Explorations in History and Society

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

Saddehliya on the vaunts of tribes

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The ‘vaunt’ of the tribes may also be expressed in the traditional form of the saddehliya   (‘By three’), about which we have already spoken. Thus:

1)  The People of the black land

“Three things do not arrive where it was thought they would: the contentment of the women, the rain that falls in the afternoon, and the people of the black land. The rain that falls in the afternoon appears to you from far away and you see it fall nearby. The happy woman, however happy she may be tonight, you will see her melancholy tomorrow morning. The people of the black land, a notable, yet you will see him offend people and feel the women. They do not arrive where it was thought they would!”

Thus the pastoralists of the woodland joke about the unexpected attitudes of the Hawiyya tribes settled in the villages of the “black land” of the valley of the Webi (Badi ‘Adda, Molkal, Mobilen, etc.), tribes that have fewer scruples in some of their attitudes than the people of the woodland remaining more attached to the customs.

2) Virtues and vices of the Guggundabe, of the Abgal, and of the Hawadla.

“The Guggundabe have three things, the Abgâl have three things, the Hawadla have three things. Wide livestock enclosures, a torn robe, and poor people who are killed, the Guggundabe have these three things. Bleached hair, advice without wisdom, and ways by which they emigrate together, the Abgal have these three things. Tobacco that is eaten, thieves with whom to go stealing, and much good advice, the Hawadla have these three things.”

This saddehliya comments ironically on the good and bad qualities of the Guggundabe tribes (Galga‘el, Badi ‘Addo, etc.), of the Abgal, and of the Hawadla. The ‘bleached hair’ alludes to the Abgal custom of working into the hair an argillaceous earth that lightens it so much as to make it light blond.

3) The qualities of the tribes of the middle Webi: from the Abgal to the Hillibi.

The magic that is written, the reflection that has been inherited from the fathers, and the reckoning of the genealogies: for these three things the Abgal ‘Isman are noted. Nice greetings, food even nicer, and deceptions to the cost of the people which are being plotted: for these three things the Wa‘dan ‘Isman are noted. To remain in his own house, to cultivate his own field,  to refuse hospitality: for these three things the Mobilen are noted. Scorched forehead, light hand, and, if you touch them, they crowd against you: for these three things the Hillibi Darandólla are noted.

The Abgal pastoralists are expert in the fal:   divination of the future by means of signs on the sand. Thus, the reflexivity of the Abgal, the asserted falsity of the Wa‘dan, the homely and parsimonious life of the good Mobilen agriculturalists follow one another in the descriptions of this short essay.

There is noted for the Hillibi the use of burns on the forehead against headaches (burns in the shape of the letter alef   made with a metal needle); and the immediate reaction in defense of their joint interests.

4) What is preferable in three Hawiyya tribes.

“It is preferable to travel with five cicatrices than to travel with five Guggundabe. It is preferable to consult five stones than to consult five Abgal. It is preferable to know five hyenas than to know five Mobilen.”

In this harsh saddehliya there is reference to the surprises and ambushes that the Guggundabe may reserve for their caravan companions; to the lack of wisdom in the advice of the Abgal (yet praised in the preceding saddehliya  for their reflexivity! but not all the estimations agree); and to the typical avarice of the Mobilen, from whose friendship, it is said, there is nothing to be obtained.

5) The causes of the quarreling of three Darandollä tribes.

Three quarrel for three. The ‘Eli ‘Umar quarrel about the wells. The Mohammed Musa quarrel about the fields. The Mantan ‘Abdullah quarrel about the dances.”

The three tribes mentioned, all of the Darandollä group, ‘Eli, Mantan, and Yusuf (here designated genealogically with the name of Muhammed Musä), are each interested in a particular activity about which they are ready to quarrel: the waterings, the fields, and the dances, respectively.

6) The weak points of three Darandollä tribes.

Three in three things are surpassed. The ‘Eli are surpassed in the durra. The Mantan are surpassed in the Koran. The Yusuf are surpassed in well-being.”

Thus the three tribes likewise mentioned in the preceding saddehliya   also have three deficiencies: insufficient agriculture among the ‘Eli; insufficient religious doctrine among-the Mantan; insufficient wealth among the Yusuf.

References; Enrico Cerulli ” How a Hawiye tribe use to live”


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