Neue Zeitschrift für Missionswissenschaft, 24:2 (1968), 133-144

Marriage customs hold a place of prime importance in cultural anthropology. Fro the pastor of an area too, it is indispensable that he know the marriage customs of his people. It is especially for pastors among the Maguzawa that these pages are written, but also for those facing similar pastoral problems elsewhere, and anyone interested in this contribution to comparative anthropology. The factual information contained herein is based for the most part on my personal observations. For certain details which I did not have the opportunity to witness, I had to rely on interrogation of the people. I thank the Rev. Carson F. Champlin, O.P., for his pointers and for checking the facts with his own experience.

Briefly, who are the Maguzawa? The boundary between Nigeria and the Niger Republic cuts through the Hausa part of West Africa. although Hausa is understood throughout most of Northern Nigeria, it is a first language only in the northwest corner of Nigeria: in Sokoto, Katsina and Kano Provinces, and the northern edge of Zaria Province. The Hausa people are dominantly Muslim, but still large numbers of them are pagan. The Maguzawa are a major group of non-Islamized Hausa who retain a social identity distinct from their Muslim surroundings. Although heavily overlaid by Muslim influence, their culture and especially their marriage customs retain much of their indigenous brilliance and colourfulness, as will be seen from the following pages.


Some of the marriage customs are slightly different from one Maguzawa locale to another. The ones here described are those prevailing in the Malumfashi area of Katsina Province.

Marriage age

A girl who has never been married before is called a buduruwa; if she is a divorcee or a widow she is called a bazawara. A young girl is a candidate for marriage as soon as her breasts develop. The people always say she is over twelve at this time. Since no records are kept, it is impossible to tell the exact age, but the people's estimation can be accepted as an approximation.

A boy who has never been married before is a saurayi (pl. samari). A man who was married before and is now without a wife is a gwauro or tuzulu, but it is not polite to remind him of the fact, since it is a matter of shame for a man to be without a wife when he is beyond the age of marrying. Boys are generally older than girls when they get married, but are still quite young.

Choosing a partner

A girl learns how to win admiration when she is very young, especially in the troupe of 'yan mata (young girls), who dance and sing at weddings and so many other functions. But serious courting does not begin until about a year before the age she may be married.

A boy will usually pick out his girl himself; he will find her by visiting other compounds or in the market or anywhere. He will talk to her and try to get her to like him. There is a real falling in love, but it is limited by family procedures. they boy must speak to one of his older brothers who will take up the matter with the parents of the girl, giving them small presents on the occasion. At this time there may be five or six boys requesting (nema) the same girl.

When the family agrees upon one of the suitors, the couple can be said to be engaged. Ordinarily the girl can chose whom she likes of her suitors, but there are some cases when she is forced into a marriage, perhaps with the only one who asks for her. If this happens, she is never forced to stay with the man after marriage. She can run away, sometimes without ever having lived with him, or more often, the marriage breaks up after a year or so. Usually, it seems they will try to make a go of the marriage.

Courting and engagement can take place at any time of the year, as far as I know. but the ceremonies of marriage take place only after the rains, during the seasons kaka, which starts with the harvesting of the groundnuts, and rani, which starts with the harvesting of the cotton and lasts until bazara, the humid season before the rains.

During the engagement period

After engagement the girl may visit the boy at his compound, and a Katsinawa girl may be visited by him in her compound, but a Kanawa girl may not.

One of the problems at this time is premarital relationships. The couple are expected to visit from time to time and spend the night, or at least the evening, together. They are not alone in the hut, because small children are left with them, but when it gets dark the children go to sleep. According to the pagan ideal, there is supposed to be no intercourse before marriage, but most admit that in the majority of cases there is. Many do keep the rules however, as far as can be credibly ascertained.

Any pregnancy before marriage is solved with native medicine administered by the old women, according to Ludger Reuke. (1) I have not found out anything about this myself.

