A lot seems to have gone wrong in regard to the introduction ceremony in Buganda. In view of the law of the land, this type of ceremony falls in the category of customary marriage. There are a number of elements that make up the bride price requirements that a man has to present to the family of the woman during this marriage ceremony. On the top of the list is an alcohol calabash.
Though many still take it and the religious replace the alcohol calabash with Soda; the main reason behind this requirement of the alcohol calabash is many at times not met because some simply do it as a norm while others go against it without knowledge of its purpose. Of course, putting it aside would not be a big issue as long as the need it was trying to meet is identified and dealt with accordingly.
Today, divorce is a common phenomenon in Buganda society. One of the challenges that arise in trying to adopt new religious systems (Christianity and Islam) without understanding the reasons behind the former practices so that the solutions offered by the traditional practices that enhanced society cohesion can somehow be found in the new religious systems. Divorce is simply a total sum of disagreements that become unbearable for two people to continue living together.
In Buganda, jealousy was and is a common phenomenon. It is and was actually the leading inspiration of witchcraft and sorcery in society. Families often had their disagreements, but even in the absence of open disagreements; they still believed jealousy hid somewhere in the background. It had to be dealt with. In Luganda, jealous is known as “nge”. It is from this word that we get the compound word for alcohol.
Understanding the Requirement of Alcohol in a Marriage Ceremony
To better understand why certain requirements were made, someone needs to understand Buganda’s religious system. In Buganda, they believed in the existence of a supreme God “creator” but they never had any serious relationships and interactions with this God. The priests of the supreme God came from the Elephant clan (Njovu).
It was believed that even though this was a supreme God, he rarely intervened in the day-to-day affairs of human beings as much as those deities below him. This implied that the Baganda had a closer relationship with the gods that ran the day-to-day affairs in their land than the supreme God himself.
Among these gods that ran the day-to-day affairs of the land was; Mukasa, Kiwanuka, Ddunga among many others. Each of these deities was once a human being with reputable exploits. Each deity was responsible for a particular element or issue of life. For instance; Mukasa was the deity for water. This implied that anyone that needed any luck and favor in regard to sailing, fishing among other water-related activities had to seek favor from this deity. Offerings were taken to the priest of the particular deity.
Over time, they came to learn of the repeated requirements of the deities to execute restoration, favor among other everyday life needs. It is some of these repeated norms that actually inspired some of the traditional norms of Buganda besides those of the founder of the Buganda kingdom.
One of the principles that were established was in regard to Alcohol being a tool that removes or atones for jealousy. In order to solve a dispute in Buganda, alcohol was always required. It was considered as something that takes away jealousy that arises because of any form of unfairness. In case of adultery, a calabash of alcohol was required as the penalty the offender had to pay not only to the husband of the wife but even the elders of the community had to share the alcohol from the same calabash.
In case you needed to find peace with the dead, alcohol was poured on the tombstone with declarations of making peace with the dead so that in case they had participated in the death of the late in any way or the dead had anything against them, it would be taken away by sharing of a calabash of alcohol with the dead there in ending the spells from the dead that would cause bad luck.
This was the same inspiration behind taking a calabash of alcohol to the in-laws during the introduction ceremony. It was to make peace with the family and the elders of the community after taking their daughter away from them. Of course, there is remorse that is left behind when the daughter leaves their family behind. It is not only the family that grieves over it but also the community at large. This remorse had to be dealt with (atoned for) through sharing the calabash of alcohol brought by the groom so that they make peace with the groom and his family to avoid the bad luck that would follow this remorse.
Like the bible says in proverbs 31:6; Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. The alcohol that is given during the marriage ceremony is not a strong drink rather a form of local wine that is meant for those with heavy hearts. According to Psalm 104:15; Wine makes a heart of man glad. To remove the envy and jealousy that walked hand in hand with marriage; this calabash of alcohol was offered to make the heart of those who were grieved glad again
Fast Forward 21st Century
Buganda society today is mainly inspired by Christianity and Islam. The majority of these sects do not believe in alcohol. This would not be a problem if the issue that was being addressed with alcohol is dealt with. All these religions have prescribed procedures of dealing with strife, envy, jealousy, and a lot of things that fall in that category that have not been addressed in their order of the marriage ceremony. Most of the marriages leave behind remorse, pains, regrets, and a lot more things that the priests in these religions never take time to address.
With a proper understanding of why alcohol was taken during the marriage ceremony, we can conclude that marriage in Buganda was founded on peace. I believe it was also the reason why divorce was unheard of or rare in the Buganda community. The question remains, what is being done in these religions to deal with the outcomes of strife, jealousy, envy, and the likes that arise at the beginning of marriage?
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