Religion is the belief in and worship of God or gods or it is a set of beliefs concerning the origin and purpose of the universe. It is commonly regarded as consisting of a person’s relation to God or to gods or spirits. The word religion is sometimes used interchangeably with faith system, but it is more than a private belief and has a public aspect. Most religions have organised behaviours, congregations for prayer, priestly hierarchies, holy places and scriptures. Faith is the confident belief or trust in the truth or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing. The word faith can refer to a religion itself. As with trust, faith involves a concept of future events or outcomes, and is used conversely for a belief “not resting on logical proof or material evidence”. Faith is often used in a religious context, as in theology, where it almost universally refers to a trusting belief in transcedent reality, or else in a Supreme Being and/or this being’s role in the order of transcendent spiritual things. So faith is in general the persuasion of the mind that a certain statement is true. It is the belief and the assent of the mind to the truth of what is declared, based on the declarer’s authority and truthfulness.
Waaqeffannaa (Amantii Oromo), the traditional faith system of Oromo people, is one version of the monotheistic African Traditional Religion (ATR), where the followers of this faith system do believe in only one Supereme Being. African traditional religion is a term referring to a variety of religious practices of the only ONE African religion, which Oromo believers call Waaqeffannaa (believe in Waaqayoo, the supreme Being), an indigenous faith system to the continent of Africa. Even though there are diffirent ways of practicing this religion with varieties of rituals, in truth the different versions of the African religion have got the following commonalities:
- Believe in and celebrate a Supreme Being, or a Creator, which is referred to by a myriad of names in various languages as Waaqeffataa Oromo do often say: Waaqayyoo maqaa dhibbaa = God with hundreds of names and Waaqayyoo Afaan dhibbaa = God with hundreds of languages; thus in Afaan Oromoo (in Oromo language) the name of God is Waaqayyoo/Rabbii or Waaqa tokkicha (one god) or Waaqa guraachaa (black God, where black is the symbol for holiness and for the unkown) = the holy God = the black universe (the unkown), whom we should celebrate and love with all our concentration and energy.
- No written scripture (holy texts are oral); but now some people are trying to compose the written scripture based on the Africans’ oral literature.
- Living according to the will of the Supereme Being and love also those who do have their own way of surviving by following other belief systems, which are different from that of Waaqeffannaa. It includes keeping both safuu (virtues) and laguu (vices); i.e to love safuu as well as to hate and abhore cubbuu (sin).
- Correspondence with the Supereme Being in times of a great need (i.e. in times of natural calamities, unexplained deaths) and try to walk always on the karaa nagaa (on the way of peace = on the way of righteousness, on the road of truth).
- Having a devout connection with ancestors; in case of Oromo, the ancestors are blessed and celebrated for the good inheritance we got from them, but not worshipped as some people want to misunderstand.
The word “culture” is most commonly defined as the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution, organization or group; different cultures are the distinct ways that classified people living in different parts of the world, that represented their experiences and acted creatively. African peoples have got our own culture which distinguish us from other parts of the world, of course also having our own sub-cultures among ourselves. Aadaa Oromo (Oromo culture) being one part of the Cush culture is one of the sub-cultures within the common African culture, which consists also the faith system of Waaqeffannaa as part and parcel of the Oromo/African culture.
Waaqeeffannaa’s interaction with other religions
According to the expert opinions written up to now, the concept of monotheism is the whole mark of African Traditional Religion including the faith system of the Cush nations. It seems that this concept of monotheism have moved from Cushitic black Africans (including the Oromo) first to ancient Egypt, secondly further to Israel of the Bible and lastly to the Arab world of Koran. The experts tell us that Moses was not the first monotheist, but Akhenaten was the first revolutionary monotheist; they even claim that Moses might have been black. It is also argued that Moses was an Egyptian Pharaoh known as Akhenaten before the exodus. Additionally, they do argue that Akhenaten’s monotheism revolution in Egypt was not inspired from inside, but induced from outside by the Cushites, i.e. Akhenaten might have derived his monotheism concept from Africa’s/Oromo’s concept of Waaqa tokkicha in a form of “Waaqayyoo humna malee bifa hin qabu (God has no physical form, but power)”. This concept may have been misinterpreted so that the other religions later started to talk about God with a physical form.
