The Nakayima Tree-Culture-Legends-Traditional Beliefs
The Nakayima Tree in Mubende is locally called the Nakayima Witch’s Tree.
The Nakayima Tree in Mubende is an incredible Cultural Heritage Site where the old traditions of Africa are still alive and thriving. It’s a must-visit for anyone interested in experiencing traditional African culture firsthand. This site holds deep significance for various Ugandan ethnic groups, especially the Baganda, and its roots can be traced back to the ancient Chwezi Dynasty.
Located on Mubende Hill, just four kilometers away from Mubende, the Nakayima Tree is a convenient stopover for those traveling to or from Kibale Forest. It’s also a picturesque spot for a delightful picnic lunch.
This ancient tree, known as the Nakayima Witch’s Tree, is estimated to be between 400 and 600 years old. As you approach the tree, its unique root system immediately catches your attention. Over the years, the tree has developed nooks and fissures, forming rooms within its trunk. These rooms are dedicated to figures such as Ddahula, Nalongo Jajja Mukasa, Jajja Musoke, and Kilunda. It’s an unusual and awe-inspiring sight to behold.
Today, the Nakayima Tree is a cultural and traditional site, perched on a flat table-like top that offers breathtaking views of the surroundings. According to beliefs, this place was once a fort for the Chwezi dynasty, which ruled Uganda from 1350 to 1400. The tree connects to Princess Nakayima, who sought refuge here during a Smallpox outbreak. She is revered for healing the suffering people in the area and beyond. Legends and tales about Princess Nakayima have been passed down through generations, captivating audiences and drawing people to the Nakayima Tree even today.
It’s important to note that the Nakayima Tree is not primarily a tourist attraction but an authentic site where cultural and traditional beliefs are practiced. Many individuals visit the tree daily, seeking answers to their problems. Notable figures like President Yoweri K. Museveni, his wife Janet, and Kabaka Ronald Mutebi have shown their respect by visiting the site, each following their traditions.
While you may not encounter many other tourists at the Nakayima Tree, you will be warmly welcomed and guided by knowledgeable individuals who will introduce you to this historic site’s rich customs and traditions. It’s customary to make a donation, which will enable your driver-guide to handle the logistics.
The Nakayima Tree remains a sacred shrine, attracting Ugandans from all corners of the country, including prominent figures like the President and the traditional leader of the Buganda Kingdom, Kabaka Ronald Edward Frederick Kimera Muwenda Mutebi II.
The Nakayima Tree in Mubende – a Must-Visit Cultural Heritage Site
The Nakayima Tree is a revered and sacred site known for its spiritual significance, attracting people from the surrounding areas and beyond. The tree is accompanied by spirit priestesses, locally called witches, whom individuals with various needs seek out.
People come to the Nakayima Tree with many requests, including seeking healing for physical ailments, desiring fertility, and even blessings for a successful hunt. They pay respects and appeal to the spirits, past and present, through the living medium at the tree.
Visitors bring offerings, ranging from cash to beer, while the witches or witch doctors smoke special pipes to communicate with the spirit world. The wafts of smoke often drift towards those hoping for miracles, including tourists and other visitors.
A visit to the Nakayima Tree offers a glimpse into the Christian and Muslim faiths blending with traditional customs. Many individuals attend their respective houses of worship on Sundays or Fridays but return to traditional and cultural practices during the week. It’s a fusion of beliefs, even among Westerners who may attend church on Sundays and consult a Tarot Card Reader on Mondays.
Within the Kiganda Traditional Beliefs, followed by the Baganda people, there is a belief in Katonda, the god and creator who allows individuals to live their lives as they choose. In Mubende, at the Nakayima Tree, people hold onto tradition while embracing Islam and Christianity, which were introduced to Uganda by Arabs and Westerners.
During your visit, you will have a knowledgeable guide sharing the history, legends, and myths associated with the sacred Nakayima Tree. They will explain the spirits that people from the Bunyoro and Buganda Kingdoms have appealed to throughout history.
The guide will take you around the tree, showcasing the various rooms and large crevices formed within its roots. Some of these rooms are dedicated to figures like Ndahura, Nnalongo Jajja Mukasa, Jajja Musoke, and Kilunda.
It’s important to understand that anything you hear or witness at the Witch’s Tree in Mubende should be viewed in the context of local traditions. Legends and stories have been passed down orally throughout Africa’s history. When it comes to the Nakayima Tree, there are numerous stories and myths, and the one mentioned above is just one of them.
Historical excavations suggest a traditional religious site on Mubende Hill since the earliest rulers of the Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom. The site played a significant role in the local traditions and stories of the Banyoro and Baganda people.
According to the legends, a Muhima sorceress named Kamawenge settled in Kisozi, near Mubende Hill. Her two sons became influential leaders of the hilltop center. Subsequently, the renowned Bachweezi leader, Ndaula (also known as Ndahura), made the place his residence.
With the arrival of smallpox and the collapse of the Bachweezi Kingdom’s influence, a new dynasty of Bito rulers emerged, and the site became known as Mubende. It signified a change in ruling power rather than the presence of another ruler.
Mubende Hill transformed back into the dwelling place of a sorceress but with a difference. The memory of Ndaula, the Muchweezi leader associated with smallpox, was perpetuated through a woman who took on the name Nakayima, also called Nyakahima.
Each successive priestess became better known by this title rather than her name. This tradition continued until the passing of the last holder, Nyanjara, in 1907.
The Nakayima Tree is closely linked to Princess Nakayima, known for her ability to prevent and cure smallpox. She consulted people from all walks of life, guiding fertility and general ailments. As you’ll witness during your visit, these traditions continue today, with people seeking cures for their diseases.
If you want to include the Nakayima Tree in Mubende on your Safari, let us know, and we can make the arrangements for you.