Beautiful ethnic Oromo bride (wearing white in the middle) surrounded by her pretty maid of honors at Oromo traditional wedding ceremony at Oromia in Ethiopia, East Africa. The Oromo (Oromo: Oromoo, “The Powerful”; Ge’ez: ኦሮሞ, ’Oromo) people are indigenous and one of the largest Cushitic-speaking ethnic group in Africa, occupying the Eastern and North Eastern Africa. Oromo as one of the Cushitic speakers have occupied parts of north-eastern and eastern Africa (Horn of Africa) for as long as recorded history. They are found in:
• Northern Ethiopia (southern Tigray Region)
• Kenya (mainly northern), even as far south as Lamu Island and
The Oromo people is the single largest national group in Ethiopia, accounting for about 35 million (40%) of 75 million population. Tilahun (1992), however, posits that “in Ethiopia, Oromo account for 50%-60% of the population of the Ethiopian Empire State (Tilahun, 1992). They are “a very ancient race, the indigenous stock, perhaps, on which most other peoples in this part of Eastern Africa (the Horn of Africa) had been grafted” (Bates, 1979). The Oromo people primarily reside over a vast region of Ethiopia predominately in Wallaggaa, Iluabbaabooraa, Jimmaa, Shewa, Arsii, Baalee, Harargee, Walloo, Boranaa, and Southwestern part of Gojjam .
MARRIAGE CEREMONIES OF OROMO
The Oromos have a traditional marriage ceremony which descended from earlier times (antiquities). The great social significance is attached to the wedding ceremony. The wedding day is a very important day in the life of both the bride and the groom. It is important for the bride whose wedding celebrated once in her life. As for the man, he can celebrates his wedding if he marries a second or third wives either because of the death of his first wife or when ever he wants to have more than one wife. However, even for the man, it is the first wedding ceremony which is more important than the second or the third one. These ceremonies do not take place equally in all forms of acquiring wife (marriage).The most typical is Naqataa (betrothal) form of marriage where the ceremony starts at the moment when marriage is first thought of and even continues after the marriage is concluded in such case as Ilillee, Mana Aseennaa, Minje Deebii and Torban Taa’umsa.
Bethortal is a form marriage mostly arranged by the parents of the bride and groom with a great deal of negotiation. Traditionally the groom’s parents search for a bride for their son. Before they make any contact with the bride’s parents, the groom’s parents research back seven generations to make sure that the families are not related by blood. Once this has been done, the boy’s parents hen make contact with the girl’s parents through a mediator. The mediator goes to the home of the girl’s parents and asks if their daughter will marry the son of the other parents. The girls’s parents often impose conditions and the mediator will take the message to the boy’s parents, then arrange a date for both parents to meet at a mutually convenient location. When the parents have reached an agreement, the man and woman get engaged (betrothed). The parents then set a wedding date and they meet all the wedding expenses.
After the betrothal is conducted, both parents prepare food and drink for the wedding and invite guests. The families enjoy the wedding ceremonies of their children and say that yeroo cidha dhala keenyaa itti arginudha (it the time to seethe wedding of our children). Both families begin to make wedding feast including Farsoo1, Daadhii2, Araqee3 and food. These preparations begin a couple of weeks before the date of wedding. Fifteen or twenty days before marriage, the young girl friends of the bride-to-be are invited to come to her
house after dark to practice singing and dancing. This is called Jaala Bultii (Dancing and singing, which takes, place around the boy’s and girl’s house in the evening two or three weeks prior to the wedding and terminates on the wedding date.) The boys and girls of the community gather and sing by the house of the bride and the bridegroom. The singers on the side of the bridegroom praise him and his relatives while degrading the bride and her relatives by their songs. The same is true of the singers on the bride’s side.
One month before the wedding date, the groom requests his companion (hamaamota) and age mates (Hiriyya) to travel with him to take his bride. It is also his responsibility to choose the miinjee (miinjota, plural)-the best man. Usually these people come with mule. If most of the bride’s friends and best men come with their own mules it is assumed to be an indication of groom’s wealth. The father of the boy also tells one of his age-mates to go with his boy as waa’ela abbaa (father’s stand-in). A week before the wedding date the bride will start washing her clothes, arranging her hair and finish her unfinished works like traditional clothes and other household furniture. Her friends will not depart from her thereafter. Women in the neighborhoods of the bride would help the mother of the bride in grinding, roasting grains which are used for making food and local drinks. They also fetch water, collect firewood and carryout some other similar works. The men on their part help by fetching objects, which are necessary for the feast, by constructing temporary staying rooms called Daassii for the attendants of the feast and decorating the compound.
