The Bugum festival ( Buɣim chuɣu) among the Dagomba people :

One of the unique feature of the African continent is their year-round religious festivities. Almost every culture in Africa celebrate one festivity or another, throughout the year.

In Ghana, west Africa, there are over 50 indigenous languages, each with an identifiable religious festivity.

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However, one of the most amazing festivals in Ghana is the Bugum festival (Fire Festival), celebrated by the Dagomba tribe in the northern region of the country.

The Bugum festival ( Buɣim chuɣu) among the Dagomba people
The King OF Dagbon, Ndan Ya Na Gariba II, Getting ready for Bugum Celebration

The Dagomba people have twelve months in a year. These months are based on the lunar calendar, with a 30 days or 29 days clear. When the moon completes a 30 days cycle, the Dagomba people call it ” Goli pali” (Completed Moon). If the cycle however completes on the 29th day, it is known as ” Goli kabili “(Uncompleted Moon).

The twelve lunar moths of the Dagbamba people include :

  1. Buɣim
  2. Damba bilaa
  3. Damba
  4. Gaambanda
  5. Bandacheena
  6. Kpini bilaa
  7. Kpini
  8. Nolɔri bilaa
  9. Nolɔri
  10. Konyuri chuɣu
  11. Chimsi bilaa
  12. Chimsi

Out of these 12 months, the Dagomba people celebrate five (5) festivals. They include;

Bugum festival : List of Dagomba Festivals

  1. Buɣim Chuɣu
  2. Damba Chuɣu
  3. Kpini Chuɣu
  4. Konyuri Chuɣu
  5. Chimsi Chuɣu

The Bugum festival, which is also known as the fire festival, is a cultural-religious festivity which marks the beginning of the Dagbon year.

The Bugum festival ( Buɣim chuɣu) among the Dagomba people
Celebrant waiting for the King of Dagbon to light up the torch in front of the Royal Gbewaa Palace, Yendi

The Bugum festival ( Fire Festival) among the Dagomba people The Bugum festival ( Fire Festival) among the Dagomba people The Bugum festival ( Fire Festival) among the Dagomba people

Read More: Dagbon Names And Child Naming In Dagomba Custom

The occasion is marked by the lighting of thatch torches and matching along approved routes, amidst chanting of war songs, known among the Dagomba people as “Ʒiɛm”.

Origin of Bugum festival (Fire Festival)

Historically, the Bugum chugu is one of the oldest festival of the Dagbamba people. It dates as far back as the 15th century, when Naa Zoligu was king of Dagbon.

Naa Zoligu is the 7th Yaa-Naa, right from Naa Shitɔbu, to have ascended the Gbewaa skin.
His reign lasted from around 1469 to 1486.

During his reign, his first grandson, Naa Dariʒiɛɣu went missing in the bush.Oral history has it that, Naa Dariʒiɛɣu was taken by a group of dwarfs, when he followed his father, Naa Zɔŋ and brothers to the farm.

All efforts to trace the whereabouts of Naa Zoligu’s favourite grandson proved futile. Naa Zoligu however insisted that, Naa Dariʒiɛɣu be found, since the soothsayers have informed him consistently that his grandson was alive and well.

The search for Naa Dariʒiɛɣu became a ritual; as they searched for him day and night, into dangerous forests.

Due to the danger associated with this mission, every man came out fully fortified and armed, to face any eventuality .

The Bugum festival ( Buɣim chuɣu) among the Dagomba people
Celebrant lighting up their torch during the festival

During the night, they’ll light torches from thatch, to enable them find their way. Finally, the little boy was found sleeping under a tree.

The search party, who believed that the said tree was a spiritual tree, which was used by the dwarfs to hide the boy from them, used their torches to burn down the tree, while some broke its branches for ritual purposes.

Amidst drumming and dancing, the rescue team returned the little boy home.

And this very incident, initiated a festivity, which will last through ages, till this day.

Read More : Aboriginal Dagombas : Before The Advent Of Yananima

How The Bugum Festival ( Fire Festival ) Is Celebrated:

The Bugum festival is celebrated on the 9th day of the Buɣim goli( Buɣim month). It was the day the favourite grand son of Naa Zoligu went missing.

The festival is the first of five festivals celebrated by the people of Dagbon.

Though the festivity began in Dagbon, other neighboring tribes such as the Gonjas, kusasis and Mamprusi have adopted the festival and this has further given popularity to this festivity across the country, as a festival of the northern Ghana tribes.

The Bugum festival ( Fire Festival) among the Dagomba peopleThe Bugum festival ( Fire Festival) among the Dagomba peopleThe Bugum festival ( Fire Festival) among the Dagomba people

The Bugum festival ( Buɣim chuɣu) among the Dagomba people
Bugum Festival Celebrants with their torch

The adoption of this festivity from the Dagomba people is evident in the fact that, in both the Gonja and mamprusi Bugum celebrations, the occasion is accompanied by Dagbon drummers .

