To herd cattle they have to be ready to walk for a long distance and away from home for weeks if not months. There they had to be armed with skills for protecting the herd from raiders and wild animals. There are always elders accompanying them for guidance. Whether they were around home or away from home they will make fire in the evening. They sit around it and play game of word or listening history as told by elders.
It is not known when the Oromo stopped writing. What is known is that they have no scripts though their oral tradition is so strong that each child knows what has come and passed in the life of its nation. In all corners of Oromiya it is told that once upon a time the Oromoo had qubee (letters). But it so happened that cattle became unruly and attacked home materials. It was then that they devoured all written materials.
This incident it was said to have been prophesied by ancient raagaas and so was the order of Waaq. As such no body could have stopped it. Therefore instead of people writing on parchments, Waaq would write on the suet of the cattle and experts will read the messages of providence from there, in matters concerning the future. Records will be kept in mind and past events passed to children through word of mouth.
Since then experts read the mooraa (suet) of slain animals to foretell the future and elders tell history by word of mouth to their children who will pass it down generations. The mooraa readers are called moora dubbistuu (mooraa readers). That is why the name “moor” is adopted by some to mean book rather than the Arabic “kitaabaa” or Amharic “macaafaa”. Stories are called “dur durii”, what the English start with “once upon a time” the Oromo starts with “dur, dur”.
Here it would be helpful to cite some efforts made by Oromo individuals to write in their language. Gooshuu Zawudee of Goojjam and Sana Ibsaa of Limmuu used strange letters in their correspondence around 1880; Alaqaa Zeyinaba (1860s) translated and taught the Gospel in his mother tongue, Afaan Oromo. Hiikaa Awaajii and Aster Gannoo in the same century translated the bible to Afaan Oromo. Those were so far known examples of efforts made. When was writing in qubee started? It is unfortunate we cannot conclusively tell. But the OLF should be credited to implement it in the present official standard form. The remaining Oromoo literary history needs more effort from future researchers.
Some of the games played by traditional children and story telling were also part of the teaching process.
- Geengoo/Korboo (wheel): a wheel usually made from vine is thrown across a field in any direction. All children had sharpened spear like sticks. They will try to stop the wheel by spearing through its center. This besides helping as athletic competition teaches children to target running object. This art helps in later life hunting expedition. It is also an introduction to the art of war.
- Kollee/qillee (hokey): kollee is similar to ice hokey. A butt cut from tree branch and a ball made from joints of branches are made. There are houses (goals) of opposing teams on opposite sides of the field. Two teams play against each other
- Utaalchoo (Jumping): two poles are put in the ground and another tender stick is put across at different levels. The one who jumps the highest level is the winner. Poll volt was also a known practice
- Utaalchoo lafaa (long jump): lines are made on the ground. One who jumps beyond the furthest line is the winner
- Furguggee: swings made of vines naturally hanging from branches of trees are used to play swinging.
- Waldhaansoo/ waldhaantoo (wrestling) kids and addle play it
- Garmaamsa (horse race) the Oromo are renowned horse men. Children learn about horses and how to use them at early age
- Saddeeqa: parallel rows of eight holes are made on the ground. Each person will be given equal numbers of pebbles. The game is played by putting the pebbles in each others whole and getting the pebbles of the other. It is capturing the others whole like in checkers.
- Waantaphee (Toys): Waantaphees are made from wooden objects or mud. Each child creates its own toy. Utensils, guns and airplanes and cars were made. Flat bars of wood tied on tip of long string was also rotated to make a buzzing sound
- Sigigoo (slide): steep grounds are wetted with water if it was not already muddy and children slide on their buttocks or on their feet. Sometimes they also use banana branches to sit on and slide
- Shekkelloo (hoping): parallel lines are drawn on dusty ground. A pebble is put at one and hopping on one leg and pushing the pebble from one end to the other the game was played
- Walee (yodeling): children from across a river or from a distance call each other and call names by yodel. They put their index finger on their wind pipe and harp on it as they utter a word and saying “walee” in between (changing frequently from low to high pitch)
- Dancing and dating: Dancing is performed during holidays and ceremonies. There are romantic dances, war dances, religious dances and work dances. To mension some names of dances, ragada, dhiichisa, gelloo, sirba mormaa, shaggooyyee, goondaa, kukummee, iyyaasee, shubbisa, gajjafa, dalaga etc. Romantic dances are held mostly during weddings. They start days before wedding ceremonies near the brides and bride grooms houses during moony nights. Dancing during such occasions is only for young unmarried men and women. Married men can participate in dhiichisa or war dances but this may vary from community to community. Youngsters sit with girls there. It is called qabdoo sitting (date sitting). They fondle and kiss each other under their linen or toga and no hanky panky before marriage. Young people date each other at river sides or when they go for collecting wood. There they sit qabdoo. They sit on leaves as cushion prepared by the boy. In some areas they can be naked above the waist. They are called michuu (sweat hearts). In many communities a girl introduces her michuu to her parents. He wouldn’t be the future husband but a protector until her marriage.
