Abaarsaa- The Waaqeffannaa concept of Imprecation

The antique waaqeffannaa spiritual society has unique and highly sophisticated and socially structured tradition of putting abaarsaa (, or imprecation) upon transgressors of the sacred law of Waaqa Gurraacha-Tokkichaa-Haqaa or wrongdoers including violators of the sacred covenant of safuu and laguu and committers of incest and homicide. The concept abaarsaa literally refers to any expressed wish that some form of adversity or misfortune will befall or attach to some other entity-one or more persons, a place, or an object. It refers to a wish that harm or hurt will be inflicted on someone or someplace in question [by Waaqaa and sacred ancestors]. It refers to the act of calling down an imprecation that invokes evil on the transgressors of the sacred covenant of safuu and laguu. It is the speech acts recited against the violators of the sacred covenant of safuu and laguu because it is tantamount to breaking this sacred natural heeraa. The concept is usually used in contrast to the concept ‘bless’ or ‘blessing’. When an imprecation is pronounced against any person, we are not to understand this as a mere wish, however, violent, that disaster should overtake the person in question, any more than we are to understand that the corresponding ‘blessing’ conveys simply a wish that prosperity should be the lot of the person on whom the blessing is invoked. The waaqeffannaa spiritual society believed that curses are imprecations referred to Supreme Being Waaqaa in whose existence and power to inflict harm as prayer has been defined as a wish referred to Waaqaa. Abaarsaa mean also a profane or obscene expression of anger, disgust, surprise, or an appeal to Waaqaa for harm to come to a specific person or group. It also refers to a saying, charm, effigy used to invoke a curse. And therefore, curse is a pronouncement of misfortune because one opposes divine plans. In waaqeffannaa spiritual society’s spirituality, abaarsaa is considered to have some causative force in the result. And so a curse is considered to possess an inherent power of carrying itself into effect. Thus Imprecation aimed to preserve safuu and laguu.

In the waaaqeffannaa, when someone considered sinned (, or committed cubbuu), that is, commit wrongdoing and violate the sacred covenant of safuu and laguu, the person is taken to the qaalluu, the generationally first born Holy Father and head of ancestral spirituality, for imprecation (abaarsaa) at his sacred shrine, galmaa. In addition the hayyuu, the ayyaantuu, the Abbaa (father), the haadhaa (mother), the jaarsaa (old age) or the angafaa (elder) is believed to have the power to bless and curse. And so imprecation can be denounced by the Abbaa Muudaa (, or qaalluu), haadhaa, abbaa, or Jaarsaa against those who fail to respect the sacred covenant of Waaqaa Gurraacha-Tokkicha-Haqaa, but in contrast no one shall curse his father, mother, Waaqaa, elder, or Jaarsaa. The concept cubbuu among the waaqeffannaa literally refers to ‘sin’, ‘transgression of Waaqaa’s Will’, or ‘estrangement from sacred avenue of Waaqaa’. The term is derived from the Oromo word cabuu which literally mean ‘to become broken into pieces’. It is the derivative of the term cabsuu which mean ‘to break’; ‘to split up’; ‘to separate’; ‘to destroy the integrity of”; ‘act in disregard of laws, rules, contracts, or promises’; ‘to breach’; ‘to transgress’ or ‘to violate’. Hence, cubbuu refers to act of breaking the standard way of living, walking on the wrong and unlawful avenue, or out of way. It means the act in disregard of the sacred covenant of safuu and laguu of the waaqeffannaa.