It is also interesting to observe many similarities between some old Egyptian words and Afaan Oromo words; for instance, the similarities of the ancient Egyptian words “Anii and Matii” with the Oromo words of “Ana (Ani) and Maatii“. Anii of Egyptians, which means I (I am who I am), that is equivalent to God is similar to the Oromo word Ani, which also means I and refers to the first person singular (the actor = the main character of GOD). Matii being the designation of God’s congregation and the Oromo word Maatii for the family which is the “congregation” of ani (first person = God) are surprisingly the same. This is only one of many similarities between Oromo and Egypt registered by experts till now. It is not my intention to talk about this historical relationship here, but just to show the relation between Oromo’s traditional religion and the three Abraham religions, even though Judaism is not part of the current religions practiced by the Oromo. It means the new acceptance of both Chrisitianity and Islam by Africans is the coming back of the same belief in Waaqa tokkicha to Africa in different forms.
This historical relation between Amantii Oromo and the two big religions of the world suggests that Waaqeffannaa is the older version of monotheism and humanism. Waaqeffannaa as a faith system and Irreechaa as a major national celebration were part and parcel of Oromo public life. Now, some Oromo nationals prefer the name Amantii Oromo/Amantii Africa to Waaqeeffannaa. It is important if we all can agree to call the Oromo traditional religion as Amantii Oromo/Amantii Africa, just like we agreed on calling our language Afaan Oromo and our country Biyya Oromo. So in short, we can say: Our land is Biyya Oromo, our language is Afaan Oromo and our religion is Amantii Oromo. It is known that some people may argue by saying “how can we call it Amantii Oromo, when we do see that more than half of the Oromo nowadays have Christianity and Islam as their religion?” Are Oromo with other first language rather than Afaan Oromo not Oromo, despite their lost Afaan Oromo? Should we say just because of these Oromo, who nowadays speak only English, German, Amharic, etc., that Oromo language is not Afaan Oromo? The same way, it is not logical not to call Oromo religion as Amantii Oromo because of the Oromo who overtook other religions. Actually, the designation Waqqeffannaa (believing in and living with Waaqayyoo) can also be applied to Christian Oromo and Islam Oromo even though most of the Islam Oromo prefer the name Rabbii to the name Waaqayyoo. They all are believers in Waaqayyoo = God = Allah = Rabbii. Amantii Oromo differs only because of its specificity for it is the older Oromo faith embedded in only Oromo/African culture without any influence from alien culture.
The fact to be accepted here is that God is universal even though we call HIM Waaqayyoo, Rabbii or Allah. But, Amantii Oromo is the way how our forefathers believed in this universal Waaqayyoo of humankind. We don’t have God or Waaqayyoo, who is specific only to Oromo/Africa and doesn’t care for other nations. Waaqayyoo is the God of nations. But, we Oromo do have a specific way and culture regarding how we do practice our belief in Waaqayyoo. This way of practicing our faith is what we call Amantii Oromo. Amantii Oromo is simply the Oromo way of practicing the faith in the universal Waaqayyoo. It is part of the Oromo way of dealing with the problems of life (it is part of Aadaa Oromo). Accordingly, aadaa (culture) can also be defined as the way, in which a certain collective or group of people deals with its own life problem.
The difference between this Amantii Oromo and the other two big religions practiced by Oromo is that the other two got not only the faith in one God, but also the elements of cultures from the people in which they first emerged. We can see here the Arabs accepted the concept of Waaqa tokkicha while still keeping pre-Mohammad Arab culture in Islam, which is far different from Oromo/from African culture, but Islam practiced by Oromo in Oromia is colored by Arab culture for it is adopted from there. Interestingly, this is the difference between Islam Arab and Islam Oromo; Islam Arabs adopted only the concept of Waaqa tokkicha from Cush of Africa/Egypt/Israel, but don’t seem to exercise alien culture from these areas, whereas Islam Oromo tend to adopt both the faith and the culture from Arabs. Egyptians and Israelis, who accepted the concept of the same Waaqa tokkicha, also do practice their faith being colored by their previous culture; they don’t seem to practice Cush culture; but again Christianity practiced in Oromia is mostly colored by the culture of the Israelis, the Habeshas as well as by that of the Western for Christian Oromo tend to adopt not only the faith, but also the alien culture.
