The Irreechaa-The sacred ritual of Kindness

Irreechaa is the premier holiday of the Waaqeffannaa spiritual society that marks the end of the dark rainy season and the beginning of a blossom harvest season of birraa and the dry season of bonaa and light rainy season of Arfaasaa. They gather at the river banks, mountains top, lakes shores and ayyaantuu’s holy hut to give thanks to the almighty Waaqaa Gurraacha-Tokkicha-Haqaa for all the blessings throughout their journey in the past year and ask Him for Araaraa (reconciliation), nagaa (peace), waloomaa (harmony), and finnaa (holistic development) for the present and the future maraa.

The concept Irreecha is derived from two Oromo words: Hiree and Isaa. The word Hiree is literally refers to the term ‘share’, ‘portion’, ‘part’, ‘parcel’, ‘piece’, or ‘allotment’; and as well the term Isa literally refers to “He”, or “It” where Isaa stand for ’His’ or ’Its’. Therefore, the concept Irreessa (Hirree+Isaa) is literally refers to “His or Its share”, “Its portion”, or “Its allotment”. And thus Irreechaa literally refers to the act of giving a share or portion or allotment from the earning or gaining someone has received to the divine provider (or the giver of that earning).

Irreecha is an act of returning back a share of something to the giver of that thing as a sign of recognition, praise and thanksgiving. It is a form of sacrificial offering of greenery and flowers performed to appease the divine provider Waaqaa. Thus the festivity of irreechaa is held with two main objectives: Galataa (to thank Waaqaa for His deed for the creation in the past) and Wareegaa (ask Waaqaa for His help in the future to come, the unknown and unknowable). Therefore, Irreecha constitutes one of several spiritual ritual practices defining the hallmark of the entire waaqeffannaa life. In this sacred festivity, the waaqeffannaa pray to Waaqaa, the divine provider, for peace and stability to prevail; prosperity and abundance to exist; order and harmony to be maintained; nature to be protected; and for deliverance in times of difficulties and challenges.

Thus Irreeffannaa is the process of putting wet green grass known as Coqorsaa, or flowers or any green grass available on certain sacred places to express thanks and respect for Waaqaa. Irreechaa is a thanksgiving (praise ceremony) festival which is held twice a year just before the beginning of the harvest season in birraa and arfaasaa every maraa and took place near a body of Water (Horaa- Spring or crater, Haroo-Lake, Burqaa-stream), Tulluu (Hill top or bottom), galma (ayyaantu’s spiritual hut) and Mijjirii (gubaa center) where the Waaqeffannaa Spiritual Society gather together to thank their Waaqaa, the Creator of the entire Walaabuu. The ritual is conducted by putting coqorsaa and Adaa birraa at the sacred ritual sites and meant to praise Waaqaa He who created all and the things of Irreessaa such as green plants, flowers and all living things with great hope for the continuation of life.

Irreechaa is a spiritual ritual where the Waaqeffannaa Spiritual Society uses these occasions to give thanks to their Waaqaa. In addition Irreeffannaa, the putting of wet grass and the provision of His share, is usually made while crossing rivers and streams; and the grass is put on the bank of the stream. The ritual of irreecha is conducted by offerings thanks and greeneries to Waaqaa. The other ritual practices done there include dalaguu (meditational dance), irreessa kennuu (green leaf as a gift), wareeguu (sacrifice offerings), hammachiisaa (blessing and naming of babies), and gashaa (delicious food brought to the galmaa). This worship and pray would be accomplished at different places and time governed by its own system and portrayed by its own ritual practices. In these aspects of Waaqeffannaa spiritual society worship, the spiritual leaders or ayyaantus (Abbaa Malkaa or Abbaa Tulluu) are at top hierarchies. In the ayyaantuu spirituality, the Ayyaantuus give instructions and directives of where about and the time of implementation of the ritual.

