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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Funeral Ceremony of Sidama People (South Ethiopia)

Senior Essay,

Hana Gabriel, 2011,

Hawassa University,  Department of Anthropology


3.1 Background of the Area

Sidama people found in southern nations, nationalities and people of Ethiopia. It covers the area of 69818.8 meter square of land. Sidama zone share a border with oromiya in south-west and northwest, Gedio and Oromiya again in south and Wolaita in west side (SNNPR profile 2001) Sidama zone has three kinds of ecological zone “dega, woynadega and kola”. According to the 1999 census the population number of Sidama zone Is 2,966,652. Hawassa is the central city of Sidama zone its about 270km south of the federal capital city Addis Ababa. (SNNPR profile 2001). Sidama zone have many natural and manmade heritages like Logita and Bonora waterfalls, megalithic in local language “sodiya” natural caves and natural bridges also found. For the ritual and recreational purpose there are hot streams like “gedabo, burketo ,wondogenet, and lake are found. Different forests and aged churches are one of the remarkable heritages of the zone.(SNNPR profiel2001)



The main economic activity in the area is agriculture and cattle herding; the societies are a mixed farming society, in some amount artesian and traders are found , the main edible plants in the area is mainly  false banana “ enset” , coffee, pepper, cabbage, onion, and cereal like  maize, wheat ,barley ,teff, oats and other cereals and fruits, tuber plants as wll as chat are found ( Hawassa city administration FEDD,2007;5)


Sidaamu afoo is the language of the society, this language categorized under east Cushitic language family. This language has a slight relation with languages like Kambata,  Afan Oromo ,Halaba and Kbena languages . Now a days the language is used as official language ad from the year 1984 E.C, its used for different proclamation and  published books and constitutions are written with it .(SNNPR profile 2001)


According to the societies elders and different written materials there are different assumptions about the historical background of the Sidama .the people were settled around and at the bank of red sea and by the route of south west to Harar and Bale plateau they came to settle and again they move through further west to the present day Halaba and around the lake Abaya then finally they settle in the present land of Sidama.

In Sidama society there are different clans these clans tied based on the ancestors called Bushe and Maldiya descent or kin. It’s believed that Bushe and Maldiya were brothers but because of conflict between them they built their own dynasty and difrent clans are come through generations. This two big totems have their own clans. Under the Bushe main base there are Holo , Garbiecho, Asaraye, Harbe, Harbegona ,Dara, Shebedino, Malgana are found and under the main bases of Maldiya :Aleta , Hwella, Kebena, Sawola are found .Under this  different clans other many sub clans are exists.(Sidama people and their culture Amharic version (SNNPR profile2001)


The sidama people have their own administrative and justice as well as conflict resolution systems. In their court and justice system criminals accused under the institution called “seera” the process held by the local king called “woma” the power is not central only but every clan have their own king. From the role held by the king:-

Held ritual and eight authority passing system , which the authority gives for other person each eight years this system is called “Gada” this authority is also have a hierarchy from top to bottom .
Held justice and conflict resolution especially between two clans like a case of religion and land based conflict and this system is called “Motet shongo”Olu shongo: which is held under kebele level and lead by the local elders and the final decision made by the voice of the shongo. In this case the administrative justice system also held by women. They participated tn the system of “Yaka” but most of the time this events were held by the big women called” Karicho’’ when the case of man violation to women’s appear and the decision and punishment pass by the women is called “Chaka”(Btanna 1983)


In Sidama people there are different kinds of marriage system that the society uses to build a family

Huchato : it’s a marriage through by the permission of the family that one girl is given as a wife to a man
Adulash: the man who need the girl and his friend’s persuade the girl so that she marry him and live with him
Dira (abduction) it’s a force full marriage without the permission of the girl and her families’ knowledge.
Ragge: These kinds of marriage are held when women lost there husband by death so that she married to a man who is a brother of her husband.
Addawaana: the marriage takes place by the willing of the girl it’s called seqo tuge ea. .(SNNPR profile 2001)

The main food for the society is made from false banana tree called “ enset” it’s called in local terms like kotco and bula. It’s a kind of food extracted from the enset tree for example kotcho is used to prepare meals like Omolcho, Duwame , Bursame and other meals are prepared from it .In some parts of the sidama barely and maize is also used (SNNPR profile 2001.)

 3.1.8 Religion

The Sidama religion is basically monotheistic combined with the ancestor worship however the tribal forefather is largely based on the believes that they are powerful protector of the clan, as effective intermediary between the God and their people (Betana; 1983:115)

 In the region it’s known to have four religious divisions protestant, orthodox, catholic and Muslim followers are exist


4.1 Discussion and analysis

4.2 Introduction

 In sidama society the celebration of the dead is a long process, so that it passes through continuous patterns. . Now this process is no longer practiced in most part of the region and if so it’s with the collaboration of other cultural practices. Even though it’s not practiced now days the practices is a lot to mean for that society they correlated it with different social political and cultural aspects and understand it through different phases and ways. The process is not simply visible for an outsider that the social groups have their own ways to express their meanings and feeling that this is tied up with the normal day to day life of the Sidama people. There is a general truth that most of the this practices is once the life of this people they live according to the norms and values of the funeral ceremonies but to this day because of many factors  the funeral ritual  ceremony came to an end and almost extinct at all. In every human activity there must be a change but, the changes might be inevitable. The funeral culture in sidama people changed with different reasons that the society no longer practice it .the reasons that invite change is many different.

According to the data I gathered I have got some core factors for the change and extinction of this culture and a brief description about the values that it was considered as an identity marker as well as the events that were carried out by the members to the mourning of an individual.

4.3 The death of a child

When a child died aged up to 2 year it’s not being a funeral ceremony for him/her but only their family the father and their close relatives are expected to bury him /her but this is only working for a child on average age of two and less them two years.