That is why it is not actually bad that some Oromo nationals accept and believe in the two monotheist religions (Christianity and Islam) per se, but not good is giving more value to the culture of the nations from which the religions come to us, at the cost of the very valuable Aadaa Oromo. Of course, good elements of foreign cultures can be accommodated without damaging the good elements of our own. For instance, the similarity between dibbee Qaallu (Qaallu’s drum) and the beat of Tigrinya music shows how Tegarus have inherited some elements of Oromo’s culture. This can verify that the suggestion of Donald Levine, who in his book called Greater Ethiopia wrote that “Tegarus are part of the Cushites of the Old Testament who denied their identity”, is may be true. After all, why do they call their mother Aadde? Where does the name Barentu in Eritrea come from? Are they only inheritance of names or were they part of the lost Oromo/Cush? Anyways, it is good to follow the advice given by Luba Shamsadin. He said (paraphrased here), when we try to accept religions from other nations, we have to identify and separate “the bone of the fish from the meat”; i.e. we need to identify and leave the unnecessary cultural values of other nations mixed with the religions we Oromo do accept.
So as it is put here in short, Waaqeffannaa (believe in one Waaqayyoo of the universe) is practiced not only among Cush nations, but also among almost all African nations. This faith system of Africans including Waaqeffannaa has been devalued as something “paganism, barbarism, religionlessness, uncivilization, Godlessness, animisim, primitivism, etc”. The black color, which is the symbol of holiness in Waaqeffannaa is demonized as a symbol for Satan. All the blessing ceremonies of Waaqeffannaa and the utensiles used for the blessings are condemned as a service and worshipping of demons/Satan. Despite this denigeration, the current revival of Waaqeffannaa and the celebration of Irreechaa in Oromia can be a good example setting for the other African nations to revive their hitherto devalued and almost lost culture and religion.
To serve this purpose of revival, the right way of Waaqeffannaa (believing in, celebrating of and living with Waaqayyoo) must be cleaned from alien non-constructive elements as well as from non-productive practices and rituals like that of qaalichaa (infiltrating idolatry), which are not serving the purpose of Waaqayyoo in our personal or national life. That means, we have to differentiate Waaqeffachuu (realizing God’s purpose in our life) from waaqessuu (serving alien gods). Waaqeffachuu is applying Waaqayyoo’s goodwill in our practical life, whereas waaqessuu is making someone or something be our Waaqa, i.e. practicing idolatry. The Oromo people in general have never had an idol to worship, but always had only one Waaqayyoo to believe in and to celebrate. Of course, there are very few Oromo individuals nowadays tending to practice waaqessuu. Such purification of the African faith system must be done in all versions of the practices and rituals among all African nations.
Concept of God in Waaqeffannaa
To make Waaqeffannaa a little bit clear, here is a short narration about this faith system in practice. Oromo nationals practicing this faith do talk about Waaqa tokkicha, which is one of the evidences for the faith to be monotheism, just as the Christianity and Islam are. The concept of God among these believers is summarized by their usual saying: “Waaqayyoo humna malee bifa hin qabu.” These believers do not misinterpret Waaqa tokkicha as an expression of physical form for even the whole nature as a physical form is also an expression of his power. The believers and the Qaalluu or Qaallitti (local spiritual leader) are usually very lovely; specially the leaders are simply like a love in person. All their followers are selfless people full of good deeds and love; they do talk about Waaqayyoo, calling him as abbaa koo (my father), and they usually do pray for children saying: “akka ijoollee keenyaa eebbisuuf abba keenya gaafanna (let’s ask our father to bless our children),” they usually don’t say “abba keenya kadhanna (let’s beg our father)”.
Whenever they are challenged by life problems, they do assert by saying: “Waaqayyoo abbaan keenya eessa dhaqeetu (our God is not far away)”, denoting that Waaqayyoo is always ready to help his children. They some times also talk as prophets in a way: “Abbaan keenya akkas jedha, ani sin wajjin jira, ani nan sin gargaara (our father says, I am with you and I will help you)”. According to them, the spiritual father is Waaqayyoo garaa gurraachaa, i.e. Waaqayyoo with holy heart, symbolized with black color, most of whose holiness is unknown to humans. Knowledgeable believers do tell that the concept “Waaqayyo gurracha garaa garba (black God with heart like ocean)” actually refers to the unknown future. What Waaqayyoo may bring in the future is unknown, and that is signified by black color. Here garaa garba is also about the unknown. One couldn’t know what is inside the body of water from afar. This point of view seems to be the reason for the color black in the Oromo tricolor to signify the unknown future.
In some regions of Oromia, there are a lot of congregations visited by Oromo at some big houses called gimbi (galma) which have got different names: gimbii diloo, maram, abbaa jama, hiike, etc; the spritual practices done there include the following: dalaguu (dancing), irreenssa kennu (green leaf as a gift), wareeguu (offerings), hammachiisaa (blessing babies), gashaa (delicious food brought to gimbi), etc. Actually people go to such gimbi regularly carrying green leaves of Ireensaa. In this culture, green grass or green leaf is a powerful symbol for life and prosperity, and it is an element present in all public rituals of Waaqeffataa Oromo, including funerals and prayers of remembrance, during which grass is spread on the ground or grave. The above listed different names of gimbi are Oromo spiritual holy places and palaces, which are equivalent to temple, church and mosque. In all the places mentioned, everyone prays to Waaqayyoo. The practices mentioned above are just variations of spiritual practice to Waaqayyoo.
