Explorations in History and Society

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

Beautiful appearance & ugly substance, beautiful substance & ugly appearance.

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“There are three things of beautiful appearance and ugly afterwards; and three things of ugly appearance and beautiful afterwards. What are the three things of beautiful appearance and ugly afterwards? The young Guggundabo, the cow with large shoulders, the mature woman: they have a beautiful appearance and are ugly afterwards. — The young Guggundabo carries the shield, a beautiful lance with threads wrapped around, and a mat for prayers. Then he comes to the tree under which they throng for the assembly. Then it would be necessary that he speak. He finds nothing to say. It is said: ‘Let us go to spend the night in the house of this clever young man.’ Then he says: ‘No! No! I have nothing!’ He cries out. The man of handsome appearance is ugly afterwards, so it is-

The young Guggun-dabo is perhaps elegant in appearance, but he is neither eloquent nor hospitable.

-What is the cow with large shoulders? When it is pregnant and in its belly there is milk and it is pregnant, it is said: ‘This is a cow of great beauty.’ Then this cow that had been called nice delivers a little one. Then for two days it does not drink water; it becomes empty (of milk). Then it looks like a dog. It leaves its offspring. Then it is ugly afterwards.

The cow with large shoulders produces little milk, contrary to its appearance.

“A woman who has given birth to three or four children and who is neither young nor old is called mature. When she is free and is not married, she wears an elegant veil, a beautiful kerchief on her head, a double gown. Whoever sees her says: ‘Who will take her [in marriage]? She is elegant.’ Then one marries her. She becomes pregnant. The excrement and the urine of the child spread over her. Then you say: ‘Oh! This one stinks! Is she a slave?’ Once she was elegant, here is one who is ugly afterwards.

“The three things of ugly appearance and beautiful afterwards, what are they? The young Hawâdlä, the camel with large shoulders, and the virgin girl. — You see the young Hawadlä, he carries an old shield, a rusty lance, and a box of tobacco-

Traditionally the Hawâdlä are known as tobacco chewers

-Tied here near the male organ. When he comes to the tree of the assembly, the people are surprised. They say: ‘What does he want?’ Then he speaks in fine words: ‘It is to be done this way! It is to be done this way! This is how it is!’ Then it is said: ‘He is a clever man! Let us spend the night in his house.’ When they have gone to his house, he says: ‘Sit here.!’ He takes a male camel, slaughters it, and milks a she-camel. Then the people satiate themselves. They are satiated with meat, milk, durra. Then it is said: ‘This man is not as I though yesterday.’ Here is one who is beautiful afterwards-

The young Hawâdlä, careless about his clothing, is, on the other hand, eloquent and hospitable

— The she-camel with 216   large shoulders, when it has its little one in the womb for twelve months, if you take it to pasture, you say: ‘It will not give birth soon.’ It is thin and hungry. When the twelve months have elapsed, it instead will give birth. When it has given birth, you obtain much milk. If you are thirsty and there is dry weather, you will not be disturbed. You squeeze out the milk that it is full of. Then it is beautiful afterwards-

The she-camel with large shoulders, which needs care during the twelve months of gravidity (it also refers to the difficulty of pasturage for the camels during dry weather), on the other hand gives milk in abundance after the delivery.

-What is the virgin girl? She is a girl with the tonsure. Her appearance is ugly when one marries her. When the man spends the night [with her], and he sees her heart troubled, she then, very sad, runs away nto the woods. At night she does not come home-

During the first days of marriage the girl is easily overcome by melancholy and mourns for her free life.

-Then you say: ‘Who is this slave?’ The veil is wrapped around her head in an ugly way. And she wears cotton that is cheap and all dirty-

The very young wife does not yet know how to dress well or to adorn herself

Then when she becomes pregnant, her relations with her husband are good and they are in accord. It is said: ‘She puffs out the sides of her hair. She makes herself elegant. She is a clever woman! Remember how she was before?’ Here is what is beautiful afterwards”

The girl who is not experienced about men does not know how to make her charms appreciated, but once she is accustomed to the new life, she is much more preferable than the mature woman.


Enrico Cerulli “How a Hawiye tribe use to live”


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