Preparation for the Buɣim festival:

Preparation towards the Buɣim festival begins when the Buɣim moon is sighted.
This is the time when children go into the bushes to fetch as much thatch as they can find. They tie these thatches into several bundles.

They then distribute them to their uncles and grandparents. This is done, to restrains the aged from going into the bushes themselves.

But perhaps, the bundle of thatch which these kids give to their uncles and grandparents become debts, which these old folks will pay back in a form of money when the occasion is over. The Dagombas call this money ” Ligri awei”.

Another noticeable scene during the eight days before the festivity, is the gathering of animals, most especially fowls and goats. These animals will be used to pacify the god of the land, known as ” Tingbana” and the smaller deities in peoples homes, known in Dagbanli as “dang thi” ( family deities )

The Bugum chuɣu is a festival for Dagbon men. It is a month of sacrifices to the gods and to other spiritual totems, which the Dagomba people use to protect themselves and their families.

This is why the Buɣim festival is called

” Dagban dabba chuɣu”, which means, the festival of Dagomba men.

It is also known as the festival of Dagomba men because of the open display of spiritual powers and effrontery during the celebration.

Read More: The Traditional Dagbon Hats: Types, How It’s Worn And Its Significance In Dagbon Kingdom

Bugum festival ( Fire Festival ) : The Day of celebration

The Bugum festival is celebrated in the night, after supper ( Sagdihili nyaanga). The food for that day is specially prepared, with lots of meat for children to enjoy themselves before they go out for the festivity .

The family heads share this special meal with their dead relatives by placing mussels of food on the walls ( Gambee) of their homes for their ancestors to come and feed at night.

But before night fall, People use the hour of the day to pacify their totems and magical artifacts and verbal enchantments known as ” Nolini wuna”.

The Bugum festival ( Buɣim chuɣu) among the Dagomba people
Young Children participating in the bugum festival

Twins;who are also seen by the Dagomba people as special spiritual beings are equally given the best gifts by way of seeking blessings and spiritual welfare.

Others use the day time of the 9th to test their ” Juju” before the night falls. This is to enable them give the best display during the festivity.

At the chiefs palace, the chief’s religious cleric, known as ” Naa limam” is seen busily compiling a list of spiritual text, in waiting for the night.


Bugum festival ( Fire Festival )  : The Celebration

On the night of the festival, right after the hours of supper, the big drum is heard from the chief’s palace. The drum is to assembly every adult and child to the chief’s palace, where the official fire festival commences.

The chief is then brought out by the elders to address the gathering. He spends some few time to give a vivid narration of how the tradition has been passed on from generation to generation. He also advice the people against indulging in activities which will mar the beauty of the festivity.

The chief then lights his fire first and the elders tap from his fire. The rest of the crowd then tap from each other, until the last person’s thatch is lit. This signify unison in the fire, which the entire town wield.

The chief doesn’t take part in the route match. He moves few steps and then returns to his palace.
The celebrators then match through an approved route, singing and chanting war songs, accompanied by the loud sound of the big drum (gungɔŋ), with intermittent blast of gun powder, from the muskets of the sapashinnima.

There is always a leading voice which chants the first lines of the ʒiem songs, while the rest of the crowd respond with so much energy.

Leading voice : ” Buɣim di ma mɔɣuni ka n zo n-kuli n ya”
Crowd : ” Yoo Yoo Yoo yaa yo”
Leading voice : ” Yoo Yoo Yoo yaa yo”
Crowd : “Yoo Yoo Yoo yaa yo”
Leading voice : ” Bia ŋun ʒɛm ti Naa ŋɔ yee
Crowd : “O ʒɛm saa nyinnyaɣu”.

There are other songs sang along the way, but this song is by far the most popular song in the Buɣim festival celebration.

Read More : Naa Gungobili -The destitute Prince of Dagbon Kingdom

The Bugum tɔbu usually ends at a bottom of a designated tree, known as the ” Buɣim tɔbu tia”. Everyone throws his or her burning thatch on top of the tree as a sign of burning it down. This act is meant to mimic the act which was done when Naa Dariʒiɛɣu was found.

The Bugum festival ( Buɣim chuɣu) among the Dagomba people
Celebrant raising high his torch during the festival procession

The crowd then break leaves of this tree, which they use as herbs to bath their children. These herbs help to strengthen the bones of these little infants and also guard them against spiritual attacks .

Then frenzy crowd then head back to the chief’s place amidst dancing and chantings.
This is usually the point, when spiritually powerful people display their effrontery.