From the time the girl is engaged until well after the marriage ceremonies, she is supposed to and does take on a strong sense of shame or embarrassment (kunya) regarding her marriage. If strangers mention the subject of her marriage in her presence, she will blush or run and hide.

The jarfâ

When the marriage season begins, the first of the ceremonies to take place is the jarfâ, the tattooing of the girl's breasts. The people will recognize when this ceremony is being held by the distinctive drumming which accompanies it. The local barber (wanzami) is called, who works with a scalpel, a pan of water with which to clean the blood off the scalpel, and a dish containing a mixture of fire ash and henna dye (lalle). The girl sits on the ground, leaning her back against a tree or some other kind of rest. The wanzami carves the upper surface of the breasts and the whole chest up to and including the shoulders. Most often a good job is done, and the result is quite pleasing; but sometimes the cuts become infected and the result is horrible. Sometimes also the condition of the girl's blood or skin makes the healing result in thick scar whelps.

A large crowd of people is present at the jarfâ, but the principle guests are the girl's kawaye (special girl friends of her age) and all the other young girls nearby. While three drummers play, the girls sing. Since the future bride is not supposed to show any signs of pain, the singing and drumming serves the very important function of creating a hypnotic atmosphere. The girl will also smoke and join in the singing to keep calm.

The jarfâ may be given to as many as three girls successively on one occasion. Sometimes, where Muslim influence has eroded the native custom, the jarfâ is done privately; the girl goes to the wanzami in town where it is done without ceremony.

The sa rana

A week or more after the jarfâ, around noontime, a public betrothal ceremony is held in the girl's compound. It is often referred to as a tariwa, which simply means an assembly, but is properly called sa rana, which means setting the day, namely the day of the feast (bikî) at the groom's house, when the bride is taken there for good.

The relatives of the groom must bring to the sa rana nine cakes of salt, nine mats (tabermai), nine jugs of native beer (giya, made from guinea corn), a certain number of kola nuts (goro), and about fifteen shillings. These gifts, whose quotas sometimes vary, are divided among the relatives of the girl's mother and of her father according to a strict procedure.

When the gifts have been divided, a maroki (a loud mouth bard, beggar and master of ceremonies) calls everyone's attention to hear the day of the bikî. He speaks to the dictation of the uncle of the bride or the man otherwise responsible for her, who is called the baban amariya. The day determined will usually be in the following lunar month. An example of what the maroki will announce is "Watan gobe, goma da shi!" the 10th of next month. After this announcement, the relatives go to sit in their respective groupings: relatives of the mother of the bride, of the father of the bride, of the mother of the groom, and of the father of the groom the women apart from the men and these, together with the mutanen gari (lit. "townspeople", but it means any outside guests), drink the giya that was brought. The groom does not attend this ceremony; while it lasts, the bride stays in the back of the compound or in a hut with her special friends.

The relatives of the groom go back to the groom's compound for another party in the evening. It is called tuban takalmi (repentance of the shoe), because their feet are sore from all the walking from their house to the bride's and back.

The Daurin aure

The biggest day of the marriage ceremonies is the bikî, or feast, at the compound of the groom. The day before this there is a bikî at the compound of the bride. Usually on the day before the bride's bikî a ceremony binding the marriage (daurin are) is held in her compound. Sometimes the daurin aure is held a day or two early so that it will not conflict with some other social event, such as one of the marriage ceremonies of another relative. Also, during the Muslim month Dhû-l-Qa`da, preceding the month Dhû-l-Hijja during which the Great Feast (`Îd al-Kabîr = `Îd al-Adhâ) falls, there is no daurin aure. The people fear that if there is, the girl may die or have a miscarriage. This fear seems to originate in a misconception of the ihrâm, the state of ritual consecration of those who make the pilgrimage to Mecca at this time, who must abstain from sexual relations from the time they come into the region of Mecca until they have finished the pilgrimage rites. To avoid the month Dhû-l-Qa`da, the daurin aure sometimes is anticipated by several weeks, even though the bikî may be held in the middle of the forbidden month.

