The Inseparability of the Gadaa System and the Oromo Calendar

Among others, the feeding, clothing and housing cultures of people depend on the nature of their environment. The environment people inhabit determines as to when and how inhabitants work. However, of all these, climate is the one with the most deterministic element.

The climatic condition of a given place affect the production system of its inhabitants. People compute the duration of time between two events and handle climate caused unfolding accordingly. So, let us see how the Oromos adopted event-calendar based on the climate of their respective areas.

Photo - Gada system, Oromo, Ethiopia
Photo – Gada system, Oromo, Ethiopia

As the researcher Asmarom clearly mentions, the Oromo calendar, which gradually developed into the Gada system was highly intertwined with social and political practices.

Gada members used to count according to Gada periods sequentially in multiples of eight—8,16,32,40– and their duties were associated with their ages.

In addition,Oromo calendar did base itself on the volume of rivers as well as position of specific stars, moon, sun…etc. This was also associated with the rituals that were conducted in Autumn,Winter,Summer and Spring. The major political and socio-religious practices such as law making and proclamation, Butta ceremony,power transfer and other practices were preformed at specified time.

In the Gada system, ‘Ayyantu’ were individuals who were past master of time reckoning.

Almost all days of a month were associated with the religious and political practices of the Gada system. In short the Gada system and the Oromo calendar were inseparable.

The calendar had twelve months. February ‘Guraandhalaa’, March ‘Bitootessa’, April ‘Ebla’, May ‘Caamsaa’, June ‘Waxabajjii’, July’ Adoolessa’, August ‘Hagayya’, September ‘Fulbaana’, October ‘Onkoloolessa’, November ‘Sadaasa’, Deccember ‘Mudde’, and January ‘Amajjii’.

All months are categorized in seasons and days according to their natural characters. Namely Autumn ‘Birraa’, Winter ‘Bona’, Spring ‘Arfaasaa’, Summer ‘Ganna’.All seasons have their own socio-political implication in the naming.

Autumn ‘Birraa’ comprises three months namely September, October and November. It is the most gleeful season for Oromo society. Flowering and the ripping period of grains. It is the end of summer when the greenery reaches at its pick. For youngsters Autumn is the most eagerly awaited season for it is a period for exchanging their affection, for singing and trying to choose their partner. According to Tulama Oromo,during this season Gada Officials gather under a life giving shade of ‘Odaa’ tree and amend laws and proclaim it.

After people got stifled at home for three months owing to the rain season,it is generally a season of interaction, vivacity and a period when social cohesion reaches at its zenith.

Hence happy with the ensued pleasant season young males and females sing the following song.

Afan Oromo verssion ‘ Abbaa dalagoo!, Laga lagaa gad ilaalaa!, Birraan bariitee yaa!Hicitii jaalalaa Abbaa dalgoo koo yaa dalgicha koo’

which in English means

“You young man who wear the sheep(Skin) leather

And,a good fighter,you my lover,

It is a season of lovers please come through the river

And we can meet”

Singing such songs lovers give vent to their affections and magnetic pulls towards each other in the ‘Birraa'(Autmun) season.

The second season is Winter ‘Bona’ that is made up of Deccember ‘Mudde’, January ‘Amajjii’ and February ‘Guraandhalaa’.Winter season in most part of the country is a dry season but, for the Oromos it is a period of harvesting, a time of gathering crops and a season of trekking for the pastoral community. Winter seasons is marked for inclement weather and hence needs care. So, Tulama Oromo conduct rain making prayers. They pray

Afan Oromo verssion “Waaqa Habaaboo Birraa nuhoofkalchitee!,Awwaara bonaa nuhoofkalchitee”

In English it literary means “ Waaqaa ‘God’ please make us pass a pleasant Autumn; helps us bear the dry season too.”

Also in winter season Gada officials visit different Oromo communities and give advice to the people how to withstand the problems attendant on the season famous for its disagreeable climate.

So, the contribution of Gadaa leaders is interlinked with socio-political issues of the society to determine season and other case. In future edition of Herald’s culture column I will relate to you the two seasons left unmentioned.

Source: Ethiopian Herald, March 2014.

Content gathered and compiled from online and offline media by Hornaffairs staff based on relevance and interest to the Horn of Africa.

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