Tigre marriage institution

Written by: Pasha Wad Hassri

Tigre marriage institution is fitted with a mechanism, which protects

the final union from possible breakdown. The two families strengthen their ties, starting from the betrothal period, by exchanging gifts and helping each other.

These family ties go a long way to include many of the next kin. This is one of the reasons why the marriage bond is far stronger than any other sort of relationship.

Among the Tigre, marriage can be contracted for the following reasons:-

• If two families are well off and want to keep the wealth where it belongs, they make pledge of a marriage alliance referring to the two unborn children still lying in their respective wombs.

• If two families have blood feud between them, one way to settle the quarrel is through a marriage alliance.

• In the event that the father of the girl is in financial straits and that the only way he can solve his problem is by marrying his daughter off to a rich man, he takes the face saving move.

Wedding feast and aftermath:

Tigre wedding feast begins at the house of the bride. The bridegroom arrives from his village at the bride’s village. He is however ‘welcomed’ in the village amid light-hearted insults put to song by the village girls, to the effect that they wish him to become the servant of the bride.

The Tigre wedding ‘ritual’ is too long and involved to relate it in detail here. Suffice is to mention the most interesting elements which distinguish the Tigre traditional marriage ceremony from those other groups.

In brief, after the business of dealing with “bride-price” and dowry is concluded and total agreement is reached, the bridegroom is free to take his bride to his village.

The moment the bride gets ready to leave, she is met with shouts of joy, ululation, dances and songs including a pouring forth of blessings from the elderly, which is mixed with all sorts of pseudo-religious rituals that augurs well the spouses.

The bride is then mounted on a mule’s back besides the best man or on a camel (inside a small tent) and starts her journey to the village of her husband.

On here arrival at the village, she is, in her turn, met by signing and dancing girls who pour their light-hearted insults on her (in the same manner that the bridegroom had been insulted in the village of the bride).

They too sing insulting songs, which depict that the bridge had worn a quilt in her village and that she is now luckily wearing ‘chiffon’ (quality textile) in her husband’s village.

Among the Ben Amir clan, the wedding feast continues for a whole week, and during all this time the bridegroom is surrounded by his friends and is not allowed to approach his bride let alone lie with her.

He is however permitted to get near her once, and that is in the middle of the night, when, together with his best man, he sneaks into the bride’s room and touches her face and her neck.

He makes such a move because according to a belief current among this ethnic group, the Jinns (fairies) may whisk the bride away to another land or even transform her into another creature unless the bridegroom takes this superstitious step first.

On the seventh night, all the friends of the groom except the best man leave the house. The bridegroom enters the bride’s room in a manner, which all the women in the house take to mean that they should leave the room too. However, tradition prescribes that two women remain in the room as ‘witnesses’.

As the groom approaches the bride, she tries to make her escape by joining the departing women. But, according to tradition, the groom is supposed to stop her even if he has to use a lot of force.

The bride too knows the game well and she would have already let her fingernails grow to a dangerous size solely for the occasion. As the groom lunges wildly at her, she starts defending herself, clawing at him desperately, and leaves him with a bleeding arm (which is later used by the groom as proof that he had had a real fight with the bride before he could seduce her).


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