The bride and her friends often discuss about the departure which is inevitable. During this time they are sorrowful and often sing breath-taking melodies, the bride makes prose in poetical style and weep and her friends follow after her in singing the prose and weeping. In the early morning of the wedding date, the relatives of the bridegroom gather. After a while bride’s companions gather while girls near the house of the bridegroom sing and dance. After wards, companions will be provided with food and drinks. The bridegroom then will be dressed with the clothes especially prepared for that date and will be seated a midst of his relatives. The parents of the bridegroom, elders and relatives will bless the bridegroom. When the bridegroom leaves his houses with his companions, the girl will accompany him by beating drums, singing and resounding (Ilillee). If the bridegroom is from the wealthy family, bullets will be shot as a pride to the family.
The companions will proceed to the bride’s house singing songs. When they arrive at the house of the bride’s family, a certain procedure should meet. That is, the bride with her friend will come to the gate of the place reserved for the companions and beating drums. By doing this, she bars the bridegroom and the companions from entering the house of her family. Such activity is known as Balbal qaba. She will do this until she gets a certain sum of money from the bridegroom as an entrance fee.
Sometimes the bridegroom tries to enter the house of the bride’s family without giving a certain sum of money to the bride. During this time, a dispute may arise between the bride and her age-mates on the one hand and the bridegroom and his companions on the other hand on whether or not the company of the bridegroom should be let enter the house of the girl’s family without paying some amount of money to the bride. Sometimes the disputes may lead to serious debate and even to exchange of blows. In such occurrences, some individuals from bride’s family try to cool the nuisance and make the girls leave the entrance. This is almost carried out by making the entrance fee negotiable by both sides.
That means these individuals advice the girl to reduce the sum and the company of the boys to pay a certain sum. After the sum fixed is paid the bridegroom and his companions will sit on the seat reserved for them in the temporary staying rooms (daassii). After they get in the dassii hosts from the bride’s family provide food, distributes waancaa (A vessel made of horn of animals which is used foe drinking purposes) or drinking glasses to them and fills it with good quality Farsoo. After the food is eaten, the groom puts gatii caabii (Caabii: earthen dish or plate used for dinning. Gatii caabii – money paid by the groom after the food is served. The girl’s mother takes this money and it is usually between twenty to thirty Ethiopian Birr.) The feast goes on in the form of eating and drinking.
The companions together with girl’s parties sing and dance. Following this, the groom and bride receive blessing from the girl’s parents. In that blessing place the father and the mother of the bride as well as close relatives of her willassemble and the bride and the bridegroom will be seated side by side in front of the individuals who bless them. The mother of the bride will provide wancaafull of farsoo or milk. The bride and the groom will take hold of the glass by putting their hands together on the glass at the same time. While the bride and groom holding the glass together, the father and mother of the bride will bless them by saying walitti horaa bulaa, which means have children, wealth and all necessity of life and live together. Graan keessanii fi afaan keessan tokko haata’u, which means be one mind and heart. Then the bride and groom will take a sip of the drink of blessing. At this moment older men take out all items or materials made ready to be given as a gonfa (gifts) to count, tie and pack them. These are prepared by the bride and her parents, and are also contributed by near relatives and the bride’s age-mates. The gifts contributed by the invited people in the form of money or kinds are called gumaata.
After the competition of the blessing process, the elders from the bride’s side demand a miinjee (the first best man) to be named and becomes forward when the proxy for the groom’s father (dura adeemaa) calls his name. Then the best man is asked whether he has a sister or not and his willingness to be a brother of this girl (miinjee). If he names his sister, he will take an oath in her name to take care of the bride as his own sister. He receives an oath to counsel and protect her ways, to help her whenever she is in problem and asks him for help. The best man says, “If I fail to assist her, let my sister’s best man treat her like that”. In the case that the best man has no sister, he swears saying that the same kind of treatment should come to himself. After that the groom and his companion, through the elder representing them then, state now we ate and drunk and finished what is required of us. So, we appeal to your will to let us go because we on our part have guests at our home. The groom rises alone while the best man helps the bride and leads her out. The bride walks with her best man under the newly bought umbrella and mounts her mule by the help of the best man.
The companion take all the material given as dowry and mount their own mules. After this, the bridegroom and his company will leave for their home with his bride. On their way to bride’s house if they come across a river, the bride halts her mule because she wants the groom to promise her half claim over a cow.
The girl does not practice this whenever she comes across a river. Rather, this is done only in the cases of rivers which she might come across near his or her house. In the case of the second river when she practices the same act, she would be promised the second half of cow as the case may be.