At the palace, the chief and his elders await the crowd’s return to give them a spiritual bath from concoctions prepared by the chief priest of the town. With the advent of the islamic religion, this duty is now being performed by the chief’s imam, who writes texts from the Holy Qur’an and washes it to form what is known as ” waliga”. This is what some communities now use to sanctify and fortify the people.

It is believed that, this particular holy water, does not only drive away bad spirits from the crowd but it also serves as medicine, which cures people of certain spiritual ailments.

When this is done, a dancing ceremony is initiated at the chiefs palace. This is the last event of the night. The dancing continuous, until the first cock Crow at dawn. People then return to their various homes to have a rest.
This day, after the night of the fire festival is the happiest moment for kids. This is the day they visit their grandparents and uncles for money and other gifts, known as ” Ligiri awei”.

The mossis, who’re playmates to the Dagbamba people, go into Dagbamba homes with brooms to sweep their compounds. After that, they charge them for their services. This results into a bunter of negotiations, until a final fee is agreed upon. This money given to the mossi people is called ” zambee ligri”

Bugum festival ( Fire Festival ): Sabili Larigibu

The next day, after the Bugum tɔbu night is known as sabili larigibu. This part of the event is accomplished by the chief’s religious clerics.
Sabili larigibu is an attempt to foretell the future, through spiritual investigations . The imam of the town is expected to unravel the mystery of the new year and to make predictions of major events which will occur in that year.

This is done to serve as a guide to the people, as they prepare to embrace the new year. The imam presents his findings to the chief, which is then communicated to the general public.

The day is also used as a day for family visitations. People go about the community, exchanging greetings and good tidings. They say to each other, ” Ni ti yuun palli” – to with, blessed new year to you.

The Bugum festival ( Buɣim chuɣu) among the Dagomba people
Drummers drumming for celebrants

Indeed, the Bugum chugu marks the official ushering in of the new year and remain one of the most significant festivals of the Dagbon people.

Read More : The advent of the lunsi in Dagbon State

Significance of the Bugum festival :

The Bugum festival, which is celebrated in the Bugum month, provides a good opportunity for family reunion in Dagbon. Dagombas all over the walks of life return to their native homes to mark the festivity. They visit family members they’ve not seen for a long time and exchange good tidings and pleasantries.

It also provides an avenue for families, especially children to know members of the extended family. The extended family system is one which the Dagomba people do not compromise. And so children are introduced to their uncles, aunts, brothers and nephews, whom they’ve never met.

Another important aspect of the Bugum festival is that it creates a platform, where the aged pass on their history and heritage to the younger generation, through a complex system of oral narrations.
This has been the greatest strength of the Dagbon people

And it is through this that the Dagomba people have preserved their culture and tradition for decades.


Frequently Asked Questions On Bugum festival / Fire Festival


When is the Fire Festival?

The Bugum festival is celebrated on the 9th day of the Buɣim goli ( Buɣim month). Which is the first month of the Dagomba lunar Calendar

Bugum festival is celebrated by

The Fire festival which is known in the Dagbanli as Bugum chugu is celebrated by the Dagomba people of the Dagbon Kingdom but most of the northern ghana tribes have also adopted the fire festival and also celebrate it such as the Mamprusis, The Gonjas, the Waala etc

Another name for bugum festival

Another name for The Bugum festival is Fire Festival,

It was the day the favourite son of Naa Zoligu went missing.

The festival is the first of five festivals celebrated by the people of Dagbon.

Though the festivity began in Dagbon, other neighboring tribes such as the Gonjas, kusasis and Mamprusi have adopted the festival and this has further given popularity to this festivity across the country, as a festival of the northern Ghana tribes.

Meaning of bugum festival

The Meaning Of bugum festival is Fire Festival. Bugum spelt in Dagbanli as Buɣim means Fire and Chugu (chuɣu) means Festival


Abdul Malik Abukari

I have a strong passion for the diversity which exist between people from all walks of life. And same in the similarities which binds them together as human from the same ancestry. Indeed, I'm trilled to share with the rest of the world, the heritage of my people, the Dagbamba ethnic group from Northern Ghana. My name is Abdul Malik and I live in Tamale -Ghana

7 thoughts on “The Bugum festival ( Buɣim chuɣu) among the Dagomba people :

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  • August 17, 2021 at 10:40 am

    FANTASTC,FANTASTC FANTASTIC What an amazing rich sweet lovely culture? i missed it i am an indigenous Dagbamba man who leaves very far from home im hoping to celebrate it one day with family so that the newly born family members will get to know

    • September 26, 2021 at 3:29 pm

      Thanks for your reply bro. Stay with us for more. We look forward to receiving you back home. Stay safe


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