History of the Fire (Bugum) Festival

Purpose and History This festival is held by many ethnic groups in the Northern Ghana. Most Muslims and Non-Muslims take part in the celebration. The fire (Bugum) festival is observed by the Muslims to mark the landing of Prophet Noah’s (Nuhu) Ark after the flood. It is celebrated in the night with bundles of grass used as torches. This is the period during which some non-Muslims make offerings to their ancestors and God, since the festival marks the beginning of a new year. The Islamists hold the view that following the great flood during the time of Prophet Noah (Nuhu), the Ark landed in the night and torches were lit to enable Prophet Noah (Nuhu) and his people to see whether they were on land. This festival is therefore held to mark this important night when the Ark landed after the great flood. Besides, the Traditionalist are of the view that, one great king lost his son and when night falls a search party had to light torches (flash lights) in order to search for the prince in the night. Therefore this occasion is remembered annually, thus, the fire festival is held to   mark this all important night. Mode of Celebration As the festival begins in the night, the bundles of grass used as torches are prepared in the afternoon. Lots of foods are prepared for supper. Traditionally, family heads perform rituals by offering sacrifices of fowls and some of the prepared food to their departed ancestors. They then pray for good health and prosperity during the coming year. After supper, inhabitants assemble at the chief’s palace. The chief lights his torch first, circles it round his head seven times while calling on his ancestors to grant him and his subjects good health and prosperity during the coming year. He then throws away the torch and everybody then lights his/her torch and a procession begins amidst drumming and dancing to the outskirts of the town or village. The processions converge usually around a big tree. The torches are thrown at the tree. The processions then begin to dance back to the chief’s palace. During the climax of the festival celebration, the chief Imam (head of the Muslim community) of the village or town and his entourage will pay homage to the chief and pray for success and prosperity to mark the end of the celebration. The festival is celebrated by the Mamprusi and all other tribes and groups that have their ancestral linage to the Mamprugu kingdom including the Dagombas, Gonjas, Nanumbas, Frafras, Kusasi and Kumkombas.

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