It is also to be observed among the practicing Waaqeffattaa how balanced is their way of discussion and relationship. During sorts of discussions, they often discuss very wisely. For example, when they give comments, here is a sample of how they do: “Ilaa, kanaa fi sana waan gaarii jette. Haa ta’u malee kunimmoo otoo akkana ta’e wayya (here and there you said good, but it is better if this one be so and so)”. They do not denigrate the opinion of the other side, but tell the better alternative to the opinion they do disagree with. They do tolerate the mistake of others and just tell the consequence of the mistake. As far as they are concerned, there is always cubbuu (sin) in their consciousness, but no concept for hell or condemnation after death. This simply implies that we all do experience the consequence of our trespasses regarding the safuu (virtues) and laguu (vices) expected from us during our life time.
Not to suffer such consequences of cubbuu, Waaqeffattaa Oromo have got a lot of very well said prayers in their practical life activities. The following are very few of the impressive prayers in the day to day life of the Oromo, which need to be presented here as examples. They are usually heard from the believers of Amantii Oromo, and they are almost similar to what the believers in Christianity and Islam do pray, let alone the similarity of the greatly formulated prayers we do hear during Irreechaa celebration with what the Christian Qesis and the Islam Sheiks usually do pray:
– Waaqayyoo kan dubbatee nu dubbachiisu fi kan hamaa nutti yaadu nurraa qabbi (God keep us from those who speak evil and make us speak the same).
– Waaqayyoo mirga nu oolch (help us to walk on the right way); hamaa nurraa qabi (protect us from evil).
– Yaa Rabbii, ilmi ga’e haa fuudhu (Oh God, let the young man be married), dubarri geesse haa heerumtu (let the young woman be married), this prayer shows how important family building for human blessing is.
– Yaa Waaqayyo, ani galee, kan galee hin rafne narraa qabi; ani rafee kan rafee hin bulle narra qabi (I am now at home to sleep, save me from the evil ones who didn’t yet be at their home and didn’t sleep).
– Yaa Waaqayyoo galgala koo hin balleessiin (let my old age not be cursed), this is related with the consequence of cubbuu. The believers are asking Waaqayyoo to help them stay away from cubbuu so that their “galgala (late age)” will not be bad/painful. Here we see something similar with native American’s culture. They say: “when you came to this world, you cried and everybody else laughed; live your life so that when you leave this world, you laugh and everyone else cries”; i.e. to say live your life free from cubbuu and its consequence, which leads you to the blessing in your old age.
This prayers indicate the fact on the ground how Oromo look at Waaqayyoo and at the human-being. Waaqayyoo is concieved as a holy father with whom we can correspond during our day to day life problems or when ever we face calamities or difficulties for his will is always good, whereas human-beings can be with either bad or good intention in relation to each other. Both Gadaa and Qaalluu institutions look at all individuals as human with equal rights in front of Waaqayyoo; that is why there is NO a „respect form“ of adressing human-being or God in Afaan Oromo, just as there is non in English language. After losing our sovereignity, the Oromo people had to learn how to „respect“ autority figures. For there is no such option in Afaan Oromo, we had to use plural verbs to adress the autority figures. Even Abaa Gadaa (chief of the government) and Abbaa Mudaa (the spritual leader) were adressed as „ati = you in a singular form“, not as „isin = you in a plural form“. Today we have to adress our fellow human being with certain autority as „isin“ to show „respect“. It is not bad if such adressing would have been mutual/symmetrical as for instance it is in German language. But such „respect“, which we are now applying is asymmetrical (only the autority figure is adressed with the „respect“ form, whereas the autority figure can adress the other person without using the „respect“ form. Where it is the reality that we don’t use the „respect“ form during adressing our Waaqayyoo, as seen in the above prayers, why should we bother to use it in adressing our fellow human being? It would be better if we leave this culture, which we adopted from others with autoritarian culture in contrast to our own egalitarian one. Our concept of Waaqayyoo doesn’t allow us to behave so submissivly to any human being, who is equal to us.