            If the child is a growing boy or a girl there will be a three days crying and have little ceremony that will be held by  the deceased  mother and the father as well as small local elders who are considered to be the one who bless and perform the ceremony

            The ceremony starts by bringing a new chopped leaf of ‘enset’ the local source of food or false banana. In this case the leaf is expected to be not tearing away or have any stretch mark on it. The local elders or “ ciemessa” were responsible bodies to perform the ritual.


On the new leaf they put a fresh butter and blessed it with blessing words and the “ciemeesa “ or local elders give the blessed butter for the mother, she take and rub the butter on her face and in her abdomen then she gives the butter to her husband. The husband also rub the butter in his face ad his abdomen. While the wife and the husband exchanged the butter again and again the elder blessed them and said “Let the bad thing gone Let God/ maganno/ given them the one who serve them, and the one who can be their child forever.

            After this all blessings the local elders told to put the left butter at the middle of their bed and this will be marked as the end of the ceremony. The local elders told them that the child is not their child that he belongs to, ‘maganno’ God that’s why he took him. After this the families told not remember and cry about the child. Even if a relative visit and needs to cry they have to say that, the funeral is already passed it’s finished by blessing “Massinnonni wi‘llaati” it’s to mean it’s passed with blessings. Once the ceremony takes place the family should stop weep and their grief. As my informant in the interview told me it’s considered as a complaint in God to cry after the funeral was finished.

As I understand the ceremonies that’s held with the local  elders and between the family it’s to give them hopes that ,they have another one instead. As well as the peoples respect and fear of their God because the deceased child considered to be the child of God. And if the family cry and weep for more days this will indicate they are not in respect of the God.

            In My interview the people that i asked told me that one can get child again but never a mother and father so, even if it hurts; it’s not a big deal for weep that mach. The burial site for a new born baby is with in the house at the edge of the place where the cattle’s spent the its just at the house of the family ,but if the child is about two years and above they  buried him /her outside the house in the back.

4.4 The Death of an adult man and women    

In Sidama people the death an adult man and women are taken as a deep sorrow and the ceremony also held with a lot of practices. When an adult person died the corps stayed home for two or three days for the purpose of waiting other relatives who came from other villages and other places.

 If the season are not a working season like harvesting and swing season all the local peoples cry for three days and this is called the funeral days.’

After relatives and families are gathered to the mourning house. The local elders selected place or site for the burial. Most of the time if the deceased are male he buried on the family burial site with his ancestors or great grandfathers and other male family members. After the site is selected they start to dig out the tomb. Burial tomb in Sidama people made in two forms. According to sex and age of the dead person.

            If the deceased are male first one ground is measure up to four meter, then on both ends of the ground they dig a hole in one meter or average human height depth. After they finish digging a hole in both sides of the four meter it’s connected to each other by digging horizontally the underground. This make the tomb like a tunnel, this tomb is called ‘Xurruqo”. After the body is buried they put chopped wood to close the horizontal tunnel and to protect the crops from the soil. After this a lot of soil is putted on the top of burial ground at about two meter height or minimum of an average human height.


If the deceased are a female the tombs are different but it’s possible to prepare a tomb like the above one for a female too.

            But most of the time a female tomb is different from the male. After the grave yard is selected most of it will be at the back of their home or living compound. First its dig as a hole up to one meter depth and then it again dig horizontally to the left side. While the male grave has a tunnel between the two holes; the women’s grave has only one hole and horizontal plane for the corps

            After the body is buried they prepare wood to cover the corps and to project it from the soil that’s putted back on the grave.

            The schedule mourning and the burial service once complete this will not be the end of the funeral. Instead the local elders and star chasers select a day for the next ceremony. On the first phases of the ceremony as we see after the corpse buried and weeping of the family and social members, the next ceremony will be held again.

In the first phase of the ceremony that peoples gather to bury the man or a women, women’s have task to prepare food and to take care of the mourning visitors. After this the next phase is appointed for next free and non-holydays, this second phase is called ‘Wi’la kayiisa” it’s to say the mourning star again.

            According to focus groups discussion the reason why people do bury males outside of the living compound or in a grave site and female on the back yard. Most of the time the ancestors grave site are respected and even when people got in to a dispute with others they swear with the grave. Because it’s believed that, the ancestor’s sprit will see them. The place belongs to the ancestors graves are only for the male ancestors. Women’s are not allowed to even be there. This yard is only allowed for males.

The grave sites are protected by planting long root trees so that it stays for a long time.  And the area become full of trees and it is just like a small forest.

            The second thing here is that the first phase completed only in three days and the next phase continues. According to my informant in interview this is a mechanism for the deceased families in order to prepare for the next ritual and has to prepared for the next phase because, death is accidental and no one’s ready for death so it needs a time to prepare for ritual.

            This second ceremony will make the family happier and get relief from their grief. Peoples think that if one a person died we can’t get him/ her back so we must have a ceremony and untie our membership from the dead and it must be separate in mind and the body. According to my informant, always remembering the dead person believed to   attract the spirit of death to one self. But if we have a ritual and complete the mourning the family as well as the sprit will be separated. He also give me an example that when a man dreamed of his dead relatives he have to prepare milk and honey to pour on the grave of the dead relatives because it makes the spirit to be with the dead.

4.5 The death of elderly man

In Sidama people when an elderly man of the local area died it’s not just proclaimed as if others adult person died. In this case the first person/ men’s/ who must know is the local elders and. The news told  for the local elders by the funeral  proclaimer of the local institution ‘Serra” This people might be two or three from the members of the social institution the man’s who proclaimed the news are called “Murriccha” it mean the one who proclaimed the funeral. After the local elders gathered and decided on what place and how the general takes place then all the villagers hear the funeral.

The local elders and the wise men’s decided the burial site and the preparation for the burial starts. All grave grounds are prepared on similar way with other male deceased. This process is similar for elder and as well for a clan leader, but only the marks of the tomb make a difference between the graves.

