Women with their Children

The Dagaaba customary marriage is exogenous in nature. This means that a man must marry outside his patriclan (father’s clan). Sexual intercourse between two members in the same clan is called incest and in the past both of the offenders could be ostracized.

Marriage is the means to perpetuate and enlarge the Dagaaba clan. Children are born into the clan through marriage and new relationship with other clans. Villages are established through marriage. Children and relationship in the eyes of a Dagao are the core values of life.

Through marriage and relationship in the Dagaaba tradition, a person knows that at his or her old age, there would be sons, daughters and grandchildren to relieve him/her from work.
A man or woman knows that at his or funeral, there would be crowd.

A man knows that, there would be posterity to keep the house (family) standing.
When one marries and dies, his children and grandchildren keep his memories and call him an ancestor.

Marriage in the Dagaaba tradition is a cultural obligation for the Dagao. A young man or woman who refuses to marry becomes an object of disdain and shame in the community. it is even worse if he or she dies unmarried. Such persons are given a disgraceful funeral performance and a shameful burial.

As an exogenous marriage system, marriage is never a private arrangement between the young man and young woman. It is a social event which creates a series of new relationships between the members of the clan of the man and the clan of the woman. Because of this communal nature of the Dagaaba marriage system, a woman is considered married to all the members of the husband’s clan.

This means that, the services and duties of the wife are directed not only to the husband, but to the members of the husband’s clan. Similarly, members of the clan of the husband have special duties towards the family of the wife. This can be seen clearly when a member of the wife dies, the family of the husband sends cock to the funeral.

In Dagaaba marriage, the guardianship of the bride is transferred to the clan of the groom which has the legal right to discipline her. The good behavior of the bride depends on the responsibility of the husband’s clan members.

The main requirement of the Dagaaba marriage is the giving out of the dowry (bride wealth) which is called in the Dagaare as “kyaro” or “kyor”. This is required for the validity of the marriage. The bride wealth is sent to the family of the woman.

Before the wealth is sent to the family of the woman, the family head of the man must take 360 cowries known as “libizu” (head money) to the ancestral shrine to inform the ancestors that, a stranger would be brought into the family.

This ritual is an invocation of the ancestors to give fertility to the would-be-wife. More importantly, it is to surrender the woman’s fertility exclusively to the husband.

Any infidelity on the part of the woman would be a crime against her husband. If she prepare food or serve the husband drinks in the state of the adultery, the husband would die. The woman too must undergo purification if not she would also die. This is what the Dagaaba called “moɔrɔ”.

This rituals also explains the significance of the widowhood rite. Although the widowhood rite is to ritually separate the widow from the dead husband to allow her re-marry, the main motive of the widowhood rite is to purify the widow of any infidelity she might have committed against the husband when her was alive.

After the ancestral consultation and the performance of the necessary sacrifices, the elders of the husband’s family then send the “kyaro” to the family of the woman.

Some Elders Doing the Counting

The brothers and cousins of the woman also participate in the marriage arrangement by giving their consent. In the typical Dagaaba tradition, the formalization and confirmation of the woman is when she is allowed to count the first five (5) cowries that form part of the bride wealth. This is important because, it indicates that, the woman has accepted the marriage proposal of the husband and also indicates that she agreed to the collective will of the members of the man’s clan or family to the man. This then give the woman’s family the green light to accept and collect the wealth.

The dowry I important because; it is a sign of guarantee and witness of the marriage. As soon as the dowry is given to the parents of the woman, she automatically becomes a member of the husband’s family but can be called back to her father’s clan if the in-laws are not doing their social obligations. If the dowry is not performed, all children born of that couple would be sent to the woman’s family. In case any of the children or the woman dies when the bride wealth is not paid, the funeral of such deceased would be performed in the woman’s family.

It is the cultural obligation of the father of the boy to give the bride wealth of the first wife of his son. If the boy wants to marry a second wife, he himself must work harder to pay the bride wealth.

Source: Dagara Culture Connect TV

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