On arrival at the groom’s house, the groom’s sister and her friends singing to defame the bride. The companion present the gonfaa (gifts) and count it in frontof relatives and invited guests to show how much her parents are hard working.The groom’s sister blocks the entrance until he pays her some amount of money. The companion who takes the responsibility of the bride then pays some amount of money to the groom’s sisters who do not let the bride enter the house and if they got they leave the door.
The companion and other guests enjoy themselves with the feast till the morning while singing and dancing. That night the boy deflowers the girl. The best men and the groom’s mother go to the girl after she has been deflowered. The bride’s scarf is used to take the blood to proof her virginity. If no proof of virginity is found, the husband whips her with alanga (Whip made from hippopotamus), and sometimes sends her back to demand the return of marriage payment. But such practice is at less degree these days. If she is found virgin, the groom and the best men shoot of the gun to declare her purity and the groom’s mother and the best men take possession of the stained scarf and emerge triumphant to declare the virtue of the girl. The best men spend five days with the couples except for the day they return to her parents’ house for the misiraachoo ( Congratulating the girl’s family on the virginity of their daughter and their proper upbringing.) For these five days the bride remains in the small house behind a curtain with her best men, visited freely only by the groom and his mother throughout a five day isolation. During these five days the best men do not allow any one to visit the bride without offering some cents.
One day following the wedding day the best men and other friends congratulate the girl’s family on the virginity of their daughter and their proper upbringing. On the arrival the best men and his friends shoot off the gun and present the stained cloth to the individual family members by placing it on each of their caps while he sounds ilillee (An utterance of victory or joy.) The friend or relative is obliged to offer a gift for the privilege of viewing the bloodstained scarf. The scarf is not necessarily the one, which has a spot of a blood on it. Every individual is supposed to give more than two coins (0.20 Ethiopian cents). After spending
there enjoying the feasts and congratulators start for their house, directly to the house of the newly weds to stay there till fifth day.
On the fifth day, the bride introduces herself to the groom’s family and makes a formal entry into the big house of the groom’s parents. The entry is called mana aseeennaa. Before the girl leaves the little house, the couple and the miinjotaa feed from the marqaa (A bread made from grain flour, usually barley served with butter) and qorii (Barley roasted and serve with special butter) provided by the groom’s mother.
When she leaves her small hose the groom shaves her qarree, which is another sign of her new status, and she also shaves a small portion of her husband’s hair. Following this the couple enter the house of the parents followed by the miinjotaa and at the door her husband’s father promise her cows, and she reciprocates by providing the father with heavy bullukko (A large garment usually worn by men. It is local production made from cotton) and the mother with kutaa (A cotton cloth which is very long worn by the women from the top to the bottom. It is usually worn on the date of festivals) and wedding and sabbata ( It is a long step of cloth, which is worn by Oromos of Gidda area round their waist.)
The miinjee also brings many things for the ceremony such as qorii, food served with chicken dish, and pot full of farsoo. All the family with their relatives enjoy the feast prepared for the ceremony. From that day on wards the miinjotaa go their homes and the bride lives with her husband without feeling of loneliness.
After month or two the bride family invite the couple with miinjotaa to return home. This first homecoming is known as miinje deebii (returning of the best man). For that day the groom prepare a goat that will be killed at the house of the bride’s family. His mother prepares qorii, araqee and kukkutaa (A food soaked in a meat soup), which the bride takes with her when she goes for the miinjee deebii.
After getting prepared, the couple and the companion go with few friends on fixed date. At the house of the bride’s family, young girls gather and sing together. On the arrival they are given seats in the temporary staying rooms. The bride’s family provides them with food and drink. After eating and drinking, the bride stands up to exchange greetings with her family and relatives. Following this the best men dances at the middle of the girls dancing out side, declaring the virginity of the girl while the bride serving the food she has brought. People rarely sleep that night; usually stay all night eating, drinking and singing. Early in the morning, the groom brings into the front the goat he has brought and the first best man kills it.
From the killed goat, steer or ram what ever it may be, the right hind limb will not be consumed there but the newly weds take it to their home. And also the skin belongs to the best men. The couple, the best men and friends who accompanied the couple and relatives of the bride’s family eat meat from the goat prepared by the bride’s mother and women from the surrounding. After this, few friends who accompanied the couple return home while the couple and the best men stay for another one or two days. Before the couple return to their home, the family of the bride fix a date for their daughter to come back for yet another visit which is called toorban taa’umsa (a stay for a couple of weeks).
On this fixed date the bride goes to her family accompanied by her husband who will turn home in the morning. She carries again flour and spiced butter to provide to her family. After her stay for a week with her parents the husband takes her home.