The daurin are is a somewhat serious occasion. There is no drumming, singing or dancing. The relatives of the groom bring gifts, usually several jugs of giya, and perhaps a ram or goat, or a suitcase or cloth, or some other valuable gift for the parents of the bride to give her. These gifts are sometimes omitted, but the relatives of the groom may never omit sending a new taberma (mat), on which the one who performs the ceremony sits, and about one hundred goro (kola nuts), which are distributed according to a strict ration among the relatives of the bride's mother and the relatives of her father. Some also are broken and distributed to all present.

The usual minister of the daurin aure is a Muslim malam, summoned by the baban amariya (elder or father of the bride). The malam sits outside the compound while the people eat tuho and drink the giya. When they are finished, they call him in for the ceremony. The taberma is spread for him to sit on, and the gifts are brought for him to examine. After examining what has been brought and seeing that the kola nuts are distributed properly, he interrogates the wakilin ango (representative of the groom) and the wakilin amariya (representative of the bride). These are the elder brothers, or the equivalent, of the bride and groom, since the latter may not attend. The malam asks them for how much money the marriage is being made. The answer is the amount of the dowry which the parents keep to spend on the bride's wedding presents. It is usually exactly half the total dowry; the other half is spent to equip the groom.

After the malam has been assured that the dowry has been paid the average total is thirty pounds, paid not by the groom, but by his parents or brothers he collects his stipend, anything from 3s 6d to 5s, and the kudin zaure. The latter, usually 4s is given to the village head (mai gari) so that he will bear witness to the marriage.

Then the malam mumbles four Arabic prayers from memory; after each of them he calls out "Fâtiha" (sûra 1 of the Qur'ân), to indicate that the prayer is finished and the contract sealed. At this word all present, even the Maguzawa, spit on their hands and wipe their faces according to the Muslim way of prayer prevalent there. Then the people disperse.

Daurin aure without a Muslim malam

In a few places the Maguzawa perform the daurin aure themselves, according to their own rite. One of the Maguzawa elders makes the interrogations the same as the malam does. Then he sits on the taberma provided by the relatives of the groom, while a maroki stands in front of him, facing east. The elder styles himself a limami (leader of prayer), while the maroki becomes a ladan (Prayer caller), borrowing the Muslim titles. The elder says to the maroki, "Look to the east." "I am looking." "what do you see?" "I see sheep, goats, camels, horses, donkeys, chicken, motors," etc. "Where are they going?" "To the house of Muhamu and Fatsuma" (Muhammad and his daughter Fâtima, stylized names for the bride and groom). Then the elder takes the metal part of a fartanya (hand hoe) and a gazara (small barbed piece of metal) and strikes them several times, saying, "aure na daure" ("The marriage is bound"). At these words the women make a trilling call (gudâ, also common among women in North Africa) as a sign of joy.

The same thing is repeated with the maroki facing north, west and south. After all four are finished, the women, who are standing in the background, break into a choral wail, because the girl from their compound is leaving them.

In either the Muslim or the Maguzawa form of daurin aure, often several marriages are bound successively on the same occasion. It is difficult to determine whether the Maguzawa rite is a ceremony dating from pre-Islamic times and overlaid with Muslim influence, or whether it is a recent innovation parodying the Muslim rite.

Decoration of the bride and groom

A few days before the bikî of the groom, the bride and groom have their arms and legs stained with lalle (henna) by their mothers or the old women related to them. The women rub the mixture on the arms and legs, then wrap the legs and put each arm into a zunguru, an empty form of a gourd which is shaped like a sheath for the arm. The dye is kept on all night for the few nights preceding the bikî. It leaves a red stain which is especially noticeable on the palm of the hands and around the finger nails.

At the same time the dying is begun, the bride and groom begin wearing at all times a white string around their necks from which a small lump is hanging wrapped in white string. Inside is a piece of wood from a certain local tree. No one was able to explain what it is for. Undoubtedly, originally it was some kind of charm. But now it is merely a customary sign of a bride or of a groom, and is not worn as a protection against any evil.

