Maasai Ceremonies and Rituals

The first boy's initiation is Enkipaata (pre-circumcision ceremony), and is organized by fathers of the new age set. Enkipaata can only happen, when the senior warriors are settled. A delegation of boys, aged 14 to 16 years of age, would travel across