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Oromia: Barnoota Waaqeffannaa: Gadaan kan of ta’uu ti: The Oromo (African) ancient faith system June 13, 2015

Posted by OromianEconomist in Africa, Humanity and Social Civilization, Kemetic Ancient African Culture, Waaqeffanna (Oromo ancient African Faith System).
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???????????Faith of the Oromo

 

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Oromia: The Oromo Heritages: Gadaa, Siiqqee and Irreecha. #Africa. June 13, 2015

Posted by OromianEconomist in Africa, Ancient African Direct Democracy, Ancient Egyptian, Ancient Rock paintings in Oromia, Ateetee, Ateetee (Siiqqee Institution), Boran Oromo, Gadaa System, Irreecha, Irreecha Oromo, Oromia, Oromo, Oromo Nation, Oromo Social System, Oromo Wisdom, Oromo women, Oromummaa, Sirna Gadaa, The Goddess of Fecundity, Waaqeffanna (Oromo ancient African Faith System).
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Oromo nation and Gadaa system

Oromo nation and Gadaa system

The Borana Calendar REINTERPRETED

by Laurance R. Doyle

Physics and Astronomy Department, University of California, Santa Cruz,at NASA Ames Research Center, Space Sciences Division, M.S. 245-7,
Moffett Field, Calif. 94035, U.S. 20 XII 85

The announcement of a possible first archaeoastronomical site (called Namoratunga II) in sub-Saharan Africa by Lynch and Robbins (1978) and its subsequent reappraisal by Soper (1982) have renewed interest in an East African calendrical system, the Borana calendar, first outlined in detail by Legesse (1973:180-88). I shall here reinterpret the calendar as Legesse describes it in the light of astronomical constraints.
The Borana calendar is a lunar-stellar calendrical system, relying on astronomical observations of the moon in conjunction with seven particular stars (or star groups). At no time (except indirectly by way of lunar phase) does it rely upon solar observations. The Borana year is twelve lunar synodic months (each 29.5 days long), 354 days. While it will not correspond to the seasons, this may not be of primary importance for people this close to the equator. There are twenty-seven day names (no weeks), and since each month is either 29 or 30 days long, the first two (or three) day names are used twice in the same month starts on a new day name. The day names are listed in Table 1, the month names in Table 2.
The first six months can be identified at the beginning of the month with a particular astronomical observation, whereas the last six months can be so identified only around the middle of the month. The first six months begin with the observation of the new-phase moon in conjunction with six positions in the sky marked by seven particular stars or star groups. Thus the phase of the moon is held constant while its position varies. The last six months are identified by a particular-phase moon seen in conjunction with the first star position. Thus, here, the lunar phase changes and the position is held constant. The seven stars or star groups in order are Triangulum (which I take to mean Beta Trianguli), Pleiades, Aldebarran, Belletrix, central Orion (around the sword), Saiph, and Sirius. They are given in Table 2 next to the months they define.
The New Year starts with the observation of the new moon in conjunction with Beta Trianguli. (The term “new moon” here will be taken to be within two days of zero phase, although the Borana allow up to three “leap” days’ leeway, the astronomical observation determining the correct day to start on. This is indicated in the day nomenclature by the assignment of like prefixes to two or three day names before the approximate time an important astronomical observation is to take place.) Since the new moon can be seen only just before sunrise or just after sunset, twilight makes the observation of Beta Trianguli (a third-magnitude star) in conjunction with a new moon impossible with the naked eye.

Assuming that such an observation, however, was possible, would the next new moon be in conjunction with the next star group. Pleiades? (Conjunction here is taken to mean “rising with” or “setting with,” having the same right ascension. Legesse says (p. 182), “Let us assume that a new moon was sighted last night and that is appeared side by side with the star Sirius, which the Borana call Basa.”) Since the sidereal period of the moon is 27.3 days long, it will arrive back at the Triangulum position more than two days before completing its synodic month. At the sidereal rate of 13.2° per day, the moon will be within 3° of Pleiades when it rises in the new phase again. However, by the time of the third month it rises, not with Aldebarran, the next star, but a little past Belletrix, the fourth star, which is supposed to start the fourth month. By the fourth month the new moon is rising past Sirius, the sixth start, and the calendar is clearly not working as described. It should be added that the right-ascension positions of the stars in the area from Beta Trianguli to Sirius change with time, at the rate of roughly 15° every thousand years. However, the stars stay in approximately the same configuration, and arguments based on their present right-ascension relationships will hold over the past several thousand years as well.
What happens if we take the term “conjunction,” or “side by side,” as Legesse has it, to mean not “rising with” but “rising single-file,” that is, at the same horizon position (in other words, having the same declination)? Examining the idea that it is not the proximity of the moon to the star that is important but its horizon rising (or setting) position with respect to that star’s horizon rising (or setting) position, we immediately find that the first necessary observation, the new moon rising at the horizon position of Beta Trianguli, is not currently possible. Beta Trianguli rises (at the equator) about 35° north of the east point (0° declination), while the moon (on the northernmost average) rises at 23.5° north of east, never rising farther north than 28.5° from the East Point. The earth’s rotation axis is known to precess over the centuries, and while this does not change the lunar orbital positions significantly, it does change the apparent position of the stars. We can calculate the positions of the seven Borana stars at a time when Beta Trianguli was well within the moon’s declination limits to see if the calendar would have worked then. In 300 BC, Beta Trianguli was rising at a declination of +23° north of east. The right-ascension positions at the time still do not allow a “rising with” interpretation of the calendrical system. We can begin by defining the start of the Borana year as the new moon rising at the rising position of 300 BC Beta Trianguli. (The date of 300 BC was strongly suggested by the preliminary dating of Namoratunga II, but it was chosen because +23°, Beta Trianguli’s declination at the time, is the northern average of the moon’s monthly motion. I will take the moon’s motion, for the example here, from theNautical Almanacs for 1983 and 1984.) The next new moon rises at 14° north of east, which corresponds precisely to the 300 BC horizon rising position of Pleiades, the next Borana star. The next four new moons (starting the next four Borana months) rise at +9 degrees, +1 degree, –11 degrees, and –17 degrees declination. These positions correspond to the 300 BC horizon rising positions of the Borana stars Aldebarran. Belletrix, central Orion—Saiph (taken together), and Sirius, respectively (Table 3).
The seventh month should be identifiable 14 or 15 days from its automatic start (about 29 days after the start of the sixth month) by a full moon rising at the Beta Trianguli position, and this is indeed the case. Each subsequent moon rises at this horizon position 27.3 days later (sidereal month) in a phase (synodic month) about two days less waxes (since it is on its way to the full phase again) each time. (Legesse has a waning moon, but this must mean waning with respect to each subsequent monthly observation, not with respect to the Phase State for that month.) On the thirteenth or first month, the moon is seen rising in the new phase again (“new” meaning within a couple of days of zero phase), and another year begins. Tracing the moon’s motion as it arrives at these positions in the sky (which are, however, no longer directly marked by the seven stars), we can derive the calendar (see Table 4).
This outline is still general with respect to what is sometimes called the lunar excursion (regression of the line of nodes of the lunar orbit). The three “leap” days the Borana calendar allows for the starting of some of the months just before an important astronomical observation could account for this declination excursion of the moon (± ca. 5° from 23.5° declination on an 18.6-year basis), but this would certainly require confirmation in the field.
The Borana calendrical system as described by Legesse is, therefore, a valid timekeeping system, subject to the astronomical constraints outlined here, and the pillars found in northwestern Kenya by Lynch and Robbins and preliminary dates at 300 BC could, as they suggest, represent a site used to derive that calendar. The calendar does not work in right-ascension sense, but it does work if taken as based on declination. It might have been invented around 300 BC, when the declinations of the seven stars corresponded to lunar motion as the calendar indicates, and the star names would therefore apply to the horizon positions as well. Because the horizon rising positions constitute the important observations (over half of which must be made at twilight), some sort of horizon-marking device would seem to be necessary. Since the calendar is still in use, and the horizon-making pillars can no longer be set up by aligning them with the horizon rising positions of these stars, it would seem that the Borana may be using ancient (or replicas of ancient) horizon markers and this possibility should be investigated. I look forward with great interest to a test of these hypotheses.

