hell? If not, why the exception for her? And why would god impregnate a woman out of wedlock if he is so against it?

    Wow, maybe he isn’t that concerned with those things after all. Or maybe that is just a man made sin. And when we start to realize that we put these stresses on ourselves maybe we can let go and just live and then maybe, just maybe we actually will find peace.


    Comment by theblacksentinel | Thursday, September 10, 2009 | Reply

  22. Nana Buruku is most likely a pre-patriarchal representation of the Great Mother and as such, an elemental. The color Mauve is associated with the Great Mother (primordial) as is the Swamp and the Warrior Goddess archtype in cultures throughout the world. Everything is connected. Nothing is truly separate. Nana was there when creation occurred because she is reprentative of the old order (the age of the Supreme Mother Goddess) as it passed into the new order, (The male dominated pantheon represented by Olodumare and the Orisha and in which the female orisha, namely Yemaya, Oshun, and Oya, take on different aspects of Nana the great mother.
    The similarity between Nana and the Sumerian Inanna cannot be escapted, particularly in light of all of the evidence showing an Egyptian, and thus a Nubian/Punt/Central African origin of the Yoruban people and religion.

    We are not all separate.

    Comment by Mamigirl | Sunday, February 21, 2010 | Reply

  23. The focus of our likeness to these beings is not physical but psychological. If the owner of a dog looked down on it because it was stupider that would be ridiculous. It’s just not expected any other way. I think these beings, if not immediately, are over the fact we aren’t omnipotent. There is offensive and non-offensive behavior. We may not understand them but they do us, and they’ve studied our habits for who knows how long. If you are making comparisons between creatures with no relevance or similarity to us this is a mistake, and the only reason it was made was to enforce your point that we have little in common with high beings. Mmmmm… i just dont see it this way.
    We should start this train of thought remembering we are the only species in the world with a train of though. Give yourself more respect, we are not ants. Ants do not bow so why would we be offended when they don’t? We bow, to anything put in front of us.
    Almost all cultures agree with the premise these higher beings were here before us, and this is where I started understanding there negative sentiments.
    I do not know if you follow this african lore, but regardless, it should not be used to define your ideas.

    Comment by john | Friday, April 23, 2010 | Reply

    • Thanks for the feedback john

      “The focus of our likeness to these beings is not physical but psychological. If the owner of a dog looked down on it because it was stupider that would be ridiculous.”

      So you think we have the same psychology as the Supreme Being(s). What is also ridiculous is a dog that thinks its doggy psychology is a likeness of its owner. Few humans would think that a dog that thought it has the psychological likeness of a human would be correct. I would think that the Supreme Being(s) would feel the same about people. As far as spiritual entities studying human behavior…why? What purpose does it serve? What could the study of humans so stuck on materialism and filled with ego do for spiritual entities? And human beings are the only ones on the planet with a train of thought? Have you ever seen a bird build a nest? They must’ve had some kind of thought in their head to put such a thing together. We have more in common with ants who exist on this planet with us than we do with spiritual entities that exist on another realm beyond our understanding.

      Thanks for your advice but I’m quite comfortable with my ideas founded on African spiritual tradition. However, if you are using your human ego as the foundation for your spiritual understanding, you might do yourself a favor and remember how small you are compared to the cosmos. From that perspective, you’d see that you and the ant have much more in common.


      Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Friday, April 23, 2010 | Reply

  24. I too believe we have minuscule understanding compared to higher beings of any kind, but they’ve never expected more from us. What I believe is that we were created in a position between higher and lower gods, the lower class gods then told to tend to our dimension and in some cases the beings were damned to our realm forever. I think these ‘bad’ guys are the ones we are most influenced by. They

    I understand the universe is large. And all animals do interesting things to survive. I just don’t relate either of those ideas to the fact people who’ve never met can get on a computer and debate ideas of such sophistication. We have civilization. You don’t agree they would study us but the stories your telling involve gods behaving like us and influencing our history.

    You are partial to the african lore? It’s the same kinda story in japan, scotland, australia, new zealand… more i’m sure…

    Comment by john | Friday, April 23, 2010 | Reply

    • john,

      “I just don’t relate either of those ideas to the fact people who’ve never met can get on a computer and debate ideas of such sophistication. “

      Then why are you here? You never met me but feel entitled to engage in debate on a subject of such sophistication. Yet, you don’t relate these ideas to people using computers to debate. And what did these “gods” do to be damned to our realm. And who are the higher class gods damning the lower ones? As humans we have a tendency to see things from our limited human perspective. Just like the dog who tries to imbue his or her owner with the doggy brand of psychology, humans have a tendency to use human experiences and understandings as the basis for the behavior of beings they know absolutely nothing about. You have about as much evidence that spiritual beings are being damned as an ant that believes humans have been damned to share this planet with them. And I do beg your pardon but if I told stories of gods behaving like humans than forgive me because I should have been more careful and put a disclaimer in a footnote explaining that the story should not have been taken so literally.


      Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Saturday, April 24, 2010 | Reply

  25. This article was very enjoyable indeed.I’ve had Nana Buruku’s name floating around in my head for the last few day’s.This has put thing’s into perspective for me.
    I shall continue to read all of your article’s,very entertaining.
    I laughed very hard at “We are very full of ourselves and our arrogance knows no bounds.”
    Thank you 🙂 brotherpeacemaker

    Comment by red-desert | Friday, July 15, 2016 | Reply

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