Explorations in History and Society

Exploring and Collecting the History of the Somali clan of Hawiye.

Marriage traditions amongst the Hawadlä and Gal ge’el

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A Hawadlä tradition


“The consuetudinary law of the Hawadlä is this: When one goes away with a woman, she is taken to the house of an old elder. Then she is sent back to the house from where she was taken away. His fee is paid to the elder. Then the elder brings five thalers and takes the girl with him. Then she is taken to the father’s house. Then it is said: ‘The girl that I took away is this one.’ He (the father) says: ‘It is all right, but what does the girl have with her?’ ‘The girl has with her five thalers as donis.’ The fatiha is said. ‘May the marriage be celebrated!’ An ox is brought to the father for the marriage. When the ox is brought to him, he says: ‘Where is my hurmo? (hurmo,   ‘respect,’ is the technical name of this gift.)

The hurmo is thirty thalers. The thirty are brought to him. He says: ‘Give the money to her brothers!’ Some of the money is given to her mother, three thalers. ‘Give some of the money to her paternal uncle, the thaler of the paternal uncle! Give the maternal uncle the two [thalers] of the maternal uncle! Then marry her. Bring me my ox!’ The ox is brought. Then four taniche of durra and the ox and a goatskin of butter are brought. A thaler is spent for coffee. Then I also kill an ox in my house. Then, when I have killed the ox, the four taniche of durra brought by me are cooked. When they are ready and I place the vessel of butter there, all, the old and young, eat it. Then my bride is taken into the hut. What is the custom? You say: she must remain eight days and not go out. After she has stayed eight days in the hut, an amulet is cut. Working the land is begun.


“When one wants a girl, they make an agreement. We make an agreement. She says: ‘Go to my father, take him the money, take him the ox! I want you.’ You take her away. If you go to the father, he tells you: ‘She is your sister. If you want her, take her!’ Then you marry her. You take her to the house of the elder.

 A Gal ge’el tradition




The consuetudinary law of the Gal ga‘al is this: When a woman is married, the wife remains with her father’s people. He [the bridegroom] goes to his house. He goes to his house; then he comes in secret. He comes out to go to his wife at night, when the sun has set. He is calledinniyál.’   The bride is also called inniyâl.’   The people of the bride’s father graze the livestock during the day. When the livestock is grazed, and he [the bridegroom] spies from the woodland, if he finds her in that woodland she is his wife, he couples with her. When she takes care of the livestock, she does not wear the sâs’ on her head, and her hairdo is still with puffed-out hair. This is the consuetudinary law of the Gal ga‘al.”


In the customs of the Hawadlä, too, marriage takes place by symbolic kidnapping; that is, with the bride’s ‘escape’ from her father’s hut, together with the bridegroom, to the hut of an elder of the tribe. This elder, to whom a special gift is due, later acts as an intermediary with the girl’s father, whom he notifies about the nuptial gift already negotiated by the bridegroom for the bride; and settles the gifts for the relatives. The sacrifice and the nuptial banquet follow


According to a variation, which seems significant, the father may also know about it beforehand and give generic consent to the ‘escape,’ which constitutes marriage by kidnapping, except, of course, for the following notification by means of the elder, as we have just seen. This emphasizes the symbolic character that the matrimonial kidnapping has today among the Hawadlä too.


Quite different is the special marriage practiced (1919) among the Gal ga‘el. The bridegroom who has not completely paid the nuptial gifts (it is to be supposed) is recognized as such, but the bride’s people ignore him. He returns to the residence of his own people and is not permitted to visit his wife except at night, in secret, without the wife’s people knowing it openly. And, in order to indicate better this ‘secret marriage,’ the bride keeps the hair of a girl, without covering her hair with the veil, as is the general practice among the Somalis, in order that, in the sight of the others, she will appear unmarried. It is to be remembered that this secrecy, during which the bridegroom is called inniyal (the bride, in the feminine: inniyal  ), comes to an end with the payment of the nuptial gift. So we have, in this case too, in the custom, one of the forms of marriage by credit, about which, as I said, the ‘Libro degli Zengi’ /Book of the Zengi/ already speaks for the peoples of the Giuba /Juba.

Sources; Enrico Cerulli  “How a Hawiye tribe use to live”



Written by daud jimale

March 15, 2009 at 11:23 pm

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