BY : Hure G Ismail / Ottawa Ont , Canada
Linguistically, Somali was classified as a member of the Eastern Cushitic sub-group of the Cushitic branch of the Hamitic family. Languages that belong to the Hamitic family were usually sub-divided into branches that represented dialects of the original parent language. These were ancient Egyptian, Berber, Cushitic and Chadic.
While some linguists rejected the existence of a genetic affinity between the Chadic and other branches of the Hamitics, others accepted it Similarly, on the basis of the low percentage of vocabulary items shared between the West Cushitic languages and other members of the Cushitic branch, some scholars classified West Cushitic as a separate branch of the Hamitic known as Omotic. Still others connect Omotic with the Chadic group
However, whatever linguistic characteristics Somali seems to share with other languages of the Cushitic group, the presence of a fairly large number of ancient objects of worship as well as names of Gods clearly separates it from the group and calls for a more comprehensive study of the language. For the purpose of clarity, gods of Somali origin identified in the study as well as Somali words used are rendered in the new Somali orthography.)
Contrary to the accepted traditional classification and the recent claim by Prof. M. Nuh (PhD UCLA 1981) that Somali separated from parent Cushitic some 3000 to 3500 years ago, it was evident from the study the language could well belong to the ancient stage of the Hamitic if not earlier. The fact that it survived almost intact over several millennia could probably be due to its speakers’ unchanged pastoralist way of life and their almost geographical isolation in the North-Eastern corner of the Horn of Africa
Ancient Gods of Somalia / the land of punt :
Undoubtedly the most important aspect of the present study was the Somali-Egyptian relationship. Present linguistic evidence showed at least five of ancient Egypt’s gods came from or had obvious links with the country they at times called ‘The Land of the Gods’/Punt. For instance, the supreme sun god, RA’ (also alternatively called RA and RE) occurs as a component of a number of culturally-important Somali words. The all-important ritual word for slaughter, GOW-RA-C, clearly indicates the sun god was as old as the language itself. GOWRAC literally meant ‘cut for RA-C’. The Oromo word for the same ritual was GO-RA’ with a Hamzah substituted for the more difficult to pronounce C (’). RA was the only god Somali shared with other Eastern Cushitic branch with the exception of WAQ-RA-C' or WAAQ-RA-C' which it also shares with the Oromo. Other Somali words which also contained the supreme sun god EEBA or EEBE or EEB-RA (an illegitimate child), ARRAWEELO (AR-RA-WEELO), the legendary pagan queen who castrated a whole generation of the Somali menfolk. ARRAWEELO literally meant ‘The one who obeyed RA’. The Somali word for ‘wrong’ was GURRAC (GUR-RAC). GUR meant ‘the left hand’, which in most languages stood for ‘wrong’
The two words GARRE (GAR-RE) and BARRE (BAR-RE) incorporated the third alias of the sun god, RE. Consequently, GARRE meant the same as GARAC – both meaning an illegitimate child. Hence the saying “GARRE GARAC MALE” – meaning the GARRE (a clan in the south) have no illegitimate child. It was an accepted tradition to this day among the clan that a newly-wed bride was immediately taken away by young herdsmen and could not be returned to her husband until she was pregnant. BARRE (BAR-RE) meant god’s rain. BAR means rain drops as in BARWAAQO (BAR-WAQ).
HOROUS, the second most important of ancient Egypt’s gods, also appears to have originated in the ‘Land of the gods’/Punt. The dark falcon deity (Somali ABOODI) still remains a much feared bird. It was believed to be particularly dangerous to newly-born babies and nursing mothers. A piece of the bird’s bones or its claw was traditionally tied around the infant as a protection against its harmful spells. In North-Eastern Somalia in particular, the male name HORUSE was given to a child of dark complexion. To protect themselves against the falcon’s evil eye, nursing mothers often carry a knife or a short stick of the WAGAR tree. Incidentally, the Egyptian pharaohs reportedly carried the same WAGAR stuff to the battlefield to ensure victory against the enemy.
OSIRIS, another of ancient Egypt’s gods who reportedly ruled the underworld after being killed by SET (Ed. Somali SED), was evidently a Greek distortion of ISIR and WA-SIIR in Somali. Today, Somalis sometimes refer to AB and ISIR in their denial of an accusation that was culturally horrendous. One usually says ‘I have neither AB nor ISIR for such an act’ – meaning I have neither the genetic probability nor the cultural or religious orientation to commit such a horrendous act.
NEPHDEYS and BES, two less prominent ancient Egyptian gods, also appear to have some affinity with the Somali language. While NAF in Somali meant ‘soul’, NEF meant ‘breath’. Hence NEPHDEYS literally would mean ‘The one who releases breath – a function more or less attributed to the ancient god. BES in Somali meant ‘One who was in his or her deathbed’ – also a function the latter god was associated with.
The ancient Cananite god, PAL or BA'AL who was the son of EL or ILLAH was still alive in Somali in the same sense but probably in only two words –UUR-KU-BAALE-LE and YA-BAAL. The rarely used UUR-KU-BAAL-LE meant ‘One who has BA;AL in him’. One would usually ask: “How do you expect me to know your intentions? Do you think I have BAAL in me?” In essence, this meant only one who had BAAL in him could foretell the hidden or the unknown. YABAAL, possibly an alternative name for BAAL, was usually associated with the voice, of an invisible being that told one what to do or not to do in time of crisis in the wilderness.
Another supposedly ‘ancient Hamitic god’, HOBAL, also was evidently of Somali origin. HOOBAL – alternatively HOOYAL – was probably the best known of all Somali gods and continues to dominate Somali poetry and traditional folklore songs. Pagan Arabia’s most important god, HUBAL, was none other than the Somali HUBAL, co-opted and given an Arabised sound. In modern Somali today, HOBAL, was understood to mean ‘Artiste’. The ancient god was probably the patron-god of Somali literature.
WAD’AAD (now WADAAD), evidently the pre-Islamic word for priest (man of religion) was still commonly used and contained the ancient ‘Hamitic’ god WAD. Hence WAD’AAD, or more recently WADAAD, meant the attendant of WAD. In modern Somali, WAD meant ‘death’. Similarly, GAR’AAD (currently GARAAD) meant ‘an expert in law’ – probably the clan advocate. In modern Somali, however, GARAAD today means prince or Sultan of a clan
Finally, the ancient Mayan Sea god, MANYA, simply meant sea in the Somali dialect spoken in the old quarters of Mogadishu.
ancient Egypt’s most prominent deities as well as two Semitic and one Cananite ancient names of god clearly calls for a thorough review of this medium hitherto classified as Eastern Cushitic.
True to its old name ‘The Land of the gods / Punt, Somalia was probably a very important center of religion in ancient times and the probable cradle of idol-worship for both sides of the Red Sea and farther afield. The fact that the Horn of Africa was the oldest settlement that combined both Hamites and Semites also lends more credibility to the current popular theory that human species originated in the East African region.
part # 2 >>>