The corps of an elderly man and clan leaders is not buried on the third, as it is done for others, it has to stay for five up to seven days at home. This is a sign of respect for the elders and local leaders. The process of corpse preparation held by the traditional healer and respected elders. The crops rubbed by honey and other spicy mummification techniques in order to prevent the dead from bad dour and to protect it from decay. After the seventh day the corps covered with a cotton garment. In some places it’s covered with seven garment if the person are rich but, most of the time it’s covered with three garments. The cloths expect to be new and the upper garment to tie on the corps must be the clothes of the deceased first son. After this the ‘Murriccha” proclaim when and where the burial services took place.

            If the deceased are clan leaders the funeral should be proclaimed for all the villagers. This will be possible when two or three people climb in to hills and say “Wumu Foolishshinno” it’s to mean the leader is dead. The people listen this news also does the same thing for the other villagers; in this way all the country side villages know the leader is dead. It’s not possible for all people to came to the funeral house for all the village people’s, but they cry and express their grief in there village.

On the burial services peoples sing, biting a drum and even perform a horse racing in order to show his respect and to show the ability of the deceased, but not for the purpose of competition.

The family members singing and making an elegy poem for the heroic nature of the leader. As well they mentioned what he was doing when he was alive.

When the burial services are performed it has its own custom. The head of the corps put on the direction of sunshine or to east direction and the leg should be on the west side or on the direction of sunset.

According to my informant in interview, peoples buried in this manner because the place of good sprit present in the east parts of the earth. This idea also related with the idea that every Christian nations believed that and even also Muslims believed east is the palace that God exists and need people’s to build his house to worship him.  This show that ‘culture has never been truly isolated (Boas 1940, 1996)

After the people put back the soil on to the corps they made a hill above the grave it’s to maximum of two meter and minimum of an average mean’s height and built a fence surrounding the tomb. Then at last the deceased older son or his brother pour down a honey which is mixed water and milk to the grave hill.

4.6 The Death of a women /mother

The death of a women is a sorrow full event for Sidama , But if the women are unmarried its not such a big ceremony as do to mother and an old women.

When a mother died neighbors’, family and relatives praise her and made an elegy poem for her. They make a poem about how she treat people, how she brought up her child. Her hospitality the way she makes meal and whatever good she has done in her life time.

The women’s grave are made in similar manner for all women weather she is brave, good and highly respected, The grave ground are made like a hill  as for the  men’s do but ,not more than one meter and other grave makers will put on the tomb.

Then built a fence around the grave ground that it’s not much stronger, like that of the men .it’s built with white stick so that a person recognized it’s a women graveyard.

After the burial services have finished the families are prepared for the next phase of funeral called ‘Wi’la kayiisa” this will be held according to the scheduled month and day.

4.7 The Second phase of the funeral “Wi’la kayisa”

            The funeral of a child aged from newborn to the age of 18 year this phase of the funeral be ceremony will not held. After the burial practices have finished in every funeral the local elders and star chasers gathered and agreed up on the time that when shall the next funeral started. This decision is made in accordance with checking holydays and working days like farming time harvesting and other holydays have to be known before the decision has made.

In this parent with my focus group discussion the elders told me that it’s been considered a curse for the society and for the family to held the funeral on holydays, these kinds of arrangement bring another death to the society. The other idea on the discussion is that if the funeral held on the working days this will be obstacle for the sociality this will also affect the economy of the society. This is the reason that it should be with out those days.

Before the local elders made the final decision they calculated on days and month specially to make the funeral  before the coming new year “Ftchchee’’ holiday the new year in Sidama.

After the month and the day are choose. The family of the deceased starts to prepared what need for the ritual. When the chosen day approached the family repaid their fence, the house prepare a cattle for the ritual. In this case preparing cattle might not always work if the families are not rich. But at this time the social institution members have to participate and help for the reparation of the coming day.

If the meal, drinks and the cattle to the ritual is not repapered the funeral will not held, that is why the families, villager and the ‘seera’ Institution members work together to make that possible. Whatever the case is that whether the families are poor or not the funeral must be held before the coming New Year.

When the day came the house of deceased will cleaned and they put grass and the leaf of ‘enset ’or  false banana on the house floor and all the relatives gathered then they stayed the night there.

 when it’s being to be down at about 11Am they wake up and  a man came out from the house, Then  shout for about three times, then the peoples inside the house starts cry and shout and weep  by biting a drum and make a poem about the deceased. While it is being morning a separate ceremony for male and female funeral is held.  The second phase of mourning is different for both sexes especially after the first day morning.

4.8 The Second phase of funeral for male

When the deceased are male a group of people gather as it is for every one and spent the night in his house But the real difference came in the morning that group of males are sent to bring a tree, a tree which can be a representative of the deceased. The selected tree must be straight grown and tall called ‘Doore”.

When the men’s find the tree they hit it with an axe and shout three times at this time the owner of the tree my come but he can’t forbid them to take. But if he saw them before they bit the tree he can forbid them to take. After they cut the tree they peel the fork off. But if the dead man is un married man they did peel it, because as my informant told me he is doesn’t see many things in his life. he is new that he didn’t know which a family life is.  They just bring it. If the dead is an elder and married man they peel off the fork and only the upper part of the branch is left as it was green and full of leaf.

As they finish the task of preparing the tree, they came back to the village. But until they came back the villagers dancing and making an elegy at home and outside the house while the men’s approached to the village they shout and cry, so that the ladies on the funeral came and well come, and follow them by singing biting drum and crying. After that the men’s put the tree down and as well women’s put their drum down and sit on a separate places then cry for a while.

Here if the man is a killer or a hunter the tree should be painted with red paint or soil) the called “Sorssa”. According to the focus group discussion. The reason for that Sidama people need to be a hero is because they need to have a “sorssa’ on their tree but the other participants in the focus group also opposed this idea and most of the focus group agreed on, the peoples of Sidama didn’t have a motivation to have this but one have a task to keep the boundary so that the could be a warrior and the need to project the village from beasts so in this case they become a hero because they did what a  hero does.