Virtues and Vices of Waaqeffannaa
Here in short, safuu (virtue) can be defined as the „to do list“ in order to serve Waaqayyoo and to acchieve his kaayyoo/goal in our personal and national earthly life; whereas laguu (vice) is the „not to do list or the taboo“, so that we can refrain from doing such activities diverting us from the kaayyoo Waaqayyoo. Cubbuu (sin) then in short includes both not doing the safuu and doing the laguu. Just as an example, if we take bilisumma (national freedom) as Waaqayyo’s kaayyoo for the Oromo nation, what are the safuu and the laguu to be respected? If the kaayyoo of Waaqeffannaa is individual healing from any sort of illness, what are the safuu and the laguu, which both the healer and the sick person should respect?
In order to look at the virtues and vices of the traditional Oromo/African belief system for our earthly life, let us now try to describe Waaqeffannaa as we experienced it and knew it. Note that all the descriptions and notions we try to put here on paper are based on our own argaa-dhageetti (based on our own perception), which may differ from that of the other Oromo nationals. For instance, we could observe that Oromo is a nation filled with celebrations of eebba (blessing), who do have different celebrations for almost everything and everybody related to our life. For instance, taaboree as a blessing ceremony for young boys; ingiccaa for blessing young girls; ayyaana abbaa for blessing the ancestors for the good inheritance we got from them; ateetee for blessing our women; borantichaa for blessing adult men; jaarii looni for blessing our useful animals; jaarii qe’e or jaarii kosii for blessing our residence area; jaarii midhaani to bless our farms; garanfasa mucucoo as a celebration of the rainy season and, of course, gubaa and irreechaa for celebration of the coming birraa (the coming spring season) etc. We hope that Oromo students of anthropology, sociology and theology will make a scientific reasearch on these blessing ceremonies and tell us the constructive and non-constructive elements of the activities in them.
But, let us mention few of the virtues (positive aspects) of Waaqeeffanna in our earthly life time. Here the reference point to judge certain elements as negative or positive is the position of the purpose, which Waaqayyoo do have for our personal and national life, i.e based on the kaayyoo (goal) our Waaqayyoo do have for us. To elaborate this relationship between kaayyoo and Waaqayyo, we can ask: is Waaq-aayyoo our ka-ayyoo / is our ka-ayyoo the Waaq-ayyoo? It is about knowing what purpose we do serve in our daily life both cognitively and behaviourally, as individuals or as a nation. Be it that we do think and walk at political, religious or private level, we do try to serve certain purose in life. In order to identify that purpose, we only need to be conscious about it, reflect on it and ask our selves: whom do we privately or collectively serve in our endeavors? Do we serve Waaqayyoo’s purpose for us or that of the others’? Simply put, which purpose should we serve? Fortunately the hitherto cummulative knowledges and wisdoms of different societies in general and that of the Oromo society in particular tell us what we ought to serve: i.e Waaqayyo’s purpose which is good for us as an individual and as a collective. This good purpose is given a sacred name and it seems to be what people call the will of Waaqayyoo.
As a support for this assertion, we can look at an example written in the Bible of christians, that states : “God is my objective”. Is this to be understood also as: “my objective is God”? Can we say that our good personal or political purpose is the will of Waaqayyo, whom we ought to serve? To comprehend this, it is no where clearly written other than in Afaan Oromo. Surprisingly the words kaayyoo and Waaqayyoo in our language do indicate to have the same source. As we know, the short word KA is the name given by our ancestors to God and the word aayyoo is of course the name given to a mother, who does wish all good things for her children and does plan and try to fulfill it. So KA can be defined as the Supereme Being, which has good purpose for ayyoo’s children. This purpose is the “Goodness” for her children. So KA-ayyoo is God’s will (his good objective to her beloved children). The term Waaqayyo is the short form of waan-KA-ayyoo (what is planned from KA for aayyoo and for her children). So we can see that the good end, we have to serve, can be called kaayyoo from Waaqayyoo. So the will of Waaqayyoo is simply to be defined as the good end we should choose to serve as part of the balanced universe created by HIM.