Irreechaa ritual ceremony admires the miraculous spiritual powers of Waaqaa Gurraacha-Tokkicha-Haqaa and conjointly relates the living secret of generation. The ever greenness and productivity of plants, the regeneration of the life and the replacements of the old by the new, death and resurrection of fruits is likened and related to the wisdom of Waaqaa Gurraacha-Tokkicha-Haqaa. These all are the Will of Waaqaa. Irreecha ceremony is characterized by praising the Creator holding Waaqaa’s creation, the fresh evergreen grass (coqorsaa) in hand and using these greeneries as an offering to Waaqaa Gurraacha-Tokkicha-Haqaa.

The place is virtually besieged by multitudes of well-wishers and bliss-seekers. At Irreechaa ritual practices, people pay up their due pledges and enter into new one, submitting themselves to divine authority. Irreechaa is a collective spiritual exercise of extensive socialization in sharing the gifts of Waaqaa. The festive of Irreechaa, although it is conducted at various places, it usually takes places in two major occasions at two major areas. These are: the Birraa Irreechaa and The Abraasaa Irreechaa.

  1. Irreecha Malkaa-Riverside Thanksgiving or Irreecha Birraa

Irreecha Malkaa is a thanksgiving ritual that is organized in the season of Birraa when the rains stopped and the sunshine blossom forth over the fields. This sacred ritual is held to praise Waaqaa Gurraacha-Tokkicha-Haqaa for the new season which is characterized by hope as the harvest moment is ahead, fields are filled with flowers, and panorama of the surrounding is eye catching. It is usually celebrated between last week of September and the first week of October when the darkness of rainy season with its foggy days passes and leaves place for bright season-birraa. And so Irreecha Birraa marks the end of rainy season and the beginning of harvest season. This time of the year brings a collective sense of blissful vigor, because the cold rainy months would be ending. It is the time when the sun shines the brightest and the flowers blossom everywhere; when the roads are dry for mobility to begin and commercial activities to resume after months of hibernation.

The events is also refers to the rituals of washing as a symbols of cleansing from the past and starting life anew. Not only human but also herds of cattle are derived to drink horaa, the salty water of the lake, presumed to heal the cattle from any disease they might have contracted. In the land of Waaqeffannaa spiritual society, winter is a busy and muddy season making travel and social life difficult. Spring (booqa birraa) ushers in a new beginning as rain eases, river levels drop, flowers blossom, and newly budding leaves prop to life. During this season, mother earth wears the green gowns of natural beauty – Irreessa or Keelloo or adaa birraa.

Conceptually the symbolism of Irreecha malkaa is meant to remember the blessing of the Supreme Being Waaqaa for bringing fertility (procreation) among living things by separating Yaayyaa, the hermaphroditic living entities into two equal but complementary or balanced opposite at glance by His divine Sound, Word and Eye while he, Yaayyaa, the primordial person descended from the top of a primordial mound to drink the sacred water Walaabuu which was located at the foot of this sacred Mound. And therefore, to signify this rite the Waaqeffannaa spiritual society gathers together at riverbanks and thanks the Creator for this sacred blessing. Besides they do so to thank Waaqaa for optimal rains in this passing maraa and ask Him for sustained optimal and peaceful weather and crops, for children to grow, for the sick to heal and for fraternity to prevail among human beings. And thus on this occasion the Waaqeffannaa spiritual society gather on the river banks and the shores of the lakes and gives thanks to the Supreme Creator Waaqaa for all His bounty and pray for nagaa and araaraa among humans and with Waaqaa. Such ritual ceremony is accomplished not only along river bank, but also around the lakes, spring, crater, stream and its vicinities.