In the waaqeffanna sacred ceremony of blessing and curse as well oath, witnesses are Waaqaa, the pristine Supreme Being and lafaa, the sacred earth. Thus the waaqeffannaa spiritual society do made both formal (against transgressors of laws of Waaqaa) and informal (profane or obscene expression of anger, disgust) type of curses as a society. These are few among the antique verse of imprecation (informal) usually a person in a society recite their curses against those who they feel crossed the boundary that create anger or disgust. As the result in the waaqeffannaa spiritual society it is customary for ancestors (elders) in their declining years to bless or curse their children based on their deeds and respect for their parents and ancestors. To reverse or eliminate a curse is called removal or breaking (haagii or haagii baasuu), and is often believed to require equally elaborate rituals of haagii baafannaa (, or atonement). They usually utters as:

May Waaqaa eat you!
(Waaqii si nyaatinna)
May Waaqaa swallow you!
(Waaqi si liqimsinna)
May Waaqaa take your life!
(Waaqi si fuudhinna)
My Waaqaa devastate you!
(Waaqi si balleesina)
May Waaqaa infest you with flea!
(Waaqi si injireesina)
May Waaqaa lead not you safely to your home!
(Waaqi nageenyaan sihin galchiin)
May Waaqaa make you wasteful!
(Waaqi si dhamaasinna)
May Waaqaa let you not pass the year!
(Waaqi bara bahuu si dhoowina)
May Waaqaa kill you!
(Waaqi si ajjeesinna)
Be blessed not by Waaqaa
(Waaqi si hin eebbisiin)
May Waaqaa burn you!
(Waaqi si gubinna)
May Waaqaa dry your womb!
(Waaqi si doomsina; hin dhaliin)!

In this ritual of abaarsaa, there no death sentence, no stoning, but a ceremony, full of audience speech acts of imprecating or cursing by reciting antique formulaic expressions or verse followed by stigmatization. Curse verse or recitations are often concerned with preservation of property in any form (monuments and their contents, inscriptions, land, or goods, the physical integrity of the sender, or respect for sacredness. Curse formulae are based on the performativity of value of oration. In the waaqeffannaa the sender, like the recipients, is of human nature (the qaalluu, one’s own father or mother, elder, inter alia) but not of a divine nature such as Waaqaa, Lafaa or Ayyaanaa; rather they called to the imprecation ritual as witness. The verse or expression describes and identifies a potential act performed by the recipient of the formulae. This act is contrary to the sender’s self-interests and to the norms of the waaqeffannaa spiritual society which guarantees social and cosmic balance (safuu and laguu). In these curse formulae, anti-safuu acts lead to various consequences for the recipient: the shortening of life, sterility (no heir) the womb, infertility of land the recipient dwell; being dry or burnt; land or place without water; loss or not having of lineage or the blessing of ancestral spirituality (life, children, being lost, dry, blown away like ashes).

It is done so because they believe ancestral words of imprecation have as much causal power as are their words of blessing, the direct asymmetry of imprecation. In waaqeffannaa it is the qaalluu but not Waaqaa that imprecates, as Waaqaa, the pristine Supreme Being, never curse, never speak any human language, but set natural heeraa, the sacred covenant of safuu and laguu from which men rationally abstracts, interprets and hammers out legal and moral standards to selves-govern by. Due to this imprecation is being directed against or towards transgressors of the sacred law of Waaqaa Gurraacha-Tokkichaa-Haqaa.

In the waaqeffannaa spiritual society the reciting of imprecation is being led by ancestral spirituality Holy Father Qaalluu and repeated by people, the attendant of the curse ritual when the curses imposed on the violators of the sacred covenant of safuu and laguu including immoral crime committers that includes homicide and incest. Incest among the waaqeffannaa spiritual society is an act of engaging in sexual relation with closer relatives, normally delimited within past seven generations ceiling. Due to this the Waaqeffannaa count back seven generation or grandfathers before they go into marriage negotiation. For this purpose, they, the antique waaqeffannaa spiritual society, set their social structure into binary division as Hoboo and Cooraa lineage. In this context hoboo can only marry from Cooraa and cooraa can only marry from Hoboo. And so only sharing of the 8th or beyond grandfathers or ancestors is safuu to consider for marriage, and teach their man/boy and woman/girl accordingly, otherwise they are considered as Haraamuu (, or worthlessness).