To fulfill this service to the good end, fortunately the best thing we do observe among Waaqeffataa Oromo is the work-ethics they do have to achieve the purpose of Waaqayyoo in their earthly life, specially in the life areas of career and family. They do love to be the best in both life areas; they love their family and most of them are very enthusiastic to be successful in their profession. They usually say „Waaqayyoo taa’i taa’i namaan hin jedhin (let HE not make us idle)”; simply put, diligence is part of safuu and to be idle and lazy is part of laguu. We know that there are certain contaminations from other cultures to be practiced as rituals contradicting this virtue and which are not serving the purpose of Waaqayyoo for us. That is why we do recommend not only the revival of this marveleous belief system, which was the creation of our forefathers, but also we do suggest a necessary reformation to make the faith system to be fit, so that it can help us to cope with the 21st century challenge and situation. Waaqayyo’s creation and his keeping the balance of the universe is still going on, so that HE demands also a dynamic creative work from his creature, from the human being. Another impressive virtue of Waaqeffannaa necessary to be mentioned is its relation with nature and its persuation to help us keep the enviroment healthy; it is the faith system which is simply through and through green.
Waaqeffanna’s position on the life after death
According to this belief system, we all will live further after death as ekeraa (in a form of soul/spirit) with our father, with Waaqayyoo, without any possibility of punishment in hell. We recently read Martial De Salviac’s translated book, in which he wrote “Oromo invariably believe that they will go to heaven.” So, the consequence of our cubbuu is not losing eternal life, but suffering in our earthly life. To Waaqeffataa Oromo, Waaqayyoo is the one who wants us not to do a collective cubbuu, but expects us to protect the balanced nature, in which the power of HIM is manifested. The wisdom that guides Waaqeffata Oromo in fulfilling this mission seems to be our arga-dhagetti (believe and act on a principle of reality, i.e. based on what we see and hear).
According to argaa-dhageetti, the concepts like “cubbuun ni qabdi (sin has got consequence), cubbuun ni sirriqxi (the consequence of sin can be inherited), cubbu abbaatu eeggata or cubbuu irra abbaatu uf eega (everyone should keep him-/herself from committing sin and everybody is responsible for the consequences of the sin he/she committed)” are nice and practical. What we liked most from the principles of Waaqeffanna is this concept of cubbuu. The consequences of cubbuu are only to be seen here on this earth, not in the coming life after death. There is no hell that Waaqayyoo has prepared to punish the people with cuubbu. This is hilarious and very healing for those who always have to live with the fear of hell or punishment after death.
Another interesting aspect of Waaqeffannaa is that we never heard from the practicing believers that they are believing in the presence of an evil spiritual power in the form of Satan, which acts and lives against the almighty power of Waaqayyoo. Accordingly, there is only one sovereign power doing and undoing all things in a universe, that is Waaqayyoo. Unfortunately, the concept Satan is now already spread among the whole Oromo population as a contamination taken from other religions. Waaqeffataa Oromo do believe that the evil things we do experience in life are due to the imbalance of nature as a result of the unwise or wicked deeds of humans as collective, i.e. it is a human cubbuu with its consequences on the earth. That is why they usually ask their Waaqayyoo for wisdom to keep the balance of nature and that HE lead them to only those with good intention and protect them from those with bad intention, for example, in a prayer like: “yaa Waaqayyoo tolaa nutti qabi, hamaa irraa nu eegi (God lead who is good to us and keep away who is evil from us). Here it seems that good is someone, who works to keep the balance of nature; and evil is the contrary.
According to the faith system of Waaqeffannaa, there is nothing we have to do now to earn eternal life after death; life after death is simply a free gift we got from our father, Waaqayyoo, whom we just need to celebrate and thank as we do daily and during the yearly celebrations like Irreechaa. We also don’t need a savior, who has to suffer and die for us, so that we can get life after death. The only area where we have to work on is trying to live the quality life (the character of the eternal life) according to the will of Waaqayyoo here on earth. To live this quality life, we need to activate our potentials given to us from Waaqayyoo and then walk on the karaa nagaa towards kaayyoo Waaqaayyoo for our life, being free from cubbuu by keeping both safuu and laguu.
Irreechaa as a national holiday (thanksgiving day)
Irreechaa/Irreessaa, being the day of thanksgiving to Waaqayyoo and being the way of empowering our nation, is celebrated yearly during the transition time from winter (darkness/problem) to spring (the season of light, green fields, flowers, fruits, engaging life partner for the youth, etc.) This is the time during which Oromo people come out in mass to celebrate Waaqayyoo and seek solution for the existing problems. Some Oromo nationals have now started to demand from the Ethiopian regime to give this celebration the status of national holiday, just as the Easter of Christianity and the Ramadan of Islam are now enjoying this status in the empire. Even though most Oromo consider it as our national holiday, there is a tendency from some to reduce it to the celebration of only Waaqeeffata Oromo, as if it has nothing to do with Christian Oromo and Islam Oromo.