Also, whenever the bride appears openly, she wears a veil which she draws all the more around her face the more she is called upon to manifest kunya (embarrassment). The groom too wears a veil of a different kind, a white cloth pinned under his neck and hanging over his shoulders. during this time the bride and groom do no unnecessary work or travelling.

The bride's bikî

If the bride is a buduruwa (not married before), the day before she is brought to the compound of her husband she is washed in her own compound by the old women. If the bride is a bazawara (married before), this ceremony is omitted. The washin of the bride is the occasion for a full fledged party. Drummers, masu goge (players of any bowed instrument) and all sorts of entertainers come in, mostly to earn a little money. Also the whole market of town seems to move in, with lamps burning and everything imaginable for sale, especially meat and other food. Each group of invitees have their own place to sit where they will eat the food and giya which they have brought or is provided for them. The compound is very crowded and it is hard to move around.

There is general party making until the time for washing the bride. She is brought into the middle of the compound and seated on a small stool. On the ground nearby is a kwarya (calabash) containing water and the green vine yadiya. Round about stand the women who will do the washing, a crowd of the bride's kawaye (girl friends) and onlookers. The girl is dressed only in a wando (short pants).

The old women first put cotton in the ears of the bride to protect them during the washing. Then they tie a piece of yadiya around the neck of the girl, around her right wrist and around her right ankle. Then one of the women dips a (cup) into the water and moves it over the head of the girl circularly without pouring it. after a few times around, a relative of the girl knocks the koko out of the old woman's hand and it spills on the ground. This happens three times before the women are allowed to proceed with the washing. It is a ceremonial expression of the family's reluctance to see their girl go on with the marriage and leave them. The women wash the girl thoroughly with soap and water, except for the private parts which the girl washes by herself later on. during this whole ritual there is intense drumming and singing.

When the washin is finished, the old women attempt to put on the girl the clothes of a married woman. But the bride struggles and fights until they overcome her. Then she is led away by her girl friends behind some hut where she will finish washing and put on her fine marriage clothes. While she is doing this, all the girls lean facewards on the outside wall of a hut and wail fiercely in chorus, some breaking into real tears. The wailing stops when the bride is finished dressing.

Shortly after, she is led to a prominent place in the centre of the compound. with her head and faced veiled so that she can just peep out, she sits usually on a turmi (mortar), but sometimes on a log together with all the little children of the compound. Here, with all gathered around, the kirarin gidâ (invocation by the house) takes place. A relative of the girl's father and one of her mother each make a kirari. The relative of the girl's mother may be a woman. the kirarin gidâ is a blessing of the bride. It is in poetry and difficult Hausa, which not many Hausa people completely understand, but is handed down from generation to generation. Each compound has its own different kirari. some, but not all of these calls include the invocation of a spirit. Typically they list several evils, including various sorts of harmful insects, and the wish that none of them come near the bride. The blessing is given three times, with the ending "Allah she yi maki albarka" ("May God bless you") after the first two. After each pronouncement of the kirari one woman trills (gudâ). The kirarin gidâ is the end of the ceremonies that night; the rest of the time is spent in party making until dawn, or even to 10:00 A.M.

The groom's bikî

The next night the bride is brought to the groom's house, arriving there just as darkness falls. She is accompanied by all her female friends and relatives, the small girls towards the head of the procession and the old women in the rear. All of them carry on their heads the kayan aure, the wedding gifts for the bride, brought with the dowry money. When they arrive at the compound of the groom, they wait outside until the ceremony of washing the groom is finished. Sometimes they enter immediately after he is washed; sometimes they wait until after the kirarin gidâ.

The groom is washed exactly as the bride. He usually wears a warke, a leather loincloth. Once I saw incense burning during the washing, on a shard near the pan of water. On the same occasion, besides the yadiya, there were gautâ (garden egg) seeds in the water. When the groom goes off to wash his private parts, there is no struggle, as there is with the bride.