Therefore in the antique waaqeffannaa, incest including marriage or sex within the same lineage is rarely possible and when happened considered as worthlessness. Upon committing incest in accordance to this sacred heeraa, a highly social and formal ceremony of imprecation (or curse) is carried out to curse the boy and the girl who breach or cross this social distance. To do so both the fathers of the boy and the girl would take their ritual prayer-blessing stick (Horooroo) to the ritual of the curse. The ceremony is headed by generationally first born and only son of Qaallitti and the holy father of spiritual institution, the qaalluus (two) and they would recite antique verse of imprecation which the parents or the attendant of the curse ritual must repeat after them. In addition, Waaqaa, the black Supreme Being, and Dachee, the earth, are also called as witnesses. In the antique waaqeffannaa curse verse, one could usually find the expressions including infertility of land and womb; being dry or burnt; land or place without water; loss or not having of lineage or the blessing of ancestral spirituality (life, children, being lost, dry, blown away like ashes).

As one of the consequence of cubbuu while alive is imprecation, they held ritual of imprecation and full-of-audience speech acts of imprecating or cursing by reciting ancient formulaic expressions followed by stigmatization as are their words of imprecations have as much causal efficacy as their words of blessings, the direct asymmetry of imprecations. Therefore, it is the qaalluu that narrate the imprecation, not the creator Waaqaa, as Waaqaa never curse, and never speak any human language, but set natural heeraa to be governed by.
Qaalluu Attendant
Be not blessed either by Waaqaa or the earth
(Waaqii fi laftii si hin eebissinna) Be not blessed
(Hin eebifamiin)!
May Waaqa and earth burn, make dry your kidneys or your womb (Waaqi saaba/kale si gubbinna) Be burnt
Until now, we were all of us the same lineage. You destroyed our lineage. Be without lineage
(Gosa dabisitee gosaa dabi) Be without lineage
(Gosaa dabi)
Be lost
(Badi) Be lost
(Ee badi)
Be dry
(Ol-gogi) Be dry
(Ee ol-gogi)
May Waaqaa make you childless
(Hin dhaliin) May Waaqaa make you childless
(Hin dhaliin)
May Waaqaa refuse you, life
(Jiruu dhabi) May Waaqaa refuse you, life
(Jiruu dhabi)
Stay in a land without water
(Jiidha dhabi) Stay in a land without water
(Jiidha dhabi)
Stay in a land without grain (Dacheen ati qubatte midhaan hin magarsiin) Stay in a land without grain
(Hin magarsiin)
Water has no resting place, may you have even less
(Akka bishaan yaahuu qubsuma dhabi) May you have even less
(Qubsuma dhabi)
Be reduced to nothing on the earth (Dachee irratti xiqaadhu) Be reduced to nothing on the earth
Be reduced to nothing under the sky
(Waaqa biratti xiqaadhu; qoloo jalatti xiqaadhu) Be reduced to nothing under the sky
Be blown away like ashes
(Akka daaraa kanaa faca’ahi) Be blown away like ashes
Be like dry splinter shrubs
(Hanxaxii tahi) Be like dry splinter
(Ee hanxaxii tahi)
When they recite the verse “Be blown away like ashes” and “Be like hanxaxii”, they blow ashes from their hands in their direction and throw hanxaxii after them, respectively. The term Hanxati refers to little dry twigs, splinter, shrubs or branches, too thin to be useful even for firing – a symbol of uttering uselessness and of death.

In addition when a person committee homicide and refused to held appropriate ceremonial ritual of cleansing and paying blood price, the qaalluu imprecate the homicide(s) as:

You offend Safuu
(Hooda qoltan);
You refused truth
(Dhugaa diddan),
You buried truth
(Dhugaa awwaaltanii);
May the Creator bury your truth!
(Dhugaan keessan haa awwaalamu)!
May your blood price remains buried
(Gumaan keessan hin bahiin);
May killing persist in your descendant up to seven generation!
(Gumaan abbaa torba isinirraa hin hafiin)!