The Sacred Baobab of Toumousséni, Burkina Faso

Baobab trees are often considered to be objects of spiritual significance in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Tyurama (or Turka) ethnic group have a massive baobab tree in Toumousséni, Burkina Faso. At 18 meters in circumference it is the largest in the country and it is held sacred by the locals.

Locals attribute their survival of a war centuries ago to the spirit of this tree and therefore protect it and make sacrifices to it to this day. It currently has a middle-aged albino man as its guardian and he makes sure that its leaves and fruit are not harvested and that it receives regular offerings. As long as the tree is satisfied with their worship, a massive hole in its trunk remains open giving access to a cavernous room inside the tree.

When we visited we were allowed to enter the tree and sit with its care-taker in the cave. I’ve never been inside such a large tree before. Twenty people or so could have stood inside!

At the center, a single strand or root rose up from the ground to the top. They called it the antennae and said it was the original “core” of the tree. It was quite interesting how the tree was hollowed out around that core.