Proverbs and Wisdom of the Hawiye
Silence and speech
“Three are the sicknesses, three the healths, if three are found it is better. The woodland is a sickness, the path is health, if a white way is found it is better. The darkness is a sickness, the lunar light is health, if a bright day is found it is better. Silence is a sickness, talking is health, if what is talked about is obtained it is better”
“Three things are life, and three things are death. If these three things befall you, it is a misfortune. The sperm is life, if sterility befalls you it is a misfortune. Rain is life, if drought befalls you it is a misfortune. The return is life, if ingratitude befalls you it is a misfortune.”
The complaisant girl
Three things are ancestors; three lived with the ancestors; and three satisfy the desires. The camel is ancestor; the livestock with the spotted coat lived with the ancestors; the goat with the speckled coat satisfies the desires.*
*The camel is the traditional livestock, and the possession of bovines is ancient, but the goat, which is slaughtered daily in order to eat the meat, even if scorned because of its little value and because of its ugly coat, is the one that has more practical utility.
The field is ancestor; the boundaries lived with the ancestors; the ear of grain satisfies the desires*
* The field is the origin of the agricultural production, and its boundaries were established by the forefathers, but all that gives utility in the ear of durra from which food is obtained
The girl is ancestor; the unmarried girl lived with the ancestors; the coquette satisfies the desires”*
* More than the virgin, faithful to the rigorous principles of morality, and the unmarried girl, the complaisant girl, with whom one can enjoy oneself without excessive anxiety, is to be esteemed.
Respect toward the elders.
“With three you do not race, with three you do not quarrel. With a war horse, with one who has drunk sheep butter”*
*It is a popular idea that the butter made with sheep milk is particularly nutritious.
“with the wind: one does not race. With the one who fathered you, with one who is greater than you, and with the leaders”*
* gob” among the Hawíyya is both the totality of the leaders of the various peoples of the tribe and the dynasty of the leader of the tribe itself. one does not quarrel.”
Where there is nothing to hope for
“With three things people emigrate, toward three things people emigrate, behind three things people pass. With the small donkeys, with the big camels, with the wooden boats people emigrate. Toward where the rain has made the land fertile, toward where there are many of your people, and toward where there are many girls people emigrate. Behind three things people pass; the nobles,he shy girl, the brave”*
* it is better not to attack from the front: the nobles (from whom the evil eye is feared); the girl who knows how to defend herself; and the pugnacious warrior.
Avarice and generosity.
“Two things are better for you if they are sitting, two are better if they are alive, two are better if they are dead. A milk cow and a man who knows generosity are better for you alive. The nobles and the fire are better sitting”*
* Because just as the fire, lifting its flames, causes damage, so the nobles, intervening in the fights, inevitably: either cause harm directly or end by obtaining money as peacemakers.
Love and gossip.
“Three are the things that remain, three the things that come, three the ones that separate them. The market remains, the caravan comes, the measure and the price separate them. The shore remains, the boat comes, the wind and the season of the southwest separate them. The girl remains, the young man comes, words and gossip separate them.”
The hospitality of the munificent.
“Three things are in your favor, three in your house, three in your ‘muskul’ ( Muskul is a room of the Somali hut reserved for intimate use (baths, ablutions, toilet, etc.). Nice words that are obtained, shameful thing hidden, a good skin on which to sleep: these three things are in your house. ‘I do not have any,’ ‘I do not take any,’ ‘if I have any, I will not give it to you’: these three things are in your ‘muskul.’ Your money that you bestow on me munificently, the ‘no!’ that you do not say to me, the ‘welcome!’ that you add for me: these three things are in your favor.”*
* The proverb means that nice words, a good bed, and discretion in confidences are natural for a guest, whereas avarice and refusals have to be hidden as shameful things, munificence toward the guests is always to be celebrated.
Nobles and commoners.
“Five things have nobles, and they have commoners, and they have pariahs. The camels have nobles and they have commoners and they have pariahs. The sheep have nobles and they have commoners and they have pariahs. The bovines have nobles and they have commoners and they have pariahs. Men have nobles and they have commoners and they have pariahs. Among the camels the nobles are called big-shoulders, the commoners are the camels with a dark coat, the pariahs are those with the neck curved backwards ( The Somalis prefer camels that are light and have powerful shoulders for the load.) Among the sheep the nobles are those without horns, the commoners are those with curved horns, the pariahs are those with straight horns. ( Literally, “horns like the tooth of a comb /Ital. ago crinale/ .”)
Among the bovines the nobles are red, the commoners the speckled ones, the pariahs are the many-colored ones. Among men the nobles are the ones who know what is right, the commoners the ones who ask what is right, the pariahs the ones who stay at home ( That is, the ones who do not participate actively in the life of the tribe, either as governing or as governed. Different from the women, among whom, as the proverb itself says, the ones who remain at home are preferred.)
Among the women the nobles are the ones who remain at home, the commoners the ones who hold out their arms. ( That is, the ones who are not bashful.) the pariahs the short and thickset.”
The dangers of eloquence.
“In three things deceit is never lacking: in the wolf with the tracks of a hyena, in the woman who prays, in the eloquent man. The wolf with the tracks of a hyena comes to you one night: at dawn, when the sun rises, you see its tracks. You say: Last night a hyena came to us. The following night 224 it (the wolf) carries your child away ( The “[unknown]durway,” properly speaking, is the “Lycaon pictus,” while the “wer” is the striped hyena. The former, when hungry, attacks man.) The woman who prays is this way: she prays, fasts. Then you will see her steal a man. The eloquent man is this way: he argues with you, and he knows how to bring forward to you deceptively the question that he has. In these three things deceit is never lacking.”
Brothers and friends.
“Three things are better for you than three things, but it is not said. Your wife is better for you than your mother, but it is not said. Your slave is better for you than your son, but it is not said. Your friend is better for you than your brother, but it is not said.”
A teacher without pupils.
Three things have regret. A teacher who does not leave pupils, an old man without young men ( “His children” is meant.) he sperm wasted in women of others: these three things cause regret.”
Love does not call for discussion by the tribe.
“Three things are united and are put together and are spoken of with qaf’ ( . More than a real proverb, it is a matter of a joke on the alliteration with qaf’.”) The camel with the long neck and its four loads are united and are put together and are spoken of with qâf. The book of the Koran and its 225 binding are united and are together and are spoken of with qâf. If a girl is beautiful and follows your heart, even if she sews skin sacks and sandals ( Occupations that reveal a low-caste origin.) there is no talk of tribe ( There is no discussion of genealogies, as, on the contrary, needs to be done for marriage.) she is seized and it is spoken of with qâf .”
The three crises of life.
“The man, son of nobles, assails you three times. When he is born, he assails you. When he marries, he assails you. When he dies, he assails you” ( The traditional banquets for the birth of a male child and for a marriage, as for funerals, are quite expensive. ).
How a Hawiye tribe used to live By Enrico Cerulli