If the man is not a warrior or a hunter of   lion tiger, an elephant and other bests the red paint or soil is not painted in the tree. While finishing the painting they dig a hole and erect the tree than tied it up with a rope in order to protect it and preventing of falling down. This funeral service held outside the house in a large plot of land.

While erecting the tree and finished it the males make a perfect circle that each person should hold a stick or a javelin on their hand then the women’s came in the middle of the   circle and play the drum. The male members   follow the sound of the drum and sing a song called ‘qexaala” if the man is only a hero or respected person rather they only praise the died and made an elegy about him

While the wife of a hero is crying she wears his close and put it in her shoulder. If the man kills a beast she wears the skin of the best and told the villagers and members what her husband did. Above this on her hair she wears a feather. The bird called “belgguda’’ and, the feather is called “Wooraqqa”.

All the attendants of the funeral sing with a harmonious manner, they jump and dance to express their sorrow. While the circled man play   ‘qexaala” the rest of the people cry and weep on the edge the erected tree called “DOORE”.

The sing of ‘qexaala” the types of singing for holiday ceremony as well as for funerals, only the poem are different. This singing is not sing for every member but for only a hero and an respected elderly man.

While the family crying and friends of the deceases perform and condemned different kinds of expression of their sadness /grief/. The women’s bring thorns and rub their face and checks until it bleeds ad even the males used a dagger to kick their head and women’s scratch their face with their nail and tear out their hair with force.

Even the male, if they lost the loved once family or friend uses thrones to bit their back by putting off their cloth.

According to my key informants and focus group discussion this is one reason for the abolishment of the funeral culture because it hurt peoples specially women’s. At the past time try practice this highly and its not even possible to see a women without a scare on her face. As I understand this because of the people exposed to formal education bring change in the social life of the people and makes then to judge it as a harmful practice.

When  the signing o ‘qexaala”  motivated peoples to hurt themselves because the poem in the signing make them to remember the dead and they feel that they can’t get him back thir memory with the dead man will make them to weep.

This practice is also performed after the funeral is done, when a visitor came to visit the family. Women’s make themselves fall on the ground like a fallen tree and this hurt the women’s.

As my focus groups discussed. Sometimes the making of an elegy poem for the hero was poem with the language of “Oromiffa” But a big and open ended contradiction came between my informants and between the focus groups. The idea of the elegy poem with Ormoiffa language creates a great argument.

Most of the focus group informants believed that sometimes its poem with ‘Oromiffia” language, the reason  that is Sidama people and Oromo  people  are most of the time they are at fight because of border conflict and the need for a pasture land  conflict they fight so that they killed each other on a war so when a hero died his wife’s or a single wife made the elegy with ‘Oromiffa” to make the people  Oromo hear what the man did to them and to make them jealous. The man on the day of his life teach his wives how to make an elegy with ‘Oromiffa” so that they sing it when he died.

The other focus groups participant’s and my interview informants told me that the culture of elegy poem comes from Ormoia cultural they call it ‘Gerrarre” in sidamu affo. They said Oromos culture to poem the elegy.  It makes harmony and it’s beautiful when it’s signing in oromiffa language. That they said it’s not our culture to make a poem “Gerrarre” but we borrowed it from them.

In this case the contradiction need farther research of the origins of the culture but as I understand it makes sense for me to believe them they made a poem because they are enemies. I came to this conclusion because the sidama society have a poem for every event and they say it with a harmony, so it’s hard to conclude that its not their culture. But according the data have collected I can’t decide which idea is right or wrong. The general idea here is it might be borrowed because they are neighbors and share much of their culture, but it’s not known whether it doesn’t have origin in Sidama.

The funeral  ceremony continues  until the erected tree is putted down and this also need its own ritual the final ritual called” Qiiso” (cooling the mourning) marked the third phase of the ritual, but until that for the continues three days they cry, weep from morning to noon around the erected tree ”Doore”

4.9 The other cases of wi’la kayiisa

This type of funeral service are appear in case of accidentally death out side once residence or other factors. When man died out of his own village that the place he has social institution, family and relatives. He changes his resident, the burial service is held at the new area. For example in Ethiopia the most known ways to have a funeral for this kinds of accidental death is to bring the corpse to  his/ her family, if he/she have one. In sidama case, when man died they buried him where he died, but the mourning taken away to families  and relatives and  first places where he was lived, so that the second phase of the mourning will be held there. In this case the days that will be selected is chosen first to start and end the morning that because it’s a taboo for the people to have a funeral services in holidays and after the New Year celebration.

If the men is a hero the process or mourning held as it was before for the other hero’s that they bring the tree paint it with red soil ‘Sorrssa” and weep and grief for continuous for three days but for an older a more respected person it will continues for 7-9 days then the final process of ‘Qiiso” it means cooling the mourning will starts

As one of my key informant. The other parts of this mourning also work for the man who has two wives. It’s rare and starts after the coming the modernization and fast urbanization in the area. For example a man might have two wife and they have lived separate towns. He might die on one of the two women’s residence at this time, the funeral held at the place he died, and the other family of him came and takes the morning to their home. In this case the second wives who take the mourning have benefit because of the one who live in big town has lived with others culture so, the mourning will held in that areas cultural contexts, that most of the people live in town given money for the mourning, so that the second women get money from her institution in her place. Its more business oriented because after modernization and or urbanization is expanded peoples in towns stop to bring food and other resource for the morning but money. Before sometimes where there is no modernization and rapid urbanization when this kind of death is appears the mourning is not be in two places so, if the person with two wives died the mourning takes place in according to the person’s social life with the community, his property and good relationship he has seen and the that he have this criteria will prepared for the mourning only the appropriate palace will chosen to held the mourning.