The groom comes out for the kirarin gidâ dressed in a new rigâ, with his veil covering most of his face. The kirari is performed the same as for the bride, although I have never seen a woman make the kirari for the groom. After the kirari, the groom goes to a shelter especially prepared for himself in a secluded part of the compound. He stays in this hideaway with about five special friends. Then he can take off the veil and neck piece he had put on a few days before.

When the women enter the compound with the bride usually after the kirarin gidâ they lay all the gifts on the ground in one place where they are admired for a few minutes, then wrapped up or put away to prevent stealing. The bride goes to her own hideaway with a few of her special friends.

In the meantime, the young girls begin the bilô. One of the girls pretends to be the bride and kneels, veiled with a pan on her head, in the middle of a circle of the rest of the girls. To the accompaniment of drummers and led in song by one of their members, they dance in a circle, taunting the bride and groom until they are given something, usually two shillings and two packages of cigarettes, which they divide among themselves. The songs they sing are known to all Maguzawa. One of the popular ones is Angon buzuzu, which makes the groom like an insect who goes into a hole with his mate and forgets to be generous to his friends. Another taunts the bride for being a sheave of arrows, that is, she is straight and undeveloped in her breasts and hips.

When the girls are paid off, they stop the bilô, and the guests drift to the places where they will eat and drink. Each group of relatives is in a separate place, as at the sa rana. The party goes on until dawn or later. When anyone gets tired, he sleeps on a mat under any of the numerous corn stalk shelters provided.

The days following the wedding

The groom will not meet the bride that night. In a few places the custom exists of the newly weds' beating each other the next morning. Any number of significations could be attached to this, but most people think it is a little crude, and it is not practised in their compounds.

If the party was small and the relatives are few, the groom will be sleeping with his wife the next night. But ordinarily the girl friends of the bride will stay around fro about four days and sleep with her at night. When the young girls go home, then the groom will sleep with the bride.

Before they leave, however, they will often perform what is both a ritual and a trick on the groom. It is called borin ango, which means spirit-summoning for the groom, in reference to the bori cult, widespread among the Hausa. (2) and the various playful forms of imitation of the bori ceremonies. This case is strictly playful. The bride cooks food for her husband for the first time. Her girl friends take the food, sneak up on the groom and throw it on him. Then they leave the husband and wife to themselves.

Before the wedding, the groom must have ready for the bride a hut in excellent condition, either one newly built for her or his own old hut completely refurbished. Whenever the groom sleeps with her, he does os in her hut. If he had a separate hut, it is often turned into a kitchen or left to fall down. Later on in the marriage he will build a new nut for himself. The days following the wedding are spent in putting the final touches on the bride's hut. She usually gets a new Vono bed for her wedding and a set of brass dishes which are hung along the wall close to the roof. When may also have a new wooden cabinet, decorated with silver plating. she will have many new enamelled metal dishes which are plastered onto the wall of her hut. The sign of a new bride's hut is a wall completely covered with these dishes. she will take them down one by one as she needs them. There may still be some on the wall after several years of marriage.

Karin kirgi

The karin kirgi means "the time of reckoning". when it is first noticed that the bride has conceived, an abokin wasa who can be the wife of the husband's older brother, the younger brother of the husband, or a woman of the compound whom the bride is especially fond of gets some butter and sneaks up on the bride. The abokin wasa quickly rubs it on the chest of the girl between the breasts. This operation is called murza. When, in spite of her resistance, it has been accomplished, several other friends join to catch the bride and put on her a new cloth they have bought for her. With this cloth they cover her breasts and she goes away to her mother's compound for a few days. When she returns, when has a new status, that of an expectant mother. She is now supposed to keep her breasts covered until she gives birth to her first child. At this time also, she loses the shame of being a new bride, which she had ever since engagement. The karin kirgi is the last ceremony in the sequence of marriage customs.


Here those customs described above which pose pastoral problems are considered, and experiments in adaptation described.