On this occasions, the Waaqeffannaa spiritual society praise and thank their Waaqaa for ending the rainy season which is equated with darkness because of the clouds, the overflowing rivers and stream; and the scarcity of produces as it is a plantation season; and pray to Waaqaa to bless the ripen crops, to protect the harvest from bad weather. In addition they do also thank Waaqaa for realization of their plan wished during the Arfaasaa Irreessaa and for receiving adequate rain during the rainy season and crossing it in peace to the bright birraa season. Thus the ritual is conducted by offering thanks and greeneries to Waaqaa who helped them pass through the dark rainy winter season to the bright sunny season which begins to shine in the month of Fulbaanaa or Onkoloolessaa, the time crops and plants are furnishing colorful flowers.

On these occasions the Waaqeffannaa Spiritual Society residing in different parts of the nation make pilgrimages towards the ritual area once a year and attend the irreechaa ritual observance. On this sacred ritual observance, on the way to the ritual center, women are decorated with caaccuu, qoloo, beads sparkled from their necks and foreheads. In addition, a married woman carries gaadii (a string for milking), ciicoo (milking container), qarruu (wet mud taken from a river), and coqorsaa (a bunch of thick untrimmed grass) alongside with their Siiqee. Likewise Men superbly dressed in Kumaala and Bullukko (top wears) holding Bokkuu decorated in the colors of Faajjii Walaabuu and harooressaa (, or horooroo) in their hands while children run around showing off their Qoloo and Callee.

With these Women led the crowd to the riverbank whilst chanting songs of prayers and thanksgiving. The crowd followed by repeating the chorus slowly behind uttering the melody called “maareyoo maareyyoo……” sung by participating women and “Irreechoo yaa irreecha malkaa roobaa fi Nagaa (Irreechoo O irreechaa malkaa of rain and peace)…” and “gabbisayyoo” sung by participating men is hold. In this antique verses of praise song the women sung, when the conductor (baastuu), recite a verse of praise song the participants (warrii jalaa qabuu) repeat the same verse as:
Nama dha’atu/baasu Warra jalaa qabu
Maree hoo! (x2) Maree hoo!(x2)
Hoo yaa maree hoo! Hoo yaa maree hoo!
Maree hoo!(x2) Maree hoo!(x2)
Hoo yaa maree hoo! Hoo yaa maree hoo!
Yaa Waaqa malkaa uumte
yaa mareehoo Hoo yaa maree hoo
Maree hoo!(x2) Maree hoo!
Irreecha harkaa qabna
yaa maree hoo Hoo yaa maree hoo
Maree hoo!(x2) Maree hoo!
Yaa Waaq nutti araarami
yaa mareehoo Hoo yaa maree hoo
Maree hoo!(x2) Maree hoo!
Irreecha duraa oba
yaa mareehoo Hoo yaa maree hoo
Maree hoo!(x2) Maree hoo!
Sumaafan badii oole
yaa maree hoo Hoo yaa maree hoo
Maree hoo!(x2) Maree hoo!
Yaa Waaq Walaabuu
uumte yaa maree hoo Hoo yaa maree hoo
Maree hoo(x2) Maree hoo!
Yaa Waaq Ruuda uumte
yaa maree hoo Hoo yaa maree hoo
Maree ‘hood(x2)! Maree hoo!
Yaa Waaq dachee uumte
yaa maree hoo Hoo yaa maree hoo
Maree hoo!(x2) Maree hoo!
Yaa Waaq malkaa uumte
yaa maree hoo Hoo yaa maree hoo
Maree hoo (x2)! Maree hoo!
Yaa Waaq tulluu uumte
yaa maree hoo Hoo yaa maree hoo
Maree hoo!(x2) Maree hoo!
Yaa Waaq rooba uumte
yaa maree hoo Hoo yaa maree hoo
Maree hoo!(x2) Maree hoo!
Yaa Waaq birraa uumtee
yaa mareehoo Hoo yaa maree hoo
Maree hoo!(x2) Maree hoo!
Maree fardi hin dalagu
yaa maree hoo Hoo yaa maree hoo
Hoo yaa maree hoo Hoo yaa maree hoo
The pilgrimage also recites antique verse of praise song “gabbisayyoo”. Unlike ‘maareehoo’ sacred song, ‘gabbisayyoo’ is recited and sung by men, particularly on their way to the ‘irreecha malkaa’ and while they return to their home. Particularly elder men and the ayyaantuu recite this sacred antique hymn of praise songs as:

Conducter Attendant
Gabbisayyoo hoo….hoo… Gabbisayyoo hoo….hoo…
Hayyee roobee leeshan Hayyee roobee leeshan
sobbooqa daraaree sobbooqa daraaree
Roobee lafa nuu gahee hoo
Yaa Waaq situu nuu nahee hoo
Hayyee roobee roobe gabbisee
Odaan nabee dagla looyee hoo
Karraaf ilmoon sitti booyee hoo
Hayyee roobee roobe ayeetuu kanaa
Odaa qaccee dalga ciisee hoo
Karraaf ilmoo sittan dhisee hoo
Hayyee roobee leeshan sobboqa daraare
Gadaan koo godaansi odaa hoo
Oromoo arrabni hoodaa hoo
Hayyee roobee roobe ayeetuu kanaa
Gabbisayyoo hoo…hoo….
Hayyee roobee robe haroo garba gate
Gabbisayyoo hoo hoo,
Gadaan hoodia birbirsi hooda booranaa
Roobee magarsee qaxxisaan latee hoo
Roobee gabbisee falfalaan bade hoo
Aadaan hoodia kallachi hoodia waaqlafaa
Irranaa cuqqeen ni mul’ataa hoo
Oromoon waaqaan dubbataa hoo
Odaan hoodia kallachi hooda booranaa
Dambalii birbirsi latee hoo
Roobee falfalan bade hoo
Odaan hoodia birbirsi hooda booranaa
Odaa nabee yaa kurfaa koo hoo
Gadaa aabboo yaa ulfaa koo hoo
Hayyee roobee roobee ayeetu kanaa

In addition while the male ayyaantuu and the male elders recite ‘gabbisayyoo’, the female pilgrimages recites the antique versed of ‘ateetee’. When the conductor recites a verse the recipient repeat the same sacred verse as:

Nama Baasu Warra jalaa qabu
Ateetee seerarraan owwaatte Ateetee seerarraan
aayyoon owwaatte aayyoon
Ateetee bokkuurraan Ateetee bokkuurraan
owwaatte aayyoon owwaatte aayyoon
Ateetee raagarraan waaqarraan Ateetee raagarraan
owwaatte jabboon waaqarraan owwaatte j jabboon
Ateetee loon jalaa owwaatte Ateetee loon jalaa
jabboon owwaatte tabboon
Ateetee beekarraan Ateetee beekarraan
owwaatte aayyoon owwaatte aayyoon
Ateetee fardarraan Ateetee fardarraan
bashaadde jabduun bashaadde jabduun
Ateetee waatarraan gadaarraan Ateetee waatarraan
owwaatte aayyoon, gadaarraan owwaatte aayyoon
Ateetee gadaarraan Ateetee gadaarraan
raagarraan angaate aayyoon raagarraan angaate aayyoon
Ateetee jabaarraan Ateetee jabaarraan
owwaatte aayyoon owwaatte aayyoon!

Once at the pointed creek, the elders explained the official Irreefanna procedure. The hayyuu elders from the Hoboo; or the Hangafa led the awaiting crowd with Eebba or blessings. Thus the hayyuu officiates this thanksgiving and blessing rituals. When the blessing is recited the attendant and blesser (abbaa Malkaa) turn face east symbolizing the wish of passing to brightness (gara ifaatti nu baasi). Being led by the Abbaa Malkaa, the participating communities holding bunch of lovely grasses and flowers in their hands, praise, bless and pray to Waaqaa. Blessing of the Hayyuu goes as:

Shall evil have no place amongst you!
(Baddiin isin jiduu haa fagaatuu)
Shall hate have no place amongst you!
(Jibbii isin jidduu haa fagatuu)
Shall truth find you!
(Dhugaan isin waliin haa tahuu)
Is this testimony before Waaqaa!
(Kun Waaqa durattii raga haa tahu)
Let peace be among all!
(Nagaan nu hunda jidduutti haa tahu)
Let peace be among adults!
(Nagaan gaheessaa jidduuti haa bu’u)
Let peace be among the youth!
(Nagaan dergaggeessa waliin haa tahu)
Let peace be with the livestock!
(Nagaan loon waliin haa tahu)
Reciting antique verse of praising Waaqaa on this occasion:
Waaqa booru gannaa,
Dukkana gannaaa nuu baaftee
Roobdee kan sanyii biqilchitee
Dachee magariisaa fi booqaa kan gootee
Ifatti nu baastee,
Sa’aa nama nagaa nuuf kennitee nu quubsitee,
Galannii sii yaa gahu
Abdii fulduraatiif ammo midhaan alaa gaheen,
Namaa sinbira waliin nu soori
Bara quufaa,
Bara gabbinaa,
Bara nagaa fi
Bara hawwiin keenya itti guutu nuuf godhi!

And they do so by soaking that bunches of flowers and grass in the water and sprinkling it and lay it down on the shores of river bank. When they soak and sprinkling the water, they do recites as “waggaa waggaan isin haa gahu (May He cross you from one year to another year), Jiidha qilleensa birraa isinitti haa urgeessuu (May He fresh air of Birraa perfume You)”. And thus everyone dipped the Irreessa inside the water as the prayers went on. The elders later explained, while dipping this grass in the water, one’s heart and mind has to forget worldly evil and focus on the sacred and good. This was a tender moment of forgiveness, thanksgiving, and gratitude for the bounties of Waaqaa. On this occasion, people turn to each other and ask for forgiveness and pardon if in case there is disagreement to each other. Once this was done, the public joyously exchanged greetings more as follows:

Baga furda (bacaqii) gannaa baatani booqa birraa argitan, akkasuma kan hortani horaattan mara wajjiin saddeetni sadeetaatti isiniif haa naannawu (I congratulate you for passing or crossing the dark rainy season and reach the bright birraa season, as well I wish you to transit or pass from one saddeetaa to another saddeetaa in peace with all your possession or belonging).

After this thanksgiving ritual all the participating community return to their villages accompanying their Abbaa Malkaa and spiritual leader Qaalluu. Once Irreefanna is concluded, the waaqeffannaa spiritual society banquet including miciirra/shakaka, caccabsaa, marmaree, Daadhii (homemade honey wine) are shared among the pilgrimage of the festival.

2. Irreecha Tulluu-Hilltop Thanksgiving

Irreecha Tulluu is a thanksgiving occasion that takes places in the season of Arfaasaa (autumn) when the sunny months near to passes and be ready to leaves places for the mild rainy months to come. This sacred ritual is held to thank Waaqaa Gurraacha-Tokkicha-Haqaa for the safe transition and pray to Him to provide them optimal rainfall for living things, to prevent ice crystals with harsh rains that can spoils plants and animals and to germinate plants that has been dried due to the sunny and drought seasons.

The tulluu thanksgiving festival is to symbolize the dry season and meant to signify Yaayyaa, the first ever human kind on the land who was neither Isa (masculine) nor Ishii (feminine). Yaayyaa was created and lived on top of the sacred primeval Hill. Waaqaa created this progenitor of human kind with His divine Eye in which he, Yaayyaa, burst out of the Lower Walaabuu to make the first sacred mountain on Dachee. This sacred site is considered as the sacred center of Dachee, the sacred center of holiness, purity and hospitality. It is the sacred zone of spirituality where all things converge into it. He believed to come out from the inside of Dachee (lafa dhiibee ol bahe). The time Yaayyaa brought forth represent dryness and Summer where the land is become dry and symbolize drought. Therefore, tulluu represent drought, loneliness as well as symbol of enduringness and resilience. The one who passed the dry season safely and in peace and reaches the afraassaa is believed to be so resilient and needs to praise Waaqaa for that at this sacred Tulluu.

