Explorations in History and Society

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

Archive for April 2010

Account on the Hawiye

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The Hawiyas

The Hawiyas, who aro dominant in Ogaden, that is, the great central territory of Sonvjli Land, are certainly the most powerful of all the Somali people. M. Revoil describes them as less bellicose than the other branches of the race, but at the same time more fanatical and more dangerous to foreigners. They belong to a distinct Mohammedan sect, which, to judge from their practices, seems in some way akin or analogous to that of the Wahabites in Central Arabia. According to tbe accounts received by Sottiro, the Hawiyas have a large infusion of Galla blood, to which may perhaps be attributed the fact that their complexion is of a lighter shade than that of the seaboard tribes. In the inland regions most of them appear to be settled agriculturists, which is doubtless due to the greater elevation of this region, which is also better watered and more fertile than the low-lying coastlands. In Ogaden, a land of pasturage and of cattle, they are on the contrary all nomads.

In several parts of their domain the Hawiyas are numerically in a minority. In fact in these districts they constitute a higher caste or political rulers, who regard with contempt the bulk of the inhabitants as belonging to alien tribes, or even to conquered races. Thus the Adone people, who occupy the southern parts of Ogaden, differ altogether from the Somali proper, and according to their language and social habits should rather be grouped with the Bantu populations. The Adone idiom is closely related to the Ki-Swaheli of the Zanzibar coastlands.

The two castes of the Yebirs and Tomals, who, like the European gipsies, are the fortune-tellers, blacksmiths, and tinkers of these regions, are also regarded as tribes of different origin from the true Hawiyas. The Yebirs are somewhat addicted to magic practices, such as manufacturing amulets, conjuring snakes, healing the sick, casting lots, and interpreting omens. They also take a leading part in all feasts and public ceremonies. The Tomals, called also Handads, forge the spear-heads; but although indispensable to the community they are kept beyond the precincts of the villages, and obliged to marry amongst themselves, being despised and feared as baneful magicians.

In still greater contempt are held the Midgans, called also Rami, that is to say ” Archers,” who are universally regarded us the lowest of the low. They worship trees and snakes, and eat all the prohibited food, such as fish, fowl, eggs, hares, and gazelles. Thev are also daring hunters, fearlessly attacking the lion and the elephant, whom they pierce with their poisoned arrows. Like the Yebirs, tho Midgans also practise medicine, and have the reputation of being extremely clever charlatans. According to the Somali legends, the lower castes are the issue of crossings between Abyssinian women and maleficent genii, while the Midgans are of still more degraded origin, their ancestors having been the slaves of these Abyssinian women.


The Earth and Its Inhabitants …: South and east Africa

By Elisée Reclus, Ernest George Ravenstein, Augustus Henry Keane

Written by daud jimale

April 4, 2010 at 3:42 pm