GEMECHU J. GEDA
Currently, the majority of the Arsi Oromo are either Muslims or Christians. However, most of them still practice their traditional beliefs passed down through generations by their forefathers, such as Waaqeffannaa, and attend various rituals related to it. Waaqeffannaa is a religion based on belief in one God known to the Oromo as Waaqa, which according to the Oromo is the creator of the entire universe. The Oromo belief of the existence of Waaqa is based on observing what they call his works, such as the presence of various seasons, rain, sun, darkness, growing of crops, existence of water bodies, mountains, trees and other living things. Contrary to Christianity, Islam, and other religions, Waaqeffannaa does not require the construction of religious houses for the veneration of Waaqa or for thanking him for his good deeds. Instead, the Oromo who are followers of Waaqeffannaa thank Waaqa by travelling to natural physical bodies such as rivers, lakes, forests, and mountains, which they believe are created by Waaqa himself. Waaqeffannaa is believed to be a free will religion, where a believer does not need to calculate in order to obtain certain advantages, such as going to heaven in the afterlife for adhering to Waaqa. To the same effect, a believer would not face some kind of punishment for abandoning Waaqa.
According to the belief held by Oromo followers of Waaqeffannaa, Waaqa has various attributes. Waaqa is considered the creator of the universe, with all its living and nonliving entities. Adherents perceive him as the sole champion and protector of truth and justice. They also believe he will withdraw his protection from individuals who lie and commit various forms of crimes. This exposes the individual to various misfortunes, such as accidents and sicknesses. The only way to regain Waaqa’s protection is to ask for his forgiveness. Followers also widely believe that Waaqa is black. This is mainly because the Oromo associate black with fertility because they believe that fertile soil and rain clouds are black in colour. Additionally, they associate black with the unknown and thereby something deserving respect. They also equate their dark skin colour with that of Waaqa. In a metaphorical reference to his wisdom, patience, tolerance, and mercifulness, Waaqa is described as having a sea-belly. This belly also provides rain, which brings enough grass for animals and cereal for his people.
Waaqa is closely associated with another entity- lafa (earth), which is sometimes referred to as a mother, while Waaqa is considered a father. The Oromo indicate the inseparable nature of Waaqa and the earth through their prayers. In most cases they invoke both names during prayers and blessings, indicating the equal significance of both entities. The Oromo believe that Waaqa assigns spirit-like beings, ayyaana, to all living and non- ii living creatures for protection, which he removes from people who commit a sin (cubbuu). The removal of the protective ayyaana exposes a creature to attack by an evil ayyaana. A person commits cubbuu if he breaks a certain safuu (traditional and moral values of the society) such as killing another person, lying, cheating, robbing, disrespecting one’s parents and elders, abandoning belief in Waaqa, abandoning one’s culture and tradition, neglecting responsibility, and being ungrateful. The concept of death, burial, and the afterlife are also important aspects of Waaqeffannaa. Death is considered to be a call by Waaqa to a person on a specific time assigned to him. The deceased is buried on a ledge off the burial hole, on the right side for a man and on the left side for a woman, in a pattern similar to their sitting position while alive. The deceased’s face is placed in the direction of sunrise. Then a stone stele (sodduu) is erected on the grave. Followers of Waaqeffannaa do not believe in the afterlife. For them, only Waaqa knows what happens once a person is dead.
One of the practices in Waaqeffannaa is the act of making pilgrimages to the Abbaamuuda (father of anointment). Because of the decline of Waaqeffannaa and the Abbaamuuda, the Arsi Oromo have diverted their pilgrimages to shrines established by various local saints in different parts of the region. The shrine of Sheikh Hussein in Bale, the Sof Umar Guutoo pilgrimage center in western Arsi, and the Faraqqasaa pilgrimage center in eastern Arsi are among the most frequently visited pilgrimage centers by the Arsi Oromo. In addition to the above shrines, large numbers of Arsi Oromo also take part in the Irreecha (thanksgiving) ritual by Lake Arsadi in Bishoftu town.
Full Text: Pilgrimages and Syncretism