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Ateetee

The Atete ritual shows that in the traditional Oromo society, men are functionally dependent on women in many ways (Legesse, 1973). It is a vivid indication of the place women had in the religious and cultural philosophy of the people. Although there is limited empirical evidence showing the closeness of women to nature (McCormack, 1980; Jackson, 1993), the Oromo people believe in the existence of woman/nature link (Legesse, 1973).

The Atete practice by women is one part of a belief system that women are intermediary fi gures between Waaq that represents nature and the physical world or human. The myth has it that Waaq listens to women’s desire and instantly responds to it. This is a part of the belief system that women are closer to nature in their nurturing and life-sustaining activities. My direct observation of the Atete ceremony among Arsi women in Kokosa, and related interview with oral historians in Adaba District of Bale Administrative Region from December 1994 to January 1995 partially confirmed this reality.

In Kokosa and Adaba, women’s prayer was used in the past as a powerful means of terminating harsh ecological disruptions (e.g. crop failure, drought, endemic diseases) and other social crises such as protracted warfare. When such problems were detected, the men never puzzled over them, but urged the womenfolk in their core band to gather around a sacred Qiltu (sycamore tree), distinguished ford or high ground, or any renowned ujubaa (tree shrine). The women gathered and prayed to revert the affliction.

The following rainmaking Atete hymns of the Arsi Oromo women are said to win the benevolence of Waaq. The hymns also reveal the society’s awareness that Waaq’s wrath is provoked when people violate the normal, prescribed way of life. It is thus directed towards maintaining the welfare of the community.

Malkaa Katiyyoo ta irreesaa

Waan jabaatellee Goofta

Sitti dheessaa na dandeettaa.

Malkaa Katiyyoo irri goodaa

Homaa hin taatanii

Baatani jedhe Gooftaan.

Siinqee tiyya jiituu

Calaliituu

Safuu tiyya ilaaltee

Atuu ana hin miituu.

Uummata dillin dhibbaa

Rabbiyyoon dilii jibbaa

Gooftaa dila nuu dogi!

Guutu barruu kana dubbisuuf :  WOMEN IN THE OROMO SOCIETY – By Jeylan W. Hussein, Haromaya University

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