            4.10 The poem for a warrior and heroes

The poem are written in both the local languages and its meaning in English

Aju manni –young men

Kajju manni –strong men

Cabirre gadino manni- a men with a sharp saw

Anggatte qalxinno manni – a men with supply in their hand

Angga wonqotte manni –a men with shield on his hand

Offolle songgotte manni –an assembled men

Soodo manni –morning men

Guttomanni –early morning men

Barri manni – day men

Ollaa habasinno manni – the men who secure his neighbours

Harrani hagiidwno manni-happy men in his journey

Higa hifatinno manni – the men who dislike to retreat ( return)

Faradu manni –horse men

Faanno facinnomanni –men who is tired by riding horse

Guluffe gaddinno manna –men who involve in campaign on riding horse

Minishirete shanno manni –a men with minishre( type of weapon)

Damalasshete shanno manni –the men who kill with damalash( type of weapon

Matrayassete madaranno manni –the men who buried with matarayes( types of weapon)

As we seen in the poems which is play for a hero.  It’s about what was the man performs his day to day life and how he secures his village as well how brave he was on war and his strength. The man who is a hero have a great respect on the society and he also proud his wife and family , that his wife wear a tiger or a lion skin on the funeral to show that her husband is a brave . the death of a hero have so much more poem because he is the one who secure them from the enemies and different dangerous beasts. In the poem all the words indicate that what a hero does and it helps others youngsters to be a hero for the community. On the last line of the poem it says “the men who buried with matarayes . Even if I didn’t’ have the real data about it, but it shows that the burial practices also have a grave good. That the hero buried with material that he was used. So that it represents what he was doing. The same thing here is that the weapon shows the man was a brave.      

4.11 The Second phase of Funeral for women (Wi’la kayiisa)

On the occasion of the second funeral ceremony the females of the deceased women   prepared as it needs to be and the phase start after the family and relatives stay the night at the deceased house. When it becomes down at about 11Am the mourning starts, that’s when a man go out outside and shout three times. At the morning the family and villagers cry outside of the house and starts to cry and praise the women. After while, they go to the funeral site the,  big open land to make a stature of the dead women. The stature that represent her is not a tree like a male deceased instead they erect as stem  of false banana or ‘enset’ then they put a pot ‘tilte” at  top of the erect stem so that it seems a human body they cloth it with  her garment and even put an open umbrella so then it seems completely the body of  women .The erected stature of the women is called “Midaancho.” the friends and families and other relatives put a jewelry and necklace on the pots or ‘midaanncho’ neck the necklace and the jewelry  is could ‘Boowe”. The stature for a women is erected for all women’s who died, except little girls and childerns. After a while the funeral participants and families sing, cry and sing about her good behavior on that community. Except the signing of ‘qexaala’ different poems of elegy is singed to women. This events continues until it is being dusk and this will goes on for about three days from morning to noon

The female members start to hurt themselves, they use throne to bleed their checks and all the weeping, singing and grief preformed.

If the women are married women her husband put her clothes above his shoulder it’s called “goriffa’ or “Boke” to show that she is his wife and he lost her. and the family members cry weep & grief for three days until the ’’ middancho” ritual have to finish and followed by another phase of ritual to cool down the funeral


4.12 The Third Phase of the Funeral “ Qiisso ritual”

The process and events of cooling the funeral is could (Qiisso) it’s to mean that the funeral is cooling down, sorrow didn’t come again. For this ritual the family members prepared what is needed for the event. If they are rich they prepare cattle to slay it will be more than one as the family can afford. The cattle’s can be cow or oxen.

            At the last day of the funeral the erected stature or the ( Doore) or the (Middancho) thrown down by the members. This means it’s not just thrown down but putting it down slowly and with respect. This event takes place when the sun starts to set.

The throwing of the statures is might be at the third day for an ordinary men and  but if the man is a king or a clan leader it will stayed for five up to seven days. But what ever the case is on the final day, the cattle which is prepared is slay by the deceased man’s brother. The cattle which slaughter on the first day is could (Mittiggo). After the brother slay and peel the skin off the cattle, the near by villagers who is artesian or lower caste societies take the flesh. The person who took the flesh I called (Haddiccho) after this takes place the male relatives of the dead man shaved their hair. Then a women she should be the sister of the dead person fetch water form the near by river with a new pot and bring to the stature then spray on the peoples as well as in the compound with a leaf or grass, she said. “The sadness and the funeral go off’” I make the funeral cool, let the bad thing and sprit go and destroyed. At last she sprays on the top of the fallen stature.

 As my information my interview  told me in many places water is considered as an agent to cool and detoxify bad things, for this reason they use water to spray  to cool it down the bad days and just to throw the sprit a way.

As funeral ceremonies are on of the indicator of people value and belief and the social structure is also indicate that the Sidama people have a caste system that an artesian is existed in the area and even the food habit between them is different because the artesian used to eat a taboo food considered by the other member.

On the next day if the family is rich they slay or kill a cattle again and serve peoples and the funeral attendants, but the family members didn’t eat from the meat, this because the have a sorrow of losing the beloved one. But the local meal produced form (enset) and butter will be eaten.

This process of slaughtering cattle for the next day may not work for every society even the (Mittiggo) the taboo cattle might not been killed if the family of the dead may is poor, but the ritual takes place in another way. This ritual is held by bring a false banana stem the (enset). It is not just an ordinary (enset ) it’s called “Chachao” . After the enset is cut there is water in the root of the false banana, they fetch the water and spray on everyone and everything which is around. That this ritual considered as equal with that of the cattle scarifies.

For all the society after every closing ritual the house of the deceased is cleaned, the material he or she was using to eat or to drink will throw out even the bed of a married man or women is set to fire.

At last all the leafs and grasses on the house floor is wept and throw outside the village at this time they believed, the sorrow is gone (let it be far and don’t came again in this house)

The next day a woman bring an ashes form the house and threw it outside and everywhere. It’s to mean that the funeral is like ashes. That an ash can’t came back to be a wood again or it was before, after all the ceremonies of the funeral is closed, even if its seems the end, the families stays to weep and have their sorrow in their heart. Specially married women who lost her husband one expected to express her heart felt for years


  4.13 The widow women                                    

When women lost her beloved husband she must express her heart felt and loss for years. These events are expected to continue at least for a year. The women is forbidden herself from eating meat butter and even she didn’t put on oil in her hair she didn’t cut her nails, didn’t wear good and neat cloths at all she pass all her days hurting herself. In this situation year are passed and she considered as unclean or impure so, in order to be purified ritual should be done.