Table 1

Borana Day names (Legesse 1973)

Bita Kara Gardaduma
Bita Lama Sonsa
Sorsa Rurruma
Algajima Lumasa
Arb Gidada
Walla Ruda
Basa Dura Areri Dura
Basa Ballo Areri Ballo
Carra Adula Dura
Maganatti Jarra Adula Ballo
Maganatti Britti Garba Dura
Salban Dura Garba Balla
Salban Balla Garda Dullacha
Salban Dullacha

Table 2

Borana Months and Stars/Lunar Phases That Define Them
(Legesse 1973)

Month

Star/Lunar Phase

Bittottessa Triangulum
Camsa Pleiades
Bufa Aldebarran
Wacabajjii Belletrix
Obora Gudda Central Orion-Saiph
Obora Dikka Sirius
Birra full moon
Cikawa gibbous moon
Sadasaa quarter moon
Abrasa large crescent
Ammaji medium crescent
Gurrandala small crescent

Table 3

Declinations (Degrees) of Borana Stars, 300 BC and Present

Star

Declination

300 BC

Present

Beta Trianguli

+23

+35

Pleiades

+14

+23

Aldebarran

+9

+16

Belletrix

+1

+6

Central Orion

–10

–6

Saiph

–13

–10

Sirius

–17

–17

Table 4

Astronomical Borana-Cushitic Calendar (1983-84)

Borana-Cushitic Day/Month

Gregorian Date

Description

Bita Kara/
Bittottessa
August 7, 1983 New moon rises at Triangulum horizon position
Algajima/
Camsa
September 6, 1983 New moon rises at Pleiades horizon position
Walla/
Bufa
October 5, 1983 New moon rises at Aldebarran horizon position
Basa Dura/
Wacabajjii
November 2, 1983 New moon rises at Belletrix horizon position
Maganatti Jarra/
Obora Gudda
December 2, 1983 New moon rises at central Orion-Saiph horizon position
Salban Dura/
Obora Dikka
December 30, 1983 New moon rises at Sirius horizon position
Gardaduma/
Birra
January 29, 1984 Full moon sets at Triangulum on February 15
Rurruma/Cikawa February 28, 1984 Gibbous moon sets at Triangulum on March 14
Gidada/
Sadasaa
March 28, 1984 Quarter moon sets at Triangulum on April 10
Areri Dura/
Abrasa
April 26, 1984 Large crescent sets at Triangulum on May 7
Adula Dura/
Ammaji
May 25, 1984 Medium crescent sets at Triangulum on June 3
Garba Dura/
Gurrandala
June 23, 1984 Small crescent sets at Triangulum on June 30
Bita Kara/
Bittottessa
July 28, 1984 “New” moon rises at Triangulum position again, new year starts

References Cited

Legesse, A. 1973. Gada: Three approaches to the study of African Society. New York: Free Press.

Lynch, B. M., and L. H. Robbins. 1978. Namoratunga: The first archaeoastronomical evidence in sub-Saharan Africa. Science 200:766-68.

Soper, R. 1982. Archaeo-astronomical Cushites: Some comments. Azania 17:145-62

Source:

http://web.archive.org/web/20081029073246/http://www.tusker.com/Archaeo/art.currentanthro.htm

ASTRONOMY IN EAST AFRICA:Borana-Cushitic Calender

ASTRONOMY IN EAST AFRICA
The Borana-Cushitic Calendar and Namoratunga
Laurance Reeve Doyle
Space Sciences Division, N.A.S.A.
Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California

“While Western thought has always prided itself on scientific objectivity, it has often been found unprepared for such surprises as an intellectually advanced yet seemingly illiterate society. In the face of apparent primitiveness, the possibility of significant intellectual development may not be fully investigated.
This was certainly the case when, in the early 1970’s, Dr. A. Legesse first found that the Borana people of southern Ethiopia were indeed using a sophisticated calendrical system based on the conjunction of seven stars with certain lunar phases. Previous calendrical investigations into the area up to this time had superficially stated that the Borana “attach magical significance to the stars and constellations,” incorrectly concluding that their calendar was based, as ours is, on solar motion.
What Dr. Legesse found was an amazing cyclical calendar similar to those of the Mayans, Chinese, and Hindu, but unique in that it seemed to ignore the sun completely (except indirectly by way of the phases of the moon). The workings were described to him by the Borana ayyantu (timekeepers) as follows.
There are twelve months to a year, each month being identifiable with a unique (once a year) astronomical observation. The length of each month is either 29 or 30 days – that is, the time it takes the moon to go through all its phases. (This time is actually 291/2 days and is called a synodic month, but the Borana only keep track of whole days). Instead of weeks, there are 27 day names. Since each month is 29 or 30 days long we will run out of day names about two or three days early in the same month. The day names can therefore be recycled and for day 28 we use the first day name again, the second day name for day 29, and start the next month using the third day name. Thus each month will start on a different day name. Whether the particular month is to be 29 or 30 days long would depend on the astronomical observations, which are quite ingeniously defined.
The seven stars (or star groups) used to derive the calendar are, from northernmost to southernmost, 1) Beta Triangulum – a fairly faint navigation star in the constellation of the Triangle, 2) Pleiades – a beautiful, blue star cluster in the constellation of Taurus the Bull, and sometimes referred to as the seven sisters, 3) Aldebarran – a bright, red star that represents the eye of Taurus, 4) Belletrix – a fairly bright star that represents the right shoulder of the constellation Orion the Hunter, 5)Central Orion – the region around Orion’s sword where the Great Orion Nebula may be found, 6) Saiph – the star representing the right knee of Orion, and finally 7) Sirius – the brightest star in the night sky and the head of the constellation Canis Majoris, the Great Dog.
The New Year begins with the most important astronomical observation of the year – a new moon in conjunction with Beta Triangulum. (this day is called Bitotesa, and the next month is called Bitokara). The next month starts when the new moon is found in conjunction with the Pleiades. The third month starts with the new moon being observed in conjunction with the star Aldebarran, the next with Belletrix, then the area in between Central Orion and Saiph, and finally with the star Sirius. So the first six months of the calendar are started by the astronomical observations of the new phase moon found in conjunction with six specific locations in the sky marked by seven stars of star groups.
The method is now switched and the final six months are identified by six different phases of the moon (from full to crescent) being found in conjunction with only one position in the sky – the one marked by Beta Triangulum. Thus the whole Borana year is identified astronomically and when the new phase moon is again finally seen in conjunction with Beta Triangulum the New Year will start again. Since there are 12 such synodic months of 29 ½ days each, the Borana year is only 354 days long.
Now, in the latter part of the 1970’s another interesting development was to take place regarding the astronomy of this region. In 1977 Drs. B.M. Lynch and L.H. Robbins, who were working in the Lake Turkana area of northwestern Kenya, came upon what they believed was the first archaeoastronomical site ever found in sub-Saharan Africa. At Namoratunga, it consisted of 19 stone pillars, apparently man-made, that seemed to align toward the rising positions of the seven Borana calendar stars as they had appeared quite some time ago. (their suggested date from the various archaeological considerations, which still requires corroboration, was about 300 BC). Due to precession (the slow, wobbling of the pointing direction of the rotation axis of the Earth), the stars will seem to move from their positions over the centuries, although the moon’s position would not vary on this time scale. (Such an example is the alignment of certain features of the Egyptian pyramids with the star Thuban in the constellation Draco the Dragon, which was the north polar star about 5000 year ago; today it is Polaris and in several thousand years it will be Vega). If the date that Drs. Lynch and Robbins suggested was correct, the site would then correspond to the time of the extensive kingdom of Cush, referred to as Ethiopia in the Bible but actually centered about present day Sudan. One would then conclude that the Borana calendrical system was old indeed, having been developed by the Cushitic peoples in this area about 1800 years before the development of our present day Western Gregorian calendrical system.
In 1982, a number of significant questions arose concerning the site, the calendar, and archaeoastronomy of East Africa in general. The pillars were remeasured by an anthropologist in Kenya (Mr. Robert Soper) and found to be magnetic in nature. The original measurements had to be modified but, again, alignments with the seven Borana stars were found. However, this brought up the question of whether pillar alignments are significant at all, since the Borana ayyantu certainly can recognize the phases of the moon and when it is in conjunction with the appropriate seven stars. It was time to approach the question astronomically, and ask the moon and the stars how the calendar worked.
First, we could take the New Year’s observations, a new moon in conjunction with the faint star Beta Triangulum. What is meant by the term “conjunction” which is astronomically defined as the closest approach between two celestial objects? A new moon means that the moon is very close to the sun, being at best only a very small crescent, and therefore can only be seen just before sunrise or just after sunset. Interestingly enough, it turns out that during this twilight time the sky is too bright to be able to see the star Beta Triangulum so that seeing the new moon next to Beta Triangulum, the most important observation of the Borana calendar, was impossible!
In addition, assuming that the new moon and Beta Triangulum could be somehow seen rising together, the next month’s new moon rises significantly behind Pleiades, the newt conjunction star group. The third new moon rises with Belletrix, having skipped the third star, Aldebarran, completely. This is certainly not how the Borana described their calendar. If we were to continue to try to work the calendar in this way, by the start of the sixth month the new moon would be rising almost four hours after Sirius.
How could the calendar work then? Suppose (as we did), that one takes the term “conjunction” to mean “rising at the same horizon position” instead of “rising horizontally next to at the same time.” Thus one could mark the horizon rising position of Beta Triangulum, with pillars for instance, and once a year a new moon will rise at that position on the horizon. Let us suppose that this astronomical event marks the start of the New Year. We must add that we are taking the horizon rising position of these seven stars as they were in or around 300 BC, since present day Beta Triangulum has precessed too far to the north over the centuries and the moon will never rise there. However, the position of 300 BC Beta Triangulum, as well as the other Borana stars, was quite within the realm of the moon’s orbit.
Now where will the next new moon rise? It turns out to rise at precisely the rising position of Pleiades! The next new moon, marking the start of the third month, rises at the Aldebarran horizon position, the next at Belletrix, the next in between Central Orion and Saiph, and finally the sixth new moon rises at the horizon position that Sirius rose at during the night. During the next six months one can tell what month it is only in the middle of the month, since one has to wait to see what phase the moon is in when it appears at the Beta Triangulum horizon position. During the seventh month, as described, a full moon will be observed at the Beta Triangulum position. The next month a gibbous waxing moon, then a quarter moon, and successively smaller crescents will be seen there until, at the time when the 13th or first month should start the new year again (exactly 354 days later), a new moon is again seen rising at the Beta Triangulum position on the horizon.
It is interesting that one can draw some significant anthropological results from the astronomical derivation of this calendrical system. It would appear that the calendar would have had to have been invented (to use the stars correctly) sometime within a few hundred years of 300 BC, a time when the Cushitic peoples were dominant in this part of the world. Hence we would call it the Borana-Cushitic calendar. In addition, although the seven Borana-Cushitic stars no longer rise in the correct horizon positions to be correctly marked by pillars for observing the monthly rising position of the new moon, the present day Borana people nevertheless use this system of timekeeping. The implication is that the Borana require ancient horizon markers in their present derivation of the calendar.
Concerning the site at Namoratunga, and considering that the use of pillars is apparently necessary to the derivation of the calendar, such horizon markers as are found there may, indeed, have been an ancient observatory. Petroglyphs on the pillars at Namoratunga may also hold the possibility of being ancient and, if Cushitic, may represent the alignment stars or moon. Cushitic script has never been deciphered and any hints as to the meaning of tits symbols could be significant clues with very exciting prospects indeed!