Actually the yearly celebration of Irreechaa, in a present form, is the result of the effort made by all Oromo from all religious groups. This celebration is no more specific to only Waaqeeffataa Oromo. After all, the three main religions followed by Oromo (Christianity, Islam and Waaqeffannaa) have got many common denominators. I think most of the values and virtues in all the three religions are not in contradiction with each other. What are these common denominators among the present three religions practiced by Oromo? There are many very important ones, but the most important is the believing in only one Rabbii/Waaqayyoo and the other yet to be comprehended by all Oromo from these different religions is Irreechaa, which is usually celebrated in three senses: thanksgiving to Waaqayyoo, empowering the Oromo nation, and reconciliation among Oromo nationals. Celebration in these senses is not against any value of both the Christianity and Islam.
Also the prayers done during the celebration concentrate on the three senses of the celabration. We may ask, which of these prayers formulated by Waaqeffata believers can not be endorsed by Christian Oromo and Islam Oromo? We just write about such good practices of Waaqeffannaa not only to show similarities in prayers and rituals with the other religions, but also to stress that Irreechaa celebration is the highlight of such small blessings in the daily life of Oromo. We do believe that the purpose of Waaqayyoo for our people is freedom and prosperity. But we, Oromo, are the ones who have to be proactive and reactive to do the business leading us to his blessing for us. When we look at the three main goals of celebrating Irreechaa, then we don’t see any reason why the Christian and the Islam Oromo can not or should not be part and parcel of the celebration. Looking nowadays at few Oromo from these two religions celebrating Irreechaa is encouraging. We hope our Luba’s and Sheiks will pray and think over this to help their respective congregations celebrate Irreechaa in mass in the future.
Let’s imagine how beautiful it could be if the three congregations come out in unison for the thanksgiving to our Rabbii/Waaqayyoo in their respective form and style. That is why we do recommend to our Christian and Islam Oromo to accept and respect the constructive elements of Oromo culture, of course their right to practice their faith colored with the productive elements of alien culture being acknowledged. We believe that we must get rid of the destructive cultural elements, be it from the alien or from ours. Irreechaa is the very important part of Aadaa Oromo, which can be incorporated into both Christian and Islam Oromo’s cultural practice. Both religion groups can declare Irreechaa as their day of thanksgiving to their Waaqaayyoo/Rabbii. In this way, we could have make Irreechaa our de facto national holiday, despite the rejection by the colonial regime to recognize it as a national holiday. We want that it be accepted also politically as a national holiday in Oromia in particular, in the whole of Ethiopian at large, and by all Cush nations in general.
Looking at the magnificent aspect of both Amantii Oromo and Irreechaa, we hope that in the future liberated Oromia, this oppressed faith will have a legal status to be practiced freely, being one of the three big Oromo faith/religion institutions (Christianity, Islam and Waaqeffanna), so that Irreechaa can also be celebrated freely in every corner of Oromia and in Diaspora where Oromo do live. Furthermore, we eagerly look forward for the day, when all Oromo from the three religions come out in their respective style and celebrate Rabbii/Waaqayyoo on the yearly Irreechaa festivity so that it will be our de facto and de jure national holilday, not only Waaqeffataas’ celebration.
We hope that in the future, Irreechaa will be celebrated not only by Oromo, but also by all Cush nations in particular and by all African nations in general. Even Chrisitian and Islam Africans will celebrate Irreechaa as an African thanksgiving day. As an example, we do see how even Habesha orthodox Christians do celebrate Irreechaa, their celebration being given names like fasiika (Easter), mesqel (cross) and ximqet (bapticism). Mesqel is the name they gave to gubaa (bonfire of) Oromo, during which Oromo people errect wa-maraa (called demera) as a symbol of Odaa and make fire as a symbol of light overcoming the darkness of winter. Gubaa as part of Oromo culture (part of Irreechaa celebration) has nothing to do with Christianity as some people try to tell it as “the day, on which Ethiopian Chrisitians found the true cross on which Jesus was crusified”. This story of cross finding (part of Orthodox mythology) is a denial of the true Cushitic origin of gubaa. Ximqet celebration is almost similar to the celebration by Waaqeffataa, who go to lakes and rivers for Irreechaa celebration and again this is given a name as if it is a celebration of baptism. Fasika (celebration of the resurrection) is equivalent to the Irreechaa celebration under Odaa tree, the tree originally planted by Atete as a symbol for the resurrection of her brother Ora to reconcile with his brother Sete according to the Oromo mythology. Such celebrations being given other names are the classical examples for the African Christians and African Muslims practicing their faith, which is usually colored with the cultural elements of the African traditional faith system.