 4.14 Ritual for the Purity of the Widow

The purifying ritual has its own custom, that the widow women bring a sheep to her husband’s brother or instead for the local elder in order to perform the purification of her. If her husband’s brother refuse to stay or is not available the local elder will slay the sheep and pour the blood. After the blood is blessed and pray on it the elder man ‘ciemeessa’ spray on her as long as the blessed blood touch’s her she considered as a pure and she start to clean her selves and became as she was before.

This ritual marked that she is free to marry another man or if the brother of her husband need to marry her he can take her the system is called ‘koffa’ but if he refuse to marry, one of his brother can have her and even they didn’t want and she need to live the village she is free to go.

The fate of widow indicate us that in the society women are expected to perform what man’s didn’t do that a husband, if his wife died he is free to marry another and there will not be considered as impure. This discrimination among the sidama peoples is not exists now days but before this practice was the fate of every women who lost her husbands.

 According to my informant at that time women should do this, unless she is been abused from the community and consider as the killer of her husband and they though she is happy for her husband’s dead. But thanks to the change and other factors the Sidama women’s are free now, and all the harmful practices abolished from the peoples.

        3.15 Gender issue among the Sidama on the funeral ceremonies

For both man and women have their own way to participate and act on the ceremony but the difference seems a little biased for women. The Sidama women’s  is not allowed to go to the burial site but only they went with male for a little distance to the site  .generally the idea that women didn’t allowed to go there have reasons like:-

The burial place is always a family burial site so, this place is where their father in law and grandfather in laws burial site. In sidama a women cannot stand in front of the grave of her husband’s male relatives grave. This has its own historical explanations that most peoples think that its considered as a disrespect for her husband’s family because, in the first  place women didn’t allow even to call the name of her father in law rather she give him another  name(Anna- father) but  this is a sign of respect and love for the family .

The other explanation is that in the past tine women’s didn’t wear underwear so if she stands around the families of her husband grave yard they think the spirit of the dead see them naked so that they become far apart, but this is not as the other rule or norm for the people as a law but it’s an imagination of peoples that the sprit see them specially the women fear this. Even if there is no funeral women’s didn’t pass the burial site they found another way cross but they didn’t pass through that .its highly respected place. The other most important thing is that the statures which is erected for the women and men are different this have its own meanings and implications for the gender issues among the Sidama
For male it’s made of tree that it shows his strength and braveness and for women’s the enset stem represent her role in household and the food preparation activity  but its weak in strength so that is show the power of the man over her. Generally in the household women’s have high role them men. that’s way for the women it’s made “middanccho” and for the men “Doore”
Some women who didn’t want this bias poem in a funeral in this way

                    “Mancho mancho roorete -a women is brave or more than the other women,

        Roortannino hosseenna – even if she is brave

         Midaancholla doorese”- chosen middancho for  her.

This poem is to mean that whatever the women is brave and respected the same symbols are made for all of the women.

The mourning day for the men will stay up to  three to seven day but for the women in any case its not be more than three days
The task of food preparation is belongs for the women but in this way women didn’t allowed to have meal with her husband’s rather they eat the leftover of their husbands. Because of this believe in the funeral women bring food called “Tuuta” and they give for the big women who then distribute the food to the male members .They sit in a group of at least five up to seven people served, . From all the food the men eat ¾ of it and the other left over mixed and gives to the women. This may show the gender difference between men and women but it doesn’t mean to discriminate because all culture have its own contexts, that the members agreed and live up on it.

4.16 The role of local elders “ciemeessa” on the funeral

The role that the local elders are play is not simple that they play a great role for the wellbeing of the ceremony.

They gives an advice for the deceased families not to hurt themselves after the funeral
They pass a procedure on how to performs the event and the rituals
They didn’t participate in the dancing activity but they leads youngers to follow procedures to the ceremony
Generally this Ciemeesa are the one who manage and control the activities of the funeral ceremonies from the very beginning up the end of the event.
The over al activity of the ceremony is takes place with the permission of the ciemeesa or the local elders

4.17 Social aspects of funeral ceremonies

Sidama people have many social values and importance of funeral ceremonies when a man is died it’s not seen as once own task to perform the ceremonies and replying to cope up with the sadness. How came a single family can cope up with this events alone? It’s not possible. In Sidama peoples there is a situation that’s organized by the society. Generally people in the social institution cooperate in a good and bad days and help each other the institution are called ‘serra’

The funeral events put the society together in one places so that they can share ideas, hear new things meet a faraway relatives who live in other places it create a solidarity among the groups. It’s like a mechanism of the unite people. At his time peoples help each other children’s learn how a man developed a social life. How to respond for bad and good days.


 4.18 Political Aspects of the Funeral ceremonies

When we assess the ceremonies of the funeral it’s different according to the persons own behavior and his nature. The events that done for a hero is not done for an ordinary man so, that people need to be a hero and respected person. The political aspects helped the society to be secure from any danger because of the will of being hero young men’s starts to be a warrior or a protector from an enemy and other bests, this have an importance to the society.

The death of a clan leader is also can seen as a transition period of authority to the other person because if the clan’s leader dies the place should be replaced by another person. Even though the societies have their own ways to transfer authority called ‘serra’ the institution which has responsible to transfer the authority to the other person. The other is the ‘olla” institution also have a political role for funereal if the member of olla institution died he should replace by another persons. “Olla” is an administrative institution to cooperate on the accession of marriage funeral, scarification, conflict resolution and other. When peoples are come together it’s a tradition to hug the family of the aggressed these events have importance in settling of disputes among peoples.