Marriage age

The Mission Faculties (1965) demand twelve years for the girl and fourteen for the boy. In his first impression, the missionary may have doubts about some of the cases. But for one thing, the signs of age are different among Hausa people and White people, so the missionary, without anything else to go on, cannot rely on his own estimation. Secondly a doubt should be resolved in favour of the people.

Though having the canonical age is no real difficulty, the priest may be wise to dissuade marriages of people who are so young. In the case of a Catholic boy who is of a reasonable age and is seeking a girl who is extremely young and whose parents have no connections with christianity, it is better to let the boy go ahead, because if the boy tells her to wait a year, her parents may giver her to someone else. In a Catholic family, the girl could be persuaded to wait until she is older. Likewise the Catholic boy can always wait until he is of reasonable age.

During the engagement period

The custom of the engaged couple staying together at night cannot be altogether forbidden, because it is not a necessary occasion of sin, and the people insist that if the boy does not stay with her at night the (pagan) girl will conclude that he does not love her and will break the engagement. but the custom can be mitigated. Some say that they must like in the same bed together all night, while others say that the boy can sit and talk with her until about midnight, when he can go home. We can encourage the custom of the latter and at least instruct the former to observe restraint.

The girl's shame or embarrassment regarding her marriage makes it difficult for the priest or catechist to instruct her about marriage. The priest can sometimes get a short instruction across to her, especially if he meets her several times and she gets used to him. But even here she is not at ease and it is questionable how much she profits from such instruction. The most effective instruction has been given by the groom when he visits her, as has been proved in the case of two good Catholic boys. One possibility that has not yet been tired is to have sisters instruct the girl.

The daurin aure

One of our problems is how to incorporate the daurin aure in a Christian marriage. If the parents of the girl are Catholic, they will have whatever ceremony the priest wants. But if they are not, they will follow the custom of their compound, be it the Muslim or the Maguzawa rite. They will not allow the priest to interfere with what they do. since the boy is never present, and has nothing to do with the daurin aure, there is no difficulty if the girl's parents want to have a Muslim malam do the ceremony.

Only in the case of a Maguzawa daurin aure was I ever allowed to take part. I sat on the mat next to the Maguzawa elder, and each time after he struck the fartanya and pronounced the words, I took the fartanya and said, "Abin da Allah ya hada, kada mutum shi raba. Aure na daure" ("What God has joined together, let not man set apart. The marriage is bound"). Then I struck the fartanya. This I did our times, each time following the elder for each of the four directions taken by the maroki. Since the bikî was not until several days later, I was also able, on another evening, to have a Mass in the girl's compound, with the couple exchanging their vows in the presence of all the bride's girl friends and many other people, about seventy-five in all.

Decoration of the bride and groom

Some question may arise concerning the neck piece which the bride and groom wear. I discussed the matter at length with the Maguzawa Catholics and with the catechists, and we saw no reason to object to the practice.

Also, because of the seclusion of the bride and groom at this time, ti is understandable that they cannot come to church on Sundays from the time they are decorated until after the bikî.

The Christian form of marriage

To have the bride and groom exchange their promises before a priest and two witnesses is a problem only when the girl and her parents are pagan, which is ordinarily the case. The girl will not have any objections, but the parents will have nothing to do with a strange new rite introduced by the priest, even if it is explained to them. At least this happened in three cases our of four. One thing we do not have to worry about is their refusing the Christian marriage rite until the girl's fertility is proved or until the dowry is paid (as happens among some other tribes). The Maguzawa never throw their wives out for infertility; if they take another wife, the first one will go only on her own accord. Nor do they allow their girls to move in with a man until the dowry is fully paid and all the ceremonies performed. though the latter complications are absent, we have to face the fact that in many cases we cannot have the proper Christian form before the couple are living together, and this through no fault of their own.

