Ritual – Uganda

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Ugandan
Age: 27
Occupation: Alpha Security Group Employee
Residence: West Hills, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: April 14, 2008
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Luganda

Baganda Introduction Virginity Test ritual

Betty told me that the Baganda have a special ritual that they perform on every introduction ceremony. She said that before the wedding, the bride has to traditionally introduce her groom to her family.  The introduction ceremony is a big occasion, which involves numerous ritual performances. Exchanging gifts like cows, various foods most notably bananas, traditional dancing, and riddle competitions are among the numerous performances that take place. However, what fascinates her most is the “goat virgin test ritual” that determines whether the bride is still a virgin or not.

She said that sometime during the night of the day before the introduction ceremony, the soon to be bride sits down somewhere. Her maternal auntie walks a female goat with a rope around its neck in front of her. That if she happens not to be a virgin, then the goat hesitates walking no matter how hard it is pulled and pushed. For a virgin, the goat smoothly walks without any hesitation.  Betty said that this was done because men had and still have to pay more dowries for virgins, which the woman’s family impatiently expected.

Analysis

Whether the “Goat Virgin test” works or not, it is there to be explored. However, the whole test process and its significance introduce us to the customs and traditions of the Baganda ethnic group. Of course, knowing, believing and participating in the “goat virgin test” ritual separates Baganda from non-Baganda. This means that the ritual defines the Baganda identity. Of course other important factors like language and bloodlines have to be taken into consideration. Nonetheless, performing the ritual strengthens ones identity as a member of the Baganda ethnic group.

Like any other group custom, I think the “goat virgin test” ritual only works because the Baganda believe in it. I think there is some psychological aspect underlying the success of the whole process. I say so because I do not see any logical connection between walking a goat and someone being a virgin. For that reason, I would not expect an outsider (an outsider being a non-Muganda) to actually believe in the results of the test. But again, that is the nature of culture. The cultural group members can best understand it. Outsiders can try but might never deeply understand a cultural group’s nature of customs.