4.19 The Culture change of funeral ceremony

The overall discussion on the above pages of this research is a past event and it’s the past history of the Sidama people we can say most of the events didn’t practiced now at this time and almost in all places, this is the result of culture changed most of the Sidama adults women and man’s tell story about the funeral that means it’s almost a history. But some elder is and educated people only have the real events.

            The culture is already extinct and people don’t even need to talk about what happens in the near past it may be a couple or 3, 4 decades. And this influence came up with many different factors. Let’s see the factor that leads the people to change the culture

4.20 External Factors that activate the change of funeral culture

Both external and internal factor play a role for the decline of the funeral culture. For centuries the people of sidama practices these kinds of funeral ceremony culture. But as an external agents and knowledge came on to them, they stats to stop practicing it.

As my key in formants idea many local peoples begins to go the advanced school while the whole country starts to changes .Its ways for  education and change that this exposure for advanced learning and for knowledge show them most of the practice are harmful to them specially for woman. I do believe  that exposure for advanced learning is one mechanism Because the thing the studies, the way we learn thing is not based on our culture so in order to be similar with the external cultures the peoples must accept the culture it brings about a positive change.

Other factors are there, as my key in formants interaction between Peoples of different culture come with a cultural change. Acculturation  is one way its mechanism of cultural change in exchange of cultural features  either of the cultural groups, the results have continues first hand contact play a significant role to change groups by this contacts (Redfield Linton and her korits 1936) cited at cottack 1994)

As more advanced roads and transportation mean is are introduce in the country it opens the door to exposure on an ethnic group to an external interaction this instruction will bring about a change for either in interacted members. As in one of my interview the question I asked was is it possible to think that the culture of sidama changed in a negative way? My informant told me that when other members of peoples came on to us they told us to stop practicing, it specially the members of protestant missionaries and other neighboring member, so through time it seem working. But the problem is now day’s peoples sit for funeral for about seven days one weak this is a negative impacts of the change. In sidama culture all the funeral process my take seven to ten days but its not continuous days as others do it has different phases and it divided in to different months and days. The ways of borrowing cultural or accepting other culture may not be voluntary but through time it happen, now a days this people live with others cultural values and its now the parts of their life.

Urbanization and globalization is also one of the means of changes as my key informants. The world we live is not as isolated as it was before and it’s become one village so that its hard to keep and continuous once value and culture, so that it’s hard to keep and continuous once value and cultural. Nowadays the world has become interacted highly and the entire nation have a common culture its, the new technological innovations and a popular cultures, this is one of the big external factors for the changes in sidama peoples.

The last and the most important factors is the influence of protestant missionaries in the country Most of my focus group members agreed up on protestant missionaries movement is the main factor for the change. The burial forms, the ways of the funeral and other ceremony are like European model now a day’s no one will dig a grave as it was in the past. So Protestantism plays a great role for the decline of the culture.

When the local peoples starts to be the follower of the religion of Christianity the ritual practices of the time was considered as an evil deed like scarifying a cattle, putting a stature, and other practices become considered as the will of an evil so that it influence people to left the way of life they were live.

As my informants after the missionary movement the person who have this ceremony is considered as an evil follower so  stop doing it because, didn’t wants to be called like this.

    . In my Focus group discussion all of the participants agreed up on that Protestantism have brought the change in the culture.

What we have understood from the expansion of Protestantism is that almost all the factors activating the extinction of the cultures correlated with Protestantism. The influence of protestant religion is not such an easy, because even nowadays people didn’t want talk about the funeral ceremonies.

 From my experience my informant first refuse to tale about what it was like before and the women stay away from me that she said it’s “an evil person deed.”

In sidama people the influence of protestant religion is somewhat high because the area before the introduction of protestant they only follow their traditional religions and little more orthodox Christian as well as Muslims. As my key informant explained the process that the protestant came to this region he said that:-

‘At the Hileselase regime missionaries came to Ethiopia, to preach protestant religion, and they ask permission to the king but at that time the Northern highlands were already orthodox Christians and religion and the state was highly tied up. The North place was a closed area .so, the king give permission to the missioners to go down to south this is because the  missionaries give a promise to open schools, hospital and other infrastructure  so in this case they came to sidama and Gedio regions”.

The protestant religion preachers by the time use to teach the people that all the culture practices are an evil and through time they starts to stop doing and practicing the cultural events.


4.21 Internal factors that activate the changes of funeral culture

The ceremony of funeral in sidama has many complex events that it couldn’t be easy to performing it now days. That the peoples recognize that when they made something they lost the other. As my interview in formant idea and from my key informant, changes come when peoples understand the negative aspects of the event. For example for the purpose of burial people dig the grave and the process is not easy to do while they dig the underground hole the tunnel between the two holes this brings about a land slide on working men and they  have died and hurt because of this burial preparation . As long as the peoples observe and see the negative impact they forced to stop the way they prepare the burials.

I understand this idea with and independent innovation, it’s the process by which a human innovate creatively and find solution to a problem and this mechanisms of cultural change faced with comparable problems and challenges (K. Cottack 1994.358).

 Change in understand of the use of time, effort and the resources they have lead them to change the practice. When we see the cattle to slay, the time which spent to bring tree from other area, and different factors are aggravated the change. As my informants told me that peoples spent days to find a tree to the male stature and this well affect the day to day life activity of the community.

As we have seen the funeral ceremony in the above pages, when a man died there need to be a tree to represent the deceased person. As well the family members held the second phase of the ceremony it need a lot of resource to do. Even the trees is not just local trees and might not grow in a village that it takes days for bring it that it might consume time.

 The other internal factor is women’s and men have their own grief. And cry practices that could hurt them. If a close family of friend died  male members use dagger to kick themselves their head and back tear  blood, it will affect the  normal health conditions of a person, a  women who have lost  the beloved once hurt herself she tear her hair, scratch her face, bit her chest and fall down to the ground with force. These practices through time members of the family understand that it couldn’t bring the dead and it’s not necessary for the dead .Even though, they have their own cultural context they understand how bad it’s to hurt on self.