On this occasion, ascending it the pilgrim approaches the center of this sacred land, and, on the highest terrace, breaks from one plane to another, transcending profane, heterogeneous space, and entering a “pure region”. The roads that leading to the center, the pure sacred zone is a difficult road like pilgrimages to the sacred place, the Tulluu and horaa/malkaa, the holy place of the qaalluu qaallittii; the danger ridden voyages of the heroic expedition in search of Waaqaa’s blessing, the blessing from the sacred Abbaa Malkaa and Abbaa Muudaa, and praising Waaqaa for His (Its) deeds in the past and ask Him for His good deeds in the future to come; and difficulties of the seeker for the road to the self, to the center of His being (Yaayyaa). The road is arduous, fraught with perils because it is the bright of passage from profane to the sacred, from the ephemeral and illusory to reality and eternity, from death to life, from man to divinity. And so attaining the center is equivalent to a consecration, an initiation; yesterday’s profane and illusory existence gives place to a new, to a life that is real, enduring and effective. Thus irreecha is the ritual of resurrection, revival, re-awakening, re-germination, and rejuvenation.

The months before arfaasaa are sunny when men and cattle suffer from drought, shortage of water and grasses. Due to this on this occasion, the Waaqeffannaa Spiritual Society make pilgrimage to the mount holding coqorsaa and went to the hilltop and make irreessaa and kills grey Bull/Ram ( or black sheep) as sacrificial offering to appease the divine provider on the Hilltop and to ask Him [Waaqaa] to protect them from strong wind and harsh drought. And before eating the roasted meat of the slayed sheep elders make dadarbaa or dhibaayyuu and thank Waaqaa for the safe passage of the dry season (Bonaa). They do recites antique verse of prayers as:

O Waaqaa
(Yaa Waaqi),
The earth is thirsty now
(Dacheen dheebottee),
It is waiting for rains now to wet the soil and to grow plants
(Biyyoo jiisuu fi biqiltuu biqilchuuf rooba eegataa jirtii)
O Waaqaa
(Yaa Waaqi),
Release the rains in abundance
(Bokkaa nagaa nuu roobi),
Let the plants grow and the rivers turn muddy
(Margis haa marguu lagis haa boorahuu)

O Waaqaa
(Yaa Waaq),
You rain and germinate/sprout all live beings
(Uumaa hundaa roobdee biqilchitee),
You ripen by cease rains
(Caamtee bilcheessitee),
You spared us from Vicious and drought
(Hamaa fi hongee jalaa nu baastee);
You gave us rain
(Nuuf roobdee),
You made peace for our cattle and human beings
(Sa’aa namaan nagaa nuuf gootee),
You are our Hope for the future
(Fulduraafis abdii keeti),
Give us optimal rain
(Rooba qulqulluu nuuf roobi)!
Feed our livestock and human being
(Sa’aa fi nama nuu soori)!
Rain and germinate our plantation
(Roobi nuuf biqilchi),
We put our hope on you
(Waan hundaafuu abdii sirra godhannee)!

Cuqqaalaa, SC. 2013. IRREECHA HORA HARSADII. Duukam, Oromiyaa.
Sabaa M. 2006. Daaniyaa. Waldaa Aadaa fi Duudhaa Oromo (WADO). Finfinnee
Bartels L.1993. Oromo Religion: myth and rites of the western Oromo of Ethiopia. An attempt to understand. Berlin: Dietrich Reimer Ver, ag.
Bokkuu, DD 2011. Oromo wisdom in black civilization. Addis Ababa, Finfinnee Printing and Publishing, S.C

Source: Faajjii Walaabuu