Thus, archaeoastronomy in East Africa is still quite new and many discoveries await. From coming to understand, even in a small way, the calendrical reckoning and observational abilities of the ancient and modern astronomer-timekeepers of this region, Western thought should certainly not again underestimate the ingenuity and intellect present there. As for this Western thinker, this study continues to be a welcome lesson in perspective and humility, taught to him by his astronomical colleagues of long ago.”

This is a summary of a talk delivered at Caltech for Ned Munger’s African Studies class.

http://www.africaspeaks.com/reasoning/index.php?topic=2194.0;wap2

Waaqa Garaa Gurraachaa. #Oromia #Oromo December 25, 2014

Posted by OromianEconomist in 10 best Youtube videos, Africa, African Beat, African Literature, Culture, Mammaaksa Oromoo, Oromo Culture, Qaallu Institution, Safuu: the Oromo moral value and doctrine, Seera Yaayyaa Shananii, The Oromo Theory of Knowledge, Waaqeffanna (Oromo ancient African Faith System).
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O

 

Waaqa Garaa Gurraachaa

Dhufeeraa Birraasaa irra

@ Finfinne Tribune,  Gadaa.com

Waaqa garaa gurraachaa, tokkicha maqaa dhibbaa jechuun abbootii fi haadholii keenya taranii fi jiran gidduutti beekamaadha. Garuu Oromoon keenya heedduun baroottan dhihoon asitti ‘Waaqa garaa gurraachaa’ jecha jedhu lagatee akka Waaqa tolfamaatti utuu abaaruu nidhageenya.

Waaqayyo tokkichuma, maqaansaa garuu heedduudha. Oromoof ‘Waaqa garaa gurraachaa’ jechuun ‘Waaqa garaa qulqulluu’ jechuu waliin walqixxeedha. Fakkeenyaaf:

1. Ani bishaan gurraacha malee wanta tokkollee hindhugne
2. Irra deebi’een ija gurraachaan ilaala
3. Daa’ima garaa gurraachaa hinsookka’in

Kanaafuu ‘Waaqa garaa gurraachaa’ keessatti ‘garaa gurraachaa’ kan jedhu eenyummaa Waaqayyoo kan ibsuudha malee Waaqa tolfamaa miti.

Waaqa Garaa Gurraachaa

Gaaffii sammuu namaa Waaqa dhibdee furu
Kan sooressaaf deegaan itti hirkatee bulu
Hiyyeessi fala dhabe kan itti kufee ‘ncabne
Waaqa garaa gurraachaa qulqulluu dhibee ‘nqabne

Waaqa ‘bbaa kootii, abbaa Qajeelaaf Margaa
Abbaa Tulluuwwanii, abbaa Malkaa
Qulqulluu ta’uu kee kaanaafan faarfadhe
Ibsa maqummaa kees kaanaafan jaalladhe

Warra hinbeeknetu haxxummaa nacaalee
Ija beekumsa koo ukkaamsee awwaale
Hinbeektu jennaanan barnoota eegale
Gowwummaa jaraatu natti galagale

Yemmuu hongeen horii koo akka malee qunciste
Bokkaa kee naaroobsitee daa’imakoo guddiste
Waaqa ‘nbeektu jedhanii maaliif sammuu najeequ
Tokkicha maqaa dhibbaa akkamittan sihinbeeku?

Aannan, itittuu, cuukkoo fi caccabsaa
Ancootee, marqaa, cumboo fi burqumsaa
Akkuman warra koorraa Waaqummaa kee baradhe
Gaarummaa keen raja kanan qabu qabadhee

Mana koorraa deebisi awwaaldiigessaaf fuutuu
Karaa kee maalan dhabe yaabbaa hundumaan guutuu
Kan ati biqilchite hojii harka kee keessaa
Irreessa koo qabadheen galata siidhiheessa

Abjuu gadhee baqii hirkatanii mugu
Garaa ofii shakkii heexoo itti dhugu
Garaa koo caalaayyuu angaraa kee fedhee
Waaqa garaa qulqulluu kanaafan siin jedhe

………………………………………………………………………………….

………………………………………………………………………………………..

Dhufeeraa Birraasaa irra

@ Finfinne Tribune,  Gadaa.com

http://finfinnetribune.com/Gadaa/2014/12/dhufeeraa-birraasaa-waaqa-garaa-gurraachaa/

 

 

THEORIZING WAAQEFFANNAA: OROMIA’S INDIGENOUS AFRICAN RELIGION AND ITS CAPACITY AND POTENTIAL IN PEACEMAKING September 21, 2014

Posted by OromianEconomist in Africa, African Literature, Ancient African Direct Democracy, Ancient Egyptian, Ancient Rock paintings in Oromia, Ateetee, Ateetee (Siiqqee Institution), Black History, Chiekh Anta Diop, Culture, Cushtic, Humanity and Social Civilization, Irreecha, Irreecha (Irreesa) 2014, Irreecha (Irreessa) 2014, Irreecha Birraa, Kemetic Ancient African Culture, Meroetic Oromo, Oromia, Oromiyaa, Oromo, Oromo Culture, Oromo Identity, Oromo Nation, Oromo Social System, Oromo Wisdom, Oromummaa, Qaallu Institution, The Goddess of Fecundity, Waaqeffanna (Oromo ancient African Faith System).
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OTHEORIZING WAAQEFFANNAA: OROMIA’S INDIGENOUS AFRICAN RELIGION AND ITS CAPACITY AND POTENTIAL IN PEACEMAKINGThe article is Originally published by OromoPress @http://oromopress.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/theorizing-waaqeffannaa-oromias.htmlSee  also Fulbaana/September 18, 2014 · Finfinne Tribune | Gadaa.comhttp://gadaa.net/FinfinneTribune/2014/09/oromopress-theorizing-waaqeffannaa-oromias-indigenous-african-religion-and-its-capacity-and-potential-in-peacemaking/

In most of Africa, indigenous African religions have been pushed to the margin because of a number of factors. The implied and open relegation of indigenous African religions to the levels of inferiority and inconsequentiality in world affairs by colonial powers and post-colonial contemporary African states not only undermines and stereotypes the examination of the unique contributions of these religions to peacemaking, but also discards with them unique mythologies, values, laws, cultures and meaning-making systems. I argue that applying North American conflict resolution models, without considering African religious values that existed for many millennia before the arrival of world religions, will be an enormous hindrance to building lasting peace from the bottom-up in the vastly rural and agrarian Africa that is still steeped in traditions and rituals.

Contributing to a range of negative stereotypes about African religions (example, uncivilized, barbaric and conflict-generating) is the fact that many of them have been orally transmitted from generation to generation and lack written major holy books unlike the world religions. The purpose of this paper is to shift attention from common misconceptions about African religions to a productive examination of the constructive roles they can be made to play.

I will focus on the case of Waaqeffannaa, an Oromo indigenous religion of East Africa, and its core values and laws. It will be significant to examine Waaqeffannaa’s complex concepts, such as concept and view of Waaqaa (God), Eebba (prayers and blessings), safuu (the place of all things and beings in the cosmic and social order), issues related to cubbuu (sin) and other religious and ritual practices. Although there is no holy book forWaaqeffannaa thus far, I will obtain my data from published ethnographic books, journal articles, periodicals, relevant reports and press releases. The interactions between Waaqeffannaa and other organized religions, such as Christianity and Islam, will be examined in context.

The paper will seek answers to three related questions:

What are the contributions or lack thereof orally transmitted values and laws of Waaqeffannaa to peacemaking and relationship-building? If there are any contributions, how can they be compared to other forms of conflict resolution? What will be the role of Waaqeffannaa in peacemaking in the ever changing global and local contexts of religious diversity and difference?

The Concept of God in Waaqeffannaa’s Monotheistic System

In order to examine the hermeneutic advantages and disadvantages of Waaqeffannaa and compare it to modern or Western conflict resolution methods, it is essential to examine the concept of God (Waaqaa) in the religion in its own right. There is a consensus among researchers and observers of Waaqeffannaa—the most prominent of whom are pre-colonial European missionaries, explorers and anthropologists and local religious leaders and scholars—that Waaqeffannaa is one of the ancient indigenous African monotheistic religions.[1] The Oromo, the Cushitic African people of Ethiopia, among whom this religion emerged and developed, call their one God Waaqaa or more intimately and endearingly Waaqayyoo (good God). It is difficult to capture with one definition the complexity of the ways in which the followers of this religion (Waaqeffataas) relate to God and make sense of God (not gendered) is hard to capture just with one definition. The question of ways of understanding and relating to God is a question of Waaqeffannaa’s worldview that is indigenous and unique, in some ways, and thus, different from ways in which followers of major world religions understand and relate to God.

While monotheism is a key similarity it shares with Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Waaqeffannaa has the following worldview of its own:

We believe in God who created us. We believe in Him (sic) in a natural way … We believe in God because we can see what God has done and what he does: he makes rains and the rains grow greenery, and crops that we consume. He lets the sun shine. So believing in him is instinctive and inbuilt. It is as natural as the desire we have for food and drink, and as natural as the reproduction of living things. We go to the nature, the nature that He created: mountains and rivers to praise and appreciate Him impressed by His works … [2]

This contemporary declaration of the faith centers on nature and creation that can be pragmatically seen and experienced in daily life. There is no mention of “heaven” and “hell” here. Concerning the followers’ perceptions of the residence of God, Bartels writes, “They do not visualize Waaqaa(sic) existing outside this world in time or space … In this sense Waaqaa is as much of this world as the vault of the sky.”[3] Bokku concurs with Bartels findings that God exists among people on earth, but Bokku makes a radically different claim as follows: “Waaqeffataas don’t [sic] believe in after life. They don’t believe that God would come in the future to judge people and send the righteous to heaven and the sinful to hell. God is with us always.”[4] Bokku’s claims can be controversial because in much of the literature I reviewed, I found that the question of “after life” is either overlooked or ambiguously treated, except in the work of Father De Salviac whose much older field research (1901) explicitly states the existence of the belief in life after death among Waaqeffataas in eastern Oromia as follows:

They acknowledge three places destined to receive the souls after death. The paradise, which they call: the ‘Happiness of God’,Ayyaana Waaqaa; or the: ‘Response of God’, Bayanacha Waaqaa; or even Jenneta Waaqaa; ‘Paradise of God’, is reserved for the just who go there to enjoy the company and infinite blessings of the Lord … they say of death ‘That he passed on to Waaqaa;’ – ‘That he entered into Waaqaa,’ – ‘That he went to his eternal house with Waaqaa’.[5]

Reference to life after death, punishments and rewards in hell and heaven respectively are very rare features of the religion. Nonetheless, the argument that De Salviac makes about the existence of the belief in life after death in Oromo society is enough to make Bokku and other writers’ denial of the existence of “life after death” contested and curious. The issue of justice and how people relate to each other may hold for every writer. The question of relationships between peoples, and nature and justice will be treated in later sections for safuu.

Waaqeffataas generally view and worship Waaqaa based on their amazement with the ingenious works of Waaqaa’s hands that they experience and find them overwhelming to comprehend and explain. Even family prayers around the hearth contains many such instances: “UNIQUE AND SO GREAT GOD SUPPORT WITHOUT PILLAR THE DOME OF THE BLUE SKY.”[6]

Waaqeffataas view the earth as one of the major ingenious works of God. The earth is viewed inseparably from God. The image that followers of this religion have of the relationship between Waaqaa and the Earth “comes close to that of a human couple”[7]: ‘the earth is Waaqaa’s wife—Lafa niti Waaqaa,’[8] According to Bartels, there are four manifestations of the close connection between Waaqaa and the earth in four spheres of theWaaqeffannaa religious life:[9]

  1. Blessings

May the Waaqaa and the earth help you.

May Waaqaa and the earth cause you to grow up (a blessing for children.) …

  1. Curses

Be not blessed either by Waaqaa or the earth.

May Waaqaa and the earth burn [make dry] your kidneys and your womb (the curse is addressed to a woman).

  1. Oaths

The man who takes the oath breaks a dry stick, saying:

‘May the earth on which I walk and Waaqaa beneath whom I walk do the same to me, if I have done such and such a thing.’

  1. Rituals

There are rituals of slaughtering a bull or sheep for Waaqaa and making libation (dhibayyuu) under a tree for the earth.[10]

Waaqeffannaa rituals honor both God and the earth. Followers of the religion seem to take cue from God Himself, who created the earth, to inform their ways of relating to Waaqaa and earth (lafa). Evidence that suggests a relationship based on fears, intimidations or punishment between God and persons is less prevalent than those that are mostly based on respect for God, one another and for the earth. Waaqeffataas embrace and celebrate the egalitarian view of God and the diversity of names people call God. Despite some differences among people, research points to followers’ similar attitudes towards God. “… it has become clear that their attitude towards him [sic] is not only inspired by awe but also marked by familiarity and even, from time to time, by lack of respect. In his despair, a man may claim: ‘Waaqaa does not exist!’”[11] This just showsWaaqeffataas have a more liberal relationship with God. It does not mean that they are less pious as there is enough evidence to suggest many magnificent examples of humility, piety and obedience.

The question of Waaqeffataas’ acknowledgement of the oneness of God and the multiple names various religions call Him does not only show the openness of the concept of God to various interpretations, but it also shows the religion’s acceptance of religious diversity. It is easier to engage in interfaith or other conflict resolution activities when such an acknowledgement is extant than when religions claim “my way or the highway.” The ways some prayers are rendered testify to this progressive values of Waaqeffannaa: “O Black God who created the dark sky and the clean waters, who is one but called by multitudes of names, who has no competitor, the omniscient, the omnipotent, the omnipresent, who is eternal and ever powerful, whose power can never decline.”[12] Because of the view of God described here, Waaqeffataas believe that God is patient and that it is not in His nature to become angry if people believe in other things abandoning Him. Bokku holds the Waaqeffannaa God is too self-confident to be angered into punishing people who do not obey or defect to other religions.[13]

Prayers and Blessings

Boran society sometimes appears to float on a river of prayers and blessings…

Paul T. Baxter.[14]

Common to private, collective and family prayers is the focus of Oromo/Waaqeffataas’ prayers on the material conditions and well-beings of the self, the family and the group. Prayers mediate conditions of people to God so he can intervene and alter their current conditions.[15] The faithful pray for peace, health, deliverance from wrongdoing and harmful sprits and things, human and livestock fertility, growth of babies (little ones), long life for adults, for the goodness of the inside and the outside, rain, harvest and development, inter alia.

The Waaqeffannaa prayer is barely about inheriting the kingdom of heaven nor is it about seeking the help of God in a battle against Satan and sin. Evidence suggests that the concept of Devil/Satan does not exist in Waaqeffannaa while spirits that cause all kinds of suffering and misfortune or harm (ayyaana hamaa) are believed to exist.[16] Instances of talk about Devils by Waaqeffataas are generally understood as the borrowing of a religious vocabulary from the adjacent/co-existing major faiths, such as Christianity and Islam. For instance, Waaqeffataa pray to God to prevent them from wrongdoing and errors committed in ignorance. The religion has no room for addressing anxieties and fears arising from the imaginary realm of the devil/evil. For instance, words used in prayers include, “Prevent us from wrongdoing …” (dogogora nu oolchi). In terms of how people experience and understand misfortunes and fortunes (good things) Oromo proverbs capture the peoples’ dependence on Waaqaa. Indeed, the proverbs below indicate how Waaqaa is perceived as the source of good and bad things that happen in real life:[17]

A house that is built by Waaqaa will be completed.

It is Waaqaa who brings hunger;

It is Waaqaa who brings a full stomach.

The one Waaqaa clothes will not go naked.

Who trusts on Waaqaa will not lack anything.

Man wishes, Waaqaa fulfills.

Waaqaa is there [therefore] the sun rises.

It is Waaqaa who makes a person sick;

It is Waaqaa who restores him to health.

Waaqaa is never in a hurry;

But he is always there at the proper time.

There are standard prayers that have been codified in oral tradition and bequeathed down to generations. The codification of prayers, rituals and ceremonies in oral traditions serve the purpose of making Oromo worships definite and unarbitrary. The question of precise transmissions of spoken messages are always up for debates as there are obviously some room for improvisation and modification as the word of mouth (message) travels through time and space. I believe that the improvisation aspect of oral narratives will add an interesting dimension of dynamism to the hermeneutics of Waaqeffannaa.

De Salviac praises the endurance of Waaqeffannaa for many millennia in spite of the oral mode of transmission. De Salviac aptly critiques the West for generally believing that the sole sources of “valid” or “authentic” knowledge are written texts (books) as follows: “We, accustomed to the cycle of knowledge by turning pale over the books, our careless memory resting on the permanence of typography, we hardly take into account the power of tradition, which sufficed, for centuries, for the civilization of many peoples. With the Oromo, religious and secular traditions are formulated in thousands of short sentences …”[18]

What I understand from De Salviac is that Western or modern industrialized societies privilege written knowledge. His critique is on tangent because preference for written and formal communication in the West will certainly shape intervention policy-making, official diplomacy and the attitudes of interveners towards indigenous cultures. Third party interveners with fixed or rigid approaches are not only likely to disrespect and shun local knowledge systems, but they are also likely to impose rigid and unproductive conflict resolution processes developed in the context of limited civilizations.

One can only anticipate the stiff resistance that locals are likely to put up against Western models in today’s Africa where there is an increasing awareness about the importance of self-reliance and going back to the roots in order to solve indigenous problems. The true superficiality of strict Western models of dialogue, mediation, problem-solving workshop can be revealed by observing how in most of Africa’s peripheries cut of modern laws, bureaucracies and infrastructures, people thrive on the strong indigenous knowledge systems. This is how most conflicts are resolved and how people do communal work in either irrigating the land or protecting the environment. In the contexts of corrupt and partisan politics, these efforts by local people to overcome the daily challenges must be given credit because some of them are providing themselves important social services that that their governments have failed to provide them. In any effort of conflict resolution or peacemaking in such dire circumstances, it is imperative to bring local knowers (the wise men and women) into the sphere of diplomacy and peacemaking.

Prayers, sometimes synonymously called blessings or benedictions, in the form of litany and chants are integral parts of indigenous communities. Every communal activity whether it is weddings, funerals or dances and music begins with blessings or prayers. Eebba is aimed moderating the way people relate to each other at certain venues and beyond. They are about building constructive relationships even in times of wars. Here are some examples of Oromo prayers/blessings of different periods and crowds’ responses.

Pre-colonial prayers[19]:

Ya Waaq, have pity on us;              Yes, yes, have pity on us

Ya Waaq, bless us;                          Yes, yes, bless us.

Ya Waaq give us happy days;             Yes, yes, happy days.

Ya Waaq in our discussions inspire us;  Yes, yes, inspire us.

Ya Waaq in our counsel give us light;            Yes, yes, give us light.

Ya Waaq bring back rebellious son to his father; Yes, yes, bring back.

Ya Waaq bring back unruly son to his mother;   Yes, yes, bring back.

Ya Waaq to good man give cows;                  Yes, yes, give.

Ya Waaq preserve our house from ruin;                     Yes, yes preserve.

Contemporary prayers:[20]

Yes! Yes! Yes!

God of Nature and of Creations;

Waaqaa who created the Haroo Walaabuu (lake)[21];

Waaqaa who let us spend the night in peace;

Let us spend the day in peace;

Prevent us from entering into fatal errors;

Guard us against straying from the right path;

Guard us against mistakes/wrongdoings;

May the Creator we pray to hear us!

May Waaqaa guard us against the harmful!

May Waaqaa bring good things our way!

May children (the little ones) grow up!

May the grown-ups live longer!

May the ignorant know!

May experts/the wise last!

May Kormaa (uncustrated bull) reproduce!

May pregnancies stay healthy and hold!

Let Him keep away harmful things!

Gadaa (social system) is the system of rain and peace!

The year is the year of abundance/development and full stomach.

These contemporary prayers cited from the Waaqeffannaa magazine are powerful. They are usually used in order to open any public/communal gatherings secular and spiritual. This is how things are called to order. The religious prayers give authority or credibility to whatever event that is to take place. At the center of this messaging is reaching the hearts and minds of parties to an event by cleansing the air of any hard feelings and ensuring that the heart and minds are softened and ready for the secular or non secular events and exchanges that will proceed from that.

Historically, Oromos made ecumenical pilgrimages to holy sites of Abbaa Muudaa, Spiritual Father,[22] in order to receive blessings for them and to bring back blessings into their communities with them. Blessings are still considered serious religious activities that serve as glues of social life. Spiritual Fathers can give blessings to people on a range of personal and communal matters: such as long life, being alive, more property and wealth, peace in the household, on productions (calves, children, crops).

I have not come across modern mediation, negotiation or other third party intervention processes that start with prayers. Obviously, if blessings are not built into the processes, an attempt at conflict resolution in African societies, such as the Oromo, will be in vain. In the first place, people will not recognize what is not authorized and endorsed by their own knowledge system. Most importantly, empowering and funding Abbaa Mudaas or elders to engage in conflict resolution is likely to be accepted and bear fruit because of the tremendous reputations these people wield in society. They are highly regarded in society and leaving them out of official processes simply works against peace.

In Waaqeffannaa, one sees from the content of the payers and blessings above that most of them take on the nature of what Gopin succinctly characterizes as “Premordial prosocial moral/spiritual values.”[23] Although many of the conflicts in Ethiopia (Africa) are not religiously driven, the application of religious values will have a huge impact on conflicts driven by ethnicity, nationalisms and competition over resources and power. People listen when one reaches out and talks to them at their own level. Gopin provides a detailed critique of why current modern conflict resolution approaches fail to understand the importance of using prosocial religious values in the context of the Arab/Israel conflict in the Middle East, but his appraisal also holds true for the Horn of Africa region, where the volatility and intractability of conflicts are comparable to the ones in the Middle East. Among the important reasons Gopin cites are the West’s refusal to recognize non-Western models and knowledge systems. Gopin articulates the consequences of modern cultures failure to reckon with indigenous religious and cultural systems as follows:

As religion becomes more important in the lives of hundreds of millions of people, the political power generated by this commitment will either lead to a more peaceful world or to a more violent world, depending on how that power is utilized … Methods of peacemaking that continue to focus only on political and intellectual elites or that fail to address the broadest possible range of religious believers are leading to systematic and potentially catastrophic diplomatic failures in key areas of the world … [24]

Survival through Religious Diversification and Rituals

It is accurate that Waaqeffannaa and similar Africa indigenous religions are being reincarnated and are slowly starting to become explicitly important in the lives of so many people. Religious traditions, including those from indigenous religions, form the bedrock of the values of those Africans who converted to Christianity and Islam. Often these values moderate the foreign values associated with the cultures from which these major religions originated. It is not just the Waaqeffataas who only follow the indigenous religion, but a swathe peoples seem to have accepted double or triple religious lives. They shuttle between various religious and cultural values in their daily decision-makings so as to adapt to changing socio-economic circumstances. Pointing to the loose nature of individual’s and group’s negotiations between multiple religious identities, Aguilar[25] presents a case of the importance of “religious diversification for survival” among the Kenyan Boran/Oromo in northern Kenya. Aguilar provides the best illustration for survival and adaptation by accepting diverse religious values. He cites how Muslim and Waaqeffaannaa parents send their children to Catholic schools in northern Kenya and that the children do perfectly well shuttling between religious worldviews without facing physical dangers.[26] The same religious rituals performed by followers of Waaqeffannaa form the cores of the rituals and daily cultural practices of the followers of Islam and Christianity, as a mechanism of preserving and transmitting their identity. For instance, some of the religious traditions and rituals kept by Oromo communities who converted to major religions in north Kenya include similar types of blessings, prayers, and peacemaking through rituals of coffee beans-slaughtering and symbolic prayers.[27] These subtle practices of syncretism not only form the core identity of Oromo in north Kenya and connect them to the mainland (Oromia-Ethiopia), but they also play stabilizing roles in a families and communities there.[28]

The phenomenon of syncretism/ “religious diversification” serves as a survival strategy where minority communities cut off into another country from the mainstream because of colonial map-making try to cope with the alien majority they are swallowed up by. The case of Kenyan Oromos imitating the Waaqeffannaa values of the mainland is an example of such an essential survival strategy. Aguilar puts this as, “It is clear that the strategy of diversification provides the household (and a manyatta [place of settlement]) with security should something happen to either of the herds.”[29]

It is no accident that somebody whom an outsider may perceive as a follower of one religion is actually found at the crossroads of multiple religious values. It takes a deeper look to discern such subtle and significant dynamics. For an intervener who has no interest or who is not patient to take time and learn, the subtlety of the power of tradition will ever remain inaccessible. Because one has no access to the right cultural tools, the very people he/she trying to reach and help will become inaccessible and unresponsive, especially if one attempts to impose some ivory-tower (imported) conflict resolution framework or process on local situations. People have been handling their affairs everyday for centuries independently of outsiders. To assume that they somehow do not or their methods are not in par with modern approaches will defeat the purpose of thinking to help others in the first place.

Safuu in Peacemaking and Social Harmony

This section analyzes the role of Safuu as one of the key elements of Waaqeffannaa. Safuu is a prosocial variable that needs a deeper analysis to see its roles in indigenous peacebuilding. Safuu is a broad concept that governs relationship in and between families, communities, national groups and relationship between people and nature and things.

Bartels provides a nuanced anthropological definition of the term Safuu:[30]

Saffu is a fundamental and all-pervading concept in the Matcha’s [Oromo] life. It implies that all things have a place of their own in the cosmic and social order, and that they should keep this place. Their place is conditioned by the specific ayana [good spirit] each of them has received from Waaqaa. Every creature, and especially man, has to act according to its own ayana and to respect the others’ ayana. Saffu implies both rights and duties. In the people’s eyes wisdom is ‘knowing saffu and abide [sic] by it.’

Gemetchu Megerssa, a leading Oromo anthropologist and former research assistant to Lambert Bartels, probably influenced by Bartels himself, states that safuu is one of the key founding concepts in Oromo culture and Waaqeffannaa tradition.[31] Bartels’ definition is more encapsulating, while it shares one central common feature with Megerssa’s definition, “… the concept of saffu(mutual relationship between elements of the social and cosmic orders) which maintains practice obligatory [sic] through ethical conduct.” They both agree that safuu governs relationships between people and people, and people and nature, but Megersa introduces a newer and more specific idea of safuu as “an ethical conduct.”

Another leading expert on Waaqeffannaa, Bokku quotes Bartels directly and extends the concept of Safuu to broad areas of “morality”, “norm” and “laws” that govern social and ecological order.[32] Bokku states his extended definition building on Bartels: “Safuu is the understanding of differences and appreciation of differences for the peaceful coexistence of all natural things.” For Bokkuu, as opposed to man-made laws “safuu is not subject to change.” He concludes that safuu as laws of nature is necessary for the “smooth operation of life”, which is harmony. Everyone invokes the notions that Safuu owes its authority over social relationship because it derives from the will or the spirit of God (ayyaanaa). Thus, experts agree that Safuuis one of the fundamental principles of Oromo culture that governs relationships and keeps society together.

In Waaqeffannaa in particular and Oromo culture in general, it is believed that “breaking safuu would cause some sort of trouble.”[33] Breaking safuulaws is seen as committing sin. The consequences of breaking various categories of safuu are understood as generating unhappy reactions from God. In Waaqeffannaa when someone sins, God turns His back on him/her. The meaning behind this is that if one misses the face of God, it means that one lacks ayyana (a guardian, blessings or will of God). This core law encourages people to maintain friendly relationships between themselves and with nature. Safuu is a law of rights and obligations. Since Safuu is not something in people, but something between them, it is assumed to promote collective harmony. Paying attention to the concept of “sin” in the meaning system of Waaqeffannaa is important because it comes from the Oromo word, “‘balleessuu’, which actually means ‘to destroy, to damage, to spoil’”[34]

When one engages in destructive activities one is considered to be destroying, damaging, and spoiling relationships between at least three parties: God, creation (nature) and other human beings. In Oromo life, not damaging relationship between oneself and creations is given more importance than not damaging relationship between human and God.[35]

The Dynamisms of the Indigenous Faith System

It is hard to understand how one can be effective in conflict resolution in Africa without having at least the working knowledge of important key principles governing all-rounded relationships, such as safuu. Religious values of Waaqeffannaa may not require so much hermeneutic transformation because they already exist in pro-social form. Keeping natural and social orders is already a stringent requirement on top of acceptance for differences of any sort.

In Waaqeffannaa, destroying (for example killing humans in conflict) is prohibited by the religion’s laws. Those who violate traditional laws and destroy anything will face alienation and banning from God as well as from fellows humans. They are denied opportunities to sit and eat at a table with family members and others; they become social outcasts. My evidence does not suggest any anti-social principles/laws in the Waaqeffannaaworldview so far. Even some of the curses that are put on people have the goal of ensuring social harmony and can be viewed positively. If I had come across anything that says, “if you kill your enemy or someone, God will reward you with heaven or sainthood or some other rewards,” I would have paused and thought, this is a justification for war and destruction that needs to be hermetically transformed. Transformation may be due if violence is made into something sacred. In my opinion the values of this religion particularly those about safuu are poised to play important peacebuilding and relationship-building roles at least in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa.

One can think of the lack of written scriptures (there are oral ‘scriptures’) for African religion as both advantages and disadvantages. In terms of the creativity and improvisation of transmissions of oral values/laws, the lack of written scriptures is an advantage because followers or leaders of indigenous religions will have the ability to interpret the concepts in ways that meet the physical and spiritual needs of their time. But that can also be a disadvantage since some lament that African could not have converted to Christianity and Islam if they had written scriptures and transformed their religions into organized faith systems.[36]

The question of whether Africans had concepts of God or not or whether they were ‘pagan hordes’ as the colonialists viewed them is now an outdated and irrelevant question because a number of scholars have produced research revealing that indeed Africans had believed in one God even before the advent of Middle Eastern religions.[37] Mbiti’s findings are credible because he stayed in Africa for 15 years and conducted studies on about 300 African communities and their belief systems.

Because indigenous African religions, including Waaqeffannaa, lack written scriptures, culturally biased scholars who judge everything according to Western standards may think religions, such as Waaqeffannaa, are inferior, static and things of the past. In rebuttal, one can respond to that arguing that oral mode of transmission makes African religions dynamic, ever-changing and ever-adapting to social changes even after some converted to other faiths. This happens because African religions do not punish defections and because their religious leaders are less likely to make claims to the permanence of specific oral texts or think of the values/traditions of their religion as the only “Truth” to die for.

About the locus of the existence of African religions, Mbiti writes, “Religion in African societies is written not on paper but in people’s heart, minds, oral history, rituals, and religious personages like the priests, rainmakers, official elders … African religions have neither founders nor reformers.”[38]Mbiti’s notion of the lack of founders and reformers can be contested because it could be that founders and reformers might have existed millennia ago and simply no written records were kept about them. The key point here is that words of mouth are dynamic. The best way to reach the hearts and minds of the vast peoples of rural Africa should be through oral traditions and spoken language. The prevalent practice by third party interveners shows an opposite tendency of bureaucratizing everything and transmitting messages via the written medium (forms and documents) through the agency of “rational professionals”.

Authors caution against viewing Waaqeffannaa religious traditions as part of a static tradition of the past[39], and encourage us to view them as dynamic traditions that are continually changing based on wider experiences that are part of their present. Aguilar is succinct about the advantages of the dynamism of Waaqeffannaa’s hermeneutics: “… traditions are transmitted, never as static forms but as changeable manifestations of an Oromo religion [Waaqeffannaa] that interacts [sic] with other traditions and other ethnic groups, and therefore becomes capable of reshaping society itself.”[40]

Lessons for Conflict Resolution

The values and laws of Waaqeffannaa identified and analyzed in this research suggest the importance of recognizing African indigenous religious systems and the prosocial contributions of their values and laws to conflict resolution.

I deliberately tried not to impose a theoretical framework over my analysis although my approach was influenced by hermeneutics.[41] Engaging in peacemaking in indigenous African communities requires the use of what Gopin, drawing on Lederach, calls “elicitive and cross-cultural methods.”[42] Concepts such as safuu, the Waaqeffannaa worldview, prayers, blessings, harmony are predominantly about building relationships between people and people, and them and nature. The most effective way of arriving at these principles and using them in interventions is to do one’s best to involve indigenous peoples, religious leaders, elders and parties to conflict and to elicit from them the best practices they have evolved over centuries in peacemaking.

Indigenous African religions are caught up in multipronged challenges, such as lack of recognition from interveners, states and richer and more organized religions despite their prevalence and appeal to many African communities. Established conflict resolution methods, such as mediation, negotiation, facilitation, problem-solving workshop and dialogue, are often too Western, rationalistic, elitist and foreign to accommodate other grassroots approaches to peacemaking, such as obeying safuu. If we look at official mediation, for instance, we find the reliance on rigid processes and professionals as its main features. Such formal stages may include collecting data, building hypothesis about a conflict, searching for theories, selecting theory, making intervention, and verifying and nullifying hypothesis.[43] It is not necessarily bad to prepare for mediation in stages, but when everything is prefigured, there is a danger of learning very little on the field while doing the intervention itself. In most rationalistic conflict resolution methods listed above, the immediate settlement of conflict is desired. This may turn out to be a shortcoming because long-term relationship-building and peacemaking, which is the hallmark of indigenous systems, are and sidelined.

Limitation of the Indigenous Religion

The most important limitation of many African indigenous religious values and traditions, including Waaqeffannaa, is that the practice of peacemaking is inbound to groups in which these traditions originated. There are also perceptions and tendencies to associate the good prosocial aspects of religious principles this religion with ethno-nationalist competitions of the day, and therefore, to readily dismiss them as unrepresentative of the whole. A much productive approach, however, is to see the commonalities of multiple African religious traditions and to take key principles from each of them and combine them in order to make everyone feel good about their faiths. There is so much to learn from this culture if one is willing to follow the elicitive path to conflict resolution.

The second obvious limitation is the lack of written scriptures and the challenges of accessing oral scriptures for outsiders due to language barriers, but which can still be overcome with translators and interpreters.

Thirdly, African indigenous religions have not been given the places they deserve in some continental interfaith organizations whose member religions tend to be organized and rich major religions. For instances, the United Religious Initiative (URI) Africa chapter, an international faith network that operates in 25 African countries, professes that it aims to look for solutions to Africa’s challenges at community levels in the areas of corruption, human rights violation, poverty and HIV/AIDs[44], but unfortunately no indigenous African religious tradition from any community is represented by such an important organization. The network carries it activities in Africa through major faiths, such as Christianity and Islam. Another domestic (Ethiopian) interfaith network, Interfaith Peace-building Initiative (IPI), a member of the URI, has no indigenous Ethiopian religions (Waaqeffannaaincluded) as its members.

The problem with URI and IPI is not only a simplistic and envious question of who is represented or who is not, but it appears that the mentioned interfaith networks have been systematically coopted and used to advance the interests of the Ethiopian state since Ambassador Mussie Hailu is serving simultaneously as the Regional Director of URI and the Board Chair of IPI.[45] The more intractable and absurd aspect of IPI is that it is an interfaith organization as far as the major religions are concerned, but the founders and its leaders are members of a single ethno-national group who are publicly known to lean toward the ruling party from the same group. This is a clear negative messaging to others in Ethiopia where the issues of ethnicity are sensitive. To be sure, it is possible to have an interfaith organization with wonderful goals like IPI, but with ethno-nationalist ideological agenda at same time. That will do more to keep peoples apart than bring them together.