 In some extent most of the internal factors are related with external factors because exposure for advanced education , preaching of Protestantism that; hurting oneself is the work of evil and it considered as a sin. As well as different contact with modernization are the factors that should be related the internal factors.



5.1 Summery

 The Sidama zone found in the southern part of Ethiopia. The zone has three ecological zone that of dega , woinadega and qola . According to the 1999E.C census the population number is estimated 2,966,652, and Hawassa is the capital of Sidama zone. The economy of the people is mostly agriculture, besides cattle herding and also trade as well as some artesian are found. The main source of food in the region is” Enset” and as a compliment maize barely and different vegetables and tuber plants are use in a high amount,

The sidama people speak a language called Sidamu affo , that they use the word Sidama for both the land and the people.The sidama people have there own marriage and cultural administration systems  that’s called the “Serra” institution and different kinds of marriage  ;”Huchato, Adulsha, Diira, Ragge, and Addwaana.”

Sidama peoples have a lot of cultural holydays and rituals from those, the Fetch New Year holyday the famous in the region. In saying this peoples have a funeral ceremony which has different phases and rituals.

The funeral ceremony of Sidama divided in to three parts, the burial, the second phase called ‘’wi’la kayissa” it to mean to start the mourning and the last one the Qiiso ritual to cool mourning. This three stapes has their own task to be performed. In the first step when man or women died its told for the local elder to proclaim the funeral but if the deceased are a child the ceremony have to finish in the next day with a ritual. For man the burial ground is dig in two places in between four meter and it connected through underground, but for a women only one hole is dig then, horizontally to the left part. After the burial the next phase will be appointed by the local elders but it must be before the coming New Year. The second phase is celebrated with the standing of statures for both sexes. For male it’s made of tree called” Doore” in this case is the man is a hero the tree will paint with red soil called “ sorrssa” and for women made of Enset tree called “middanncho”. The last ceremony is close with a ritual by slaughtering cattle and spray water in the area the phase is called “Qisso” it’s to mean to cool down the mourning .at the end of the deceased sister fetch water with a new pot and

Spray on the peoples and around the place. At last, the house of the deceased is cleaned and this will mark the end of the ceremony.


5.2 Conclusion

 This study has attempt to analysis some of funeral events which is held in sidama society, according to the data gathered from the local sidama peoples and some urban dwellers of sidama people, the funeral ceremonies have three phases that is held for a man and women deceased. The procedures held by different local elders. what we have understand from this is the societies has its own historical background of the culture of funeral that at this time the funerals that seen in the society is somewhat different and mixed with other cultural events and the past events is not seen almost at all.

As the study shown, the concept of culture that the society has , the construction of culture on the area of societal , political and the overall cultural events are wrapped up to one another like the Serra institution , that society work and cooperate each other and to cope up the social disasters .  This institutions like the Serra and olla institution work in collaboration to settle the social equilibrium that this equilibrium will disturb with the loose of some members from the social world.

As we have seen in the study the funeral culture is now almost a history for every one because it’s no longer in action the factors to activate this change is both internal and external that  come with different time and reason .in this case we can’t say the culture of funeral have its own reformation but change. That the ceremony of  mourning that of standing a tree for male and the singing of women specially for a hero, the poem , the women’s symbolic representation , the rituals to settle the weep and many events are not exists .

The good thing with the change of the culture is that at the funeral women were the main to perform what’s dangerous to them that they scratch their face fall down and hurt themselves.

The practices were a valuable cultural event for the society, but because of the influence of protestant religion, globalization, the rapid urban growth, a contact with different group, the peoples own independent innovations   play a role to end the practice of funeral.

5.3 Recommendation

Based on the above mentioned conclusion, the following major recommendations have been forwarded

·   All the societies must work together for the wellbeing of the cultural events even those culture that’s not related with this study because changes sometimes is not inevitable, and all the regional culture and tourism bodies must cooperate with the local peoples to document the cultural heritages of the area.

·   I recommend that most NGOs and governmental bodies work developmental projects that it’s for the common good of the society, but when doing the project they must consider the social norms and values of the society. As we seen in the study the expansion of protestant religion, development work, urbanization brought a lot of changes in that area without considering the culture of the society and this bring change. So in order not to repeat this mistake the culture of the society must be in consideration.

·    In this study the general intention is to explore and portray the funeral culture of the Sidama people and I recommend that there are gaps in every study that one cannot do things in a complete perfection so the concerned bodies for cultural conservation and other researcher to put their hand to study the culture of the society and fill gasps that is not covered in my study and others too.

·   The thing that I have face was a short age of written account in my study area that I recommend some NGOS and governmental bodies to give attention to the problem.

 Glossary of Indigenous Terms                                    
Cimeessa   -  local elders
Maganno  -  God
Seera -     local institution/law or rule/
Murrichcha -  the elder men who proclaim the funeral
Fechchee -         the new year  celebration
Doore -  the tree which is use to erect to represent the male deceased
Sorssa -  red soil which is painted on a hero tree “ doore”
Belguda  -   bird which live in lake
Wooraqqa  -the feather of the bird
Qeexaala – type of singing in different ceremony
Gerrarre -  a poem of an elegy
Wi’la kayiisa – the second phase of funeral
Qiiso - ritual to cool down the mourning
Boowe – a jewelry which women’s put on  female deceased stature “midaancho
Xlite - a vessel or other clay dish used to eat with.
Midaancho  - a stature which represent the dead women. (pot)
Mittigo – Cattle slaughter to ritual, but not to be eaten for the relatives.
Chacho – a kind of false banana /enset/
Ragge - system of marriage whom a man marry his brothers widow wife
Xurrqqo- the grave they made for male and sometimes for women too.    

 Both women have an experience with the ritual and the ceremony in young age the other girl was the one who interpret the language.


this elders are some of  my informants in shebdino woreda (ETHIOPIA SIDAMA ZONE)