We can always fix up the marriages after they are living together, by having the couple make the marriage promises or, if necessary, by a sanatio in radice. But this is no answer to what we should do before they are living together. One solution might be for the priest to interrogate each separately and informally in the presence of two witnesses to their consent, or to have some other form of marriage by proxy. This would avoid arousing fear and objections with the girl's parents. but the drawback with this solution is that at this time, because of kunya, the girl is incapable of speaking seriously about her marriage to a stranger. In the case mentioned above, when the boy and girl exchanged promises at a Mass in her compound, she overcame her kunya to some extent because her husband was present and she had the approval of all in the compound. Even so, she kept her face completely veiled during almost the entire ceremony, and was very timid in expressing her promises.

A last resort, which has not yet been tried, but may be the best solution for the majority of cases, is to invoke canon 1098, which provides that if a priest cannot be had in thirty days by whatever sort of impossibility the spouses can marry themselves without a priest. The girl is perfectly at ease when she is alone with the boy, and is capable of such a serious act. The priest would have to explain to the boy how they should make the promises, and impress on him that these promises make a real marriage with all its commitments and obligations. After the bikî when the couple are free to do as they like without asking their parents, they can renew their consent publicly in church and receive the nuptial blessing.

The ideal I think we should aim for, and which we achieved in one case, would be for the priest to officiate at or assist in the daurin aure, then to have the formal exchange of promises between the spouses before the priest and two witnesses in her compound. This may have to take place before the daurin aure if the bride's bikî is to be the next day. Finally, after the couple are together, they can receive the nuptial blessing in church. A Mass could be had at this occasion, or in the girl's compound when the couple exchange their promises, or on both occasions.

Christian unity and permanency of marriage

The pagan and Muslim Hausa are polygamists in their view of marriage. If a man has only one wife, it is just a matter of time and money before he takes another. In fact, it is a matter of pride for a man to have several wives, because it means that he is prosperous and resourceful. Also it means that he will have extra help on the farm. Many women welcome an extra wife in the family for this reason. And they prefer the second wife to be a young one; they are not afraid that she will steal away the husband's affections, but want someone they can train in their own way and give orders to, which they could not do if the second wife was a bazawara.

for the most part, there has been little difficulty in getting Catholic young men and women to accept monogamy. The Christian arguments for it appeal to hem. the older men are not easily persuaded, nor are they persuaded by the Christian faith in general, but they are not opposed to monogamy if their children practice it. I have heard of no case where a man took an extra wife because of pressure from his relatives or elders. If the catechumens and Catholic children are well instructed, I do not foresee that polygamy will be as great a problem for them as it is for members of other tribes where the parental pressure for polygamy is greater.

Another reason for polygamy is the sexual abstinence the Maguzawa must maintain with their wives from the time of her pregnancy until the child is weaned two years after birth. This is a serious problem, but too complicated to be considered in these pages.

The presumption in pagan and Muslim Hausa marriages is against unity, but for permanency. Although it seems the majority of marriages break up it is not unusual for a woman to have been passed to five different men one occasionally meets an old woman who has been with her husband since she was first married. Although more statistical study and survey of attitudes is needed, the initial conclusion is that when a boy and a girl who are getting married love one another and are not forced into the marriage, their intention is to remain together for life. If the marriage breaks up, it is because of something that happens after the marriage.

The big problem with Maguzawa Christian marriages will be permanency. But the problem is not insurmountable. In a good number of cases, the man was baptized after his pagan marriage, so if his pagan wife left him he could marry again. But so far we have had no case of such a marriage breaking up. In one case, the wife went away for three months because of the urging of her sisters who wanted her to marry someone else, but because the man was well advised, he went the long distance to where she was and asked her to return, which she did. There have been squabbles among Catholic couples, but they sought advice and, after talking with the priest, they resolved their difficulties.

In all these cases, if the people did not have Christian instruction and advice, the marriages would have broken up. The couples have a basic desire for the marriage to last. with a little help when trouble arises it seems they will respond and stay together in peace.


1. Die Maguzawa in Nordnigeria, unpublished doctoral thesis for the University of Münster, 1967, p. 60.

2. Cf. ibid., pp.l 110-124.