The above and more are all field performances and part of the informal education.
Religious dances are performed at the temple or Galmaa of Warra Ayyaanaa (Qaalluu) also at child birth it is called faga, gajjafa or dalaga.
Each evening fire will be made in the living room or the same fire for cooking is used for warming. All residents of a house except the ones cooking sit around the fire place. Then elders tell history as well as stories they inherited from the past and those they went through. Children attentively listen to what they were told.
Especially they should be well versed in their family tree otherwise they will be shamed by strangers who ask them to identify themselves. Each child must count at least seven generations. If it can’t do that, it will be suspecting for being from unknown origin. In addition children had games they play with each other. In most of them, the children start by making statement or question or posing a problem. In the following we shall use Q for problem and A for Response.
- Hibboo: hibboo is puzzle in which statements are made symbolically and guessing is requested. One who puts forward the puzzle begins by saying “hibboo” the replier says “hiph or hibbakka” then the puzzle is stated. Example:
- We are eating together why are you emaciated?
- The answer is spoon
Q. The red man is shouting standing in a stream.
A. The reply is tongue
Q. corpse when asleep lion when awake.
A. the reply is gun
- Hibboon ten (Hibboon xar): this requires awareness of the neighborhood. One of the children says hibboon teen. The others say teen, teen. In the question heifer means girl, bull means boys. Example:
- Hibboon ten
- Ten, ten
- Husband; wife; heifer, heifer, heifer; bull, bull; dependent, dependent (birtaa’o), whose house is that? (guest and visitors are all birtaa’o)
- Mr. Jaarsoo’s
- Lie on your back and drink spiced butter
- You prepared I drunk, yours is by the lid mine is by madaala (big milk utensil). Pass under bent stub and fart for ever. Lean on cactus lose you psyche. I will not insult you more than this let hyena devour you down so and so stream. It was embarrassing for the loser to be ridiculed in front of peers.
- Bino: one child starts the game by saying binoo (animal)! The others say bineensa (wild animal)! The one who started asks what? Then one of the children starts naming animals it knows fast, with the other saying what after each animal, after some time it says what do you eat? If he mentions animals which are not clean at that juncture, he will be laughed at and loses the game. Example:
Q. which ones?
Q&A. lion, which? tiger, which? Leopard, which? Gazelle, which? Pig, which do you eat? Dog (laughter)
- Jimmaa jimmitoo (jimmiitee): this is a test for being capable of keeping quite. One begin the game by saying jimmaa jimmitoo or jimmiitee, all the children say jijim (hush). It names rotten of animals by mentioning the name of animals and offensive rots of other things one by one. Then he says any one who utters or made to utter until my hen reaches the seas and comes back and crows shall eat all said rots and the rotten ciimmaa (rheum) and pus of the back of Haadha Baqqoo and all her girls. Unless the beginner crows no one can utter a word or laughter. It is difficult to keep quite for a long time, some one usually bursts with laughter and eats every thing and the hen crows and saves the strong.
Q. Jimmaa jimmitoo
Q. rot of donkey
Q. rot of dog
Q. rot of garbage etc.
- Uummoon maal baattee dabarte (carrying what did the hornbill passed)? The response is “haamtuu dhaa fi cidii” (sickle and straw). Then the questioner says with it her neck? The responder says “cut” fast after her neck. Questioner continues “her neck?” Then suddenly says “your neck?” If the responder says cut, he will be laughed at, and gives up his turn. Example:
- Ummoon maal baattee dabarte
- sickle and straw
Q. with it her neck?
Q. her neck?
Q. your neck
A. cut! he loses
The questioner asks what is a unit. The responder says unit is finger; then what is two? Two is tit of goat, one is unit. What is three? Three is tripod, two is tit of goat, and unit is finger. What is four? Four is tit of cow, three is tripods, two is tit of goat, and unit is finger. What is five? Five is fingers of the hand, four is tit of cow, three is tripods, two is tit of goat, and one is unit. In this manner it goes up to possible relations. The usual is up to ten:
1= tokkeen qubaa
2= lamaan mucha reettii
3= sadan sunsummanii
4= arfan mucha saayyaa
5= shaman qubaa harkaa
6= ja’an jabbii qaraxa (dowry calves)
7= turban torbee sanbataa (7 week of Sabbath)
8= saddeettan dhala leencaa (eight cubs of lion)
9= salgan yaa’ii Booranaa (nine assemblies of Boorana)
10= kurnan kurnii Waaqayyoo (ten tithe of God)
Most stories revolve around animals and human like creatures like Bulguu, Hilluu, Adii, Haadha Sharraxee (sorts of boggy man), imaginary figures, human relations like children and step mothers, strong persons. Stories could be constructed by story tellers.