The Nakayima Tree in Mubende-a Cultural Heritage Site

Posted by on February 11, 2020

The Nakayima Tree-Culture-Legends-Traditional Beliefs

The Nakayima Tree in Mubende-locally called the Nakayima Witch’s Tree

The Nakayima Tree in Mubende is a Cultural Heritage Site where the Traditional Beliefs of old are still practiced today.   It is a must-visit Heritage Site for those that are interested in African Cultural Ways. It is also a revered site by several Ugandan Tribes, including the Baganda. Its beginning goes back to the early history of the area   

The Nakayima Tree is located on top of Mubende Hill on Kampala-Fort portal Road. It is a short distance of four kilometers from the town of Mubende. The perfect stop on the way to or from Kibale Forest.  The ancient Nakayima Witch’s Tree, as it is called, is estimated to be 400 to 600 years old. What catches your eye as you approach the tree is its impressive root system. Over the years, it has formed nooks and fissures. Spaces that are called rooms that today are dedicated to Ddahula, Nalongo Jajja Mukasa, Jajja Musoke, and Kilunda.

The Nakayima Tree, today a traditional belief and cultural site are situated on a flat table-like top with scenic views of the area. The site is believed to have been a fort for the Chwezi dynasty, which was in Uganda from 1350 -1400. This area was the residence of Nakayima, a Princess to Ndahura, the last King of the empire. She came here during a Smallpox outbreak, and she is still celebrated as the one who healed the suffering people.

The Nakayima Tree – was not created as a tourism site. It is an authentic, practicing, cultural, and traditional Belief Site. A place where many come each day seeking answers to their problems. Notables such as President Yoweri K. Museveni, along with his wife Janet and Kabaka Ronald Mutebi, both have visited the site and shown their respect, each in their way and tradition.

You will not find many other tourists here. Though you will be welcomed and guided back in time by a guide who will introduce you to the Nakayima Tree of Mubende

The Nakayima Tree in Mubende – a Must-Visit Cultural Heritage Site

The Nakayima Tree is believed to be a sacred tree by many in the surrounding area and far beyond. This ancient tree awaits you along with its keepers, spirit priestesses. Locally they are called witches. People with needs seek them out. The needs that are brought to the tree range from physical ailments to wanting to bear children. Even there is Spirit of the hunt where offerings are brought before someone goes out to hunt. It is a place for those looking for a miracle in relationships, a good fortune. They come and pay respect, appeal to the spirits past and present, the living medium that is at the Nakayima Tree.

They bring offerings from cash to beer. The witches or witch doctors will smoke special pipes. The smoke is supposed to allow them to communicate with the spirit world. Often wafts of smoke drift to those seeking a miracle, including Tourists and other Visitors.

A visit here is a window into the paradox of devout Christian and Muslims attending their houses of prayer and worship on Friday or Sunday. Then during the week, return to the traditional and cultural ways of old.  Faith here is a blend of the two as it is even with Westerners who go to Church on Sunday and see a Tarot Card Reader on Monday.

In the Kiganda Traditional Beliefs, which is the Religion of Baganda. There is Katonda. He is god and the creator who allows people to live life as they want it. In Mubende at the Nakayima Tree, you will find people who are hanging on to tradition. At the same time, an embrace of religions. Islan and Christianity brought to Uganda by Arabs and Westerners.

You will have a guide well versed in the history, legends, and myth of what some consider the Sacred Nakayima Tree, explain the different spirits that are appealed to by people from the Bunyoro and Buganda Kingdoms that continue even today.

The guide will take you around the tree and show the various rooms, which are large crevices in the tree’s large roots. “Of these, there are four rooms for Ndahura, some for Nnalongo Jajja Mukasa, two for Jajja Musoke and Kilunda.”

Whatever one hears while visiting the Witch’s Tree at Mubende must be heard and seen in the context of local traditions.  Keep in mind that in much of Africa history, events, legends were passed on orally and not written down. When it comes to the Nakayima Tree, there are various stories, myths that have been passed down. Below is just one of them.

The various legends of the Banyoro and Baganda tell of a traditional ritual site that had been on Mubende Hill since the earliest rulers of Bunyoro-Kitara, Excavations seem to verify that such traditional religious site existed.

There was a settlement long before the ancient dynasty of Bito rulers of Bunyoro-Kitara.  Following local traditions and stories and legends of the Banyoro and Baganda tell of a ritual site having been on Mubende Hill since the earliest rulers of Bunyoro-Kitara, the function that this traditional ritual center played was an important one. Even before t the Bachweezi ruling clan, the predecessors of the Bito line of kings, a Muhima sorceress called Kamawenge, came from Butiti (now in Toro) to settle on Kisozi, as Mubende Hill was initially known. Her two sons became the local leaders with the hill-top center, gaining some importance far and wide. Later, the place became a residence for the Bachweezi most exceptional leader, Ndaula, also called Ndahura.

Small Pox came and visited the land, and the Bachweezi’s Kindom’s influence over the Hima pastoralists collapsed, the clan’s power waned, and the new dynasty of Bito rulers came into being. The Ritual Center and residence of the Bachweezi King came to be known as Mubende, meaning “there is another one,” not another person or ruler but a complete change in the ruling power.

Mubende Hill reverted to its original status as the abode of a sorceress, but with a difference. The memory of Ndaula, the Muchweezi leader who had become defied as the god of smallpox, was perpetuated here. At the site of his compound, through this woman. She assumed the name of Ndaula’s wife, Nakayima. She was also referred to as Nyakahima. Every successive priestess has been better known by this title rather than by her name. It was so to the time of the demise of the last holder, Nyanjara, in 1907.

In a nutshell – what most will agree upon – A princess called Nakayima resided at this place, and her greatest miracle was said to be the prevention and cure of smallpox. She was consulted by both the highest and the lowest people about fertility and general ills and the traditions continue to this day as you will see during your visit here, as people even bring replicas of their ailment to find a cure for them

If you would like to include the Nakayima Tree in Mubende in your Safari – let us know