The Xeedho is a custom usually prevalent in the Northern parts of Somalia. After the wedding is consummated and the bride and groom settle peacefully in their newly constructed home, it is time for opening the Xeedho or as it is called in Somali Xeedho-fur. This usually occurs on the seventh night, – the final night of the seven-day honeymoon period. The roots of Xeedho lie in the pastoral lands with the Somali Nomads. The custom though, is dwindling in the rural areas and has, as of late, taken a great following in the urban areas
Left: The Xeedho. Middle: The veil is uncovered. Right: Naked
In the olden times the villagers would gather outside the hut of the newly weds and the Xeedho-opening ceremony would take place. The gathering in the city does not differ much from that of the villages as all people congregate in a large hall.
The Xeedho, with its gracefully winding shape is designed with the bride in mind. It actually signifies the bride. As the members of both the families gather around in big circles, the Xeedho is placed in the middle and the ceremony begins.
So it must be tended to as if it were the bride herself and as a result, the opening of the Xeedho has fixed rules and regulations, though many of them are no longer practiced by majority of people. The tradition is slowly dying and losing its formal procedures, some of which are:
- The Xeedho MUST be opened completely so that the groom can publicly declare the bride as his wife.
- The groom cannot partake in the opening of the Xeedho
- A male member from the groom’s tribe, usually a close relative such as a cousin, etc. is chosen to open the knots on the Xeedho. First though, he must take the upper veil off, just as he would a new bride in her wedding gown, and then process with the untying of the ropes.
- A guard, usually a woman and from the bride’s family, holding a gentle stick stands beside the Xeedho and watches as the man carefully tries to untie the labyrinth of knots. Being one of the few women who spent days and days interweaving the rope on the Xeedho, she knows every opening and every knot.
- If the man places his hands on the wrong end of the rope, or tries to open the rope from a different knot, the female guard lightly whips him with her stick. That signifies that he has to change the course of his opening of the rope and find a new lead. This will continue until the Xeedho is opened.
- There is nothing wrong if the man finds the opening end of the Xeedho easily and it is opened quickly, though sometimes this might cause a squabble between the female members of the two parties.
- There is only one opening of the rope on the Xeedho. This opening is a tiny knot hidden in the maze of ropes. If the man finds the opening, he would simply pull it and it disentangles itself completely – thereby opening the Xeedho.
- Several male members from the groom’s family will attempt to open the Xeedho, and all that time, the Guard keeps watch for any mistakes.
- If the Xeedho is not opened that night, they congregation returns the following night to try and open it.
The above images show the untying of the ropes on the Xeedho.
If the relatives of the groom fail to open the Xeedho, a great deal of disgrace follows them wherever they go. The bride is (sometimes) repossessed by her family saying that the groom, whose relatives could not open the Xeedho, will not be capable of catering to the needs of the bride. The women engage in verbal scuffles and a war of songs while the men resort to spiteful words of poetry being recited over a course of time. Sometimes even battles between tribes came about as a result of a Xeedho not opened properly or not opened at all.
The two images above reveal the Sati (which the Xeedho is made of) after the removal of the white cloth (Salaq) and the container with the contents.
The white cloth draped around the curvy container is called Salaq. The Xeedho is the complete thing and the outer hard covering that it is contained in is called Sati. Inside the Xeedho is small container with the Subag covered with a thick coating of dates. The dates are mixed with several spices and then ground together to make this chunky substance. It is not just Subag though, but there is also Muqmad/oodkac – small dried meatballs immersed in the Subag. After the successful opening of the Xeedho, its contents I.e. the Subag and Muqmad are distributed among the male members of both families/relatives/attendees. It is customary that the women do not eat from the Xeedho – for them is a special one taken to the girls house which is then distributed accordingly.