The very important aspect of Waaqeffannaa as part of Oromo/African culture is its principle of argaa-dhaggeetti (it is relatively an evidence based faith system, possibly trying to be free from superstition). This principle is about reading the real situations at hand and finding the appropriate solutions for the situations. Waaqeffannaa teaches that only Waaqayyoo is not prone to change for HE is perfect, but all his creature and all the situations are changing with time; that is why his creative action is still going on and that we also need to be in a position to find new solutions for the changed situations. In short, we need to be situation oriented, time oriented and live accordingly. That means, it is good to know the past version of aadaa and Amantii Oromo/Africa; but better is to live and practice the present version of aadaa and Amantii Oromo; of course the best is to create the most beneficial version of aadaa and Amantii Oromo as well as to inherit it to our coming generation. So let’s learn from the past version, live the present version and love to create the future verion of aadaa Oromo in general and Amantii Oromo in particular.
This article is of course coloured by subjective perceptions, so that Oromo nationals are welcome to complement or contradict it. All the sub-titles given in this article need a further meticulous research and study. Through scientific studies, it can be possible to cleanse Waaqeffannaa from certain meaningless rituals adopted from the other sub-cultures, e.g rituals like that of qaalichaa (idolatry), xinqolaa (sorcery), etc, where the practitioners are actually making business in the name of the religion. Waaqeffannaa needs not only revival, but also reformation as part and parcel of the ongoing liberation from such sensless practices. Elements, which are against the will of Waaqayyoo for all human-being in general and for African nations in particular must be removed, so that we can say Waaqayyoo bless Oromia/Africa and then live accordingly. Adopting good elements, which serve the will of Waaqayyoo for us, from other cultures and faiths is not bad as it is usually said: „waan gaariin bade hundi kan Oromo ti“ (every good thing lost belongs to Oromo). Again, good and bad is defined from the position of the will of Waaqayyoo for our life, i.e from the position of his kaayyoo in our life.
So only celebrating the holiday and reviving the religion are not enough, if we want to be fit for the present 21st century situation and for the situation in which our future generation will live. Our forefathers created a faith system as part of the solution to their situation; we also need to do the same. So let’s not try to use the same key used by our forefathers in the past to open doors with different keyholes at present and future or we don’t need to ride donkey at this age of driving limousine; in short we need a right solution for the present and the future situations. Our next generation need to inherit from us the latest and modern model/edition/version of our faith system, Waaqeffannaa, which they also can reform, edit and secure for their children and grand children, so that we human-being continue to be as creative as our father, Waaqyyoo, is.
Let’s give a simple suggestion as an example in the required reforming: why can’t we use bundle of flowers for Irreechaa, instead of only grass used by our forefathers? Why don’t we use water or oil, instead of butter to anoint others during the blessing ceremonies just for the sake of hygiene? Why don’t we use candle light or the modern beautifully colored electric light decorations instead of bonfire during wa-maraa (demera)? etc. Now it is a time to have Waaqeffannaa free from non-productive and untimely elements, so that it will be a faith system, which will be accepted and believed by the enlightened and informed Oromo in particular as well as by Africans in general (that it will be a faith system serving the will of Waaqayyoo for Oromia in particular and for Africa
Last but not least, Waaqeffataa Oromo need to be creative in realizing the will of Waaqayyo in our life, which is the only way to „evangelize“ and convert others to the karaa nagaa (the right way) HE wants us to walk. We need to learn from the past (the known part of life, which is symbolized by white color), live the present (the challenging part of life symblized by red color) and love to know the future (the unknown part of life symbolized by black color). The karaa nagaa at this particular era/time includes the virtue of a passionate struggle in life both individually and collectively, not an attitude of the pacifistic stoicism. Wqaaqeffannaa doesn’t persuade us to do things to secure life after death, but it tells us that our effort and enthusiasm are part of the safuu we have to keep in order to make our life here on earth the excellent success story.
1) Personal experience of the author with Waaqeffataas
2) Bartels, Lambert; Oromo Religion. Berlin: Deitrich Reimer Verlag.
3) Daaniyaa: Waaqeffannaa, Traditional Oromo Religion
4) Bokku, Dirribi D. ; Ilaalcha Oromoo
5) Nadhabaasaa, Getachew Ch; Waaqeffannaa testimony of an indigenous religion of the African past and present
6) Megalommatis, Mohammed S. ; The Inexorable Radiation of Waaqeffannaa, the Oromo Religion
7) Agang, sunday B. ; African Traditional Religion and its Global Contributions