The Nakayima Tree was planted by Nakayima, the wife of the Bacwezi ruler who reigned over the region between 450 and 600 years ago. According to legend, Nakayima would be possessed by the spirit of her husband so that he could communicate with his community. It’s also said she had mystical healing powers, and would cure people of diseases that herbalists couldn’t treat, including restoring smallpox victims to full health. For this, she was named the “Goddess of Smallpox”, and after her death, her spirit is said to have taken up residence in the tree to continue to heal the ailments of the community. Gifts ranging from coffee beans to ceramic pots, to animals are left alongside the thickly buttressed roots or in nooks in the tree by people seeking the goddess’ aid.
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