The prophet Esa was born to the Golla Malla clan in Zara, Gamo, in Ethiopia about 1888. He launched his popular ministry around 1920 in his home community of Zara near Chencha and his influence spread to Gamo, Kucha Boroda, Gofa and Wolaitta.
Whether he received his inspiration for his messages through divine dreams or through contact with the Orthodox Church is unknown. He gathered his followers in fields and market places to preach a three-fold message:
Firstly, the people were to worship creator God, Tosa. The head of the house was to take pure white honey early Sunday morning and, with his family standing behind him, face east. He was to dip his fingers into the honey, flick it towards the sky and say three times, “You are the creator of all, Tosa, have mercy upon us. We offer this which is the best we have to you.” Objects of divination were to be destroyed.
Secondly, an adaptation of rituals was urged wherein family prayers were offered to Tosa instead of offering oblations to ancestral spirits at the center pole of the house.
Thirdly, Esa stirred up social consciousness and ethical sensibilities.
In 1924, Esa was arrested at his Zara home by the provincial governor of Chencha and escorted by armed soldiers to Addis Ababa where he died in prison.
Esa was a substantial influence in southern Ethiopia as both pre-Christian prophet and providential precursor of Christianity.
Balisky, E. Paul, 1997, “Wolaitta Evangelists: A Study of Religious Innovation in Southern Ethiopia, 1937-1975,” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Aberdeen, 1997), 115-132.
Singleton, Michael , 1978, “Asa - Pagan Prophet or Providential Precursor?”, Afer, Vol.II, 82-89.
This article, received in 2002, was compiled by Paul and Lila Balisky, missionaries with SIM International in Addis Ababa and members of the DACB Advisory Council.