Despite its growing popularity in Oromiya regional state, the most populous in Ethiopia, Waaqeffannaa’s attempts to transform itself into an organized religion have failed many times so far because the Ethiopian state has first denied and then revoked the license of the group citing that its leaders sympathize with the Oromo Liberation Front[46], a secular rebel group in conflict with the government on the question of autonomy and self- determination for Oromiya.

Conclusion

Waaqeffannaa’s pro-social principles, laws and values did and will contribute to building constructive relationships between communities. In addition to improving human relations, laws, such as safuu, that emphasize the need to maintain good relationship with nature, can be extended and used in areas of environmental conflict resolution, specially where climate change is threatening pastoralist and agrarian communities in many observable ways today.

I explored and discussed the ways in which the egalitarian but respectful views of God by Waaqeffataas can be helpful in curbing extremist tendencies. Neither oral scriptures of the religion nor its leaders condone acts of violence as something leading to rewards or sainthood. Prayers and blessings function as authoritative moderators and they can be used in opening and closing any intervention efforts. Waaqeffannaa is a very pragmatic religion whose most themes are linked to and earthbound to the material conditions of people. Therefore, people in conflict may have the same questions they want answered through prayers to be answered through interventions.

The potential and capacity of the religion in national or regional peacemaking is promising if it be recognized and the multi-pronged obstacles in its way are removed.

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References

Abu-Nimer, Mohammed. Nonviolence and Peace Building in Islam: Theory and Practice. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2003.

Aguilar, Mario I. The Politics of God in East Africa: Oromo Ritual and Religion. Trenton, N.J.: The Red Sea Press, 2009.

Appleby, Scott R. “Retrieving the Missing Dimension of Statecraft: Religious Faith in the Service of Peacebuilding.” In Faith-Based Diplomacy: Trumping Realpolitik, ed. Douglas Johnston, 2003. Oxford: OUP.

____ The Ambivalence of the Sacred: Religion, Violence and Reconciliation. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2000.

Bartels, Lambert. Oromo Religion: Myths and Rites of the Western Oromo of Ethiopia-An Attempt to Understand. Berlin: Dietrich Reamer Verlag, 1983.

Bokku, Dirribi Demissie. Oromo Wisdom in Black Civilization. Finfinne, Ethiopia: Finfinne Printing & Publishing S.C., 2011.

De Salviac, Martial. An Ancient People: Great African Nation: the Oromo. Translation from the 1901 original French edition by Ayalew Kanno. Paris, the French Academy, 2005.

Douglas, Johnston. Faith-Based Diplomacy: Trumping Realpolitik. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Gopin, Marc. Between Eden and Armageddon: The Future of World Religions, Violence and Peacemaking. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

____ Holy War, Holy Peace: How Religion Can Bring Peace to the Middle East. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Megerssa, Gemetchu. “Oromumma: Tradition, Consciousness and Identity.” In Being and Becoming Oromo: Historical and Anthropological Enquiries, Edited by P.T.W. Baxter, Jan Hultin and Alessandro Triulzi. Lawrenceville, N.J.: The Red Sea Press, 1996.

Montville, Joseph V. “Psychoanalytic Enlightenment and the Greening of Diplomacy.” In The Psychodynamics of International Relationships, Eds. Vamik D. Volkan, Demetrios A. Julius, and Joseph V. Montville. Lexington Mass.: Lexington Books (1990-1991): 177-192.

Moore, Christopher W. The Mediation Process: Practical Strategies for Resolving Conflict. 3rd Ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003.

MTA. Waaqeffannaa: Ayyaana Irreechaa Birraa, 2010.Vol. V. No. 1. Finfinnee: MTA, 2010. (trans. Waaqeffannaa: Thanksgiving Holiday of Fall 2010.)

Sandole, Dennis J.D. “Paradigm, Theories, and Metaphors in Conflict and Conflict Resolution: Coherence or Confusion?” In Conflict Resolution Theory and Practice, Ed., Dennis Sandole. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, (1993): 3-24.

Stenger, Mary Ann. “Gadamer’s Hermeneutics as a Model for Cross-Cultural Understanding and Truth in Religion.” In Religious Pluralism and Truth: Essays on Cross-Cultural Philosophy of Religion, Ed., Thomas Dean. New York: State University of New York Press, (1995): 151-168.

Volkan, Vamik D. “Psychological Processes in Unofficial Diplomacy Meetings.” In The Psychodynamics of International Relationships, Eds. Vamik D. Volkan, Demetrios A. Julius, and Joseph V. Montville. Lexington Mass.: Lexington Books (1990-1991): 207-219.

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Footnotes

[1] De Salviac, 1901:43; Bartels, 1983:89; Bokku, 2011: 54). The two previous books on Oromo religion (now named Waaqeffannaa) by European missionaries are widely regarded as authoritative secular scholarly sources closest to the source ever to be published on an indigenous African religion of antiquity. Bokku adds his own recent perspectives on the religion and revises his predecessors’ perspectives without altering the essence of their work.

[2] Bokku, 2011:54.

[3] Bartels, 1983:91.

[4] Bokku,2011:73.

[5] De Selviac, 1901;155.

[6] De Selviac, 1901:173, emphasis in the original.

[7] Bartels, 1983:108

[8] Haberland 1963 in Bartels, 1983:108.

[9] Bartels, 1983:108-109.

[10] Bartels, 1983: 109.

[11] Bartels, 1983;107

[12] Bokku, 2011: 66. The quote was an English translation the author provides from the Afaan Oromoo (Oromo language) version, which runs:“Gurraacha garaa garbaa, leemmoo garaa taliilaa, tokkicha maqaa dhibbaa, guddicha hiriyaa hinqabne, kan waan hundaa beeku, kan waan hundaa gochuu danda’u, kan bakka maraa jiru, kan hinkufine, kan hinduuneefi kan hincabne.”

[13] see footnote number 11.

[14] P.T.W. Baxter, Age, Generation and Time, 155 in Aguilar, 2009:13).

[15] De Salviac, 1901:153, 163; Bartels, 1983:96; Bokku, 2011:66-67; Megerssa, 1996:92-103.

[16] De Salviac, 1983:120; Bokku, 2011: 67.

[17] Bartels, 1983:95.

[18] De Salviac

[19] De Salviac, 1901:163.

[20] Translated by me from Afaan Oromoo into English from the Waaqeffannaa magazine, p i.

[21] Haroo Walaabuu is considered the origin of Oromo community and the source of all walking humans on earth. It plays an important symbolic/mythic role in standard prayers. Water bodies are considered sources of life.

[22] De Salviac, 1901:177.

[23] Gopin, 2000:84.

[24] Gopin, 2000:35.

[25] Aguilar, 2009:13-32.

[26] Aguilar, 2009:28.

[27] See footnote 24

[28] Augilar, 2009:

[29] Ibid., p.27.

[30] Bartels, 1983:170.

[31] Megersa, 1996:96-97.

[32] Bokku, 2011:75.

[33] See footnote 31.

[34] Bartels, 1983:339, Bokku, 2011:76.

[35] Bartels, 1983:339.

[36] Bokku, 2011: 61.

[37] Mbiti, 1992:29.

[38] Mbiti, 1992:4.

[39] Megerssa, 1996:98; Aguilar, 2009:5.

[40] Aguilar, 2009:5

[41] Stenger, 1995.

[42] Gopin, 2000:60-61.

[43] Moore,2003:66

[44] URI. “Purposes and Activities.” http://www.uri.org/cooperation_circles/explore_cooperation_circles/region/africa

[45] IPI Ethiopia. http://www.ipiethiopia.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=111&Itemid=110

[46] U.S. Department of State on Religious Freedom in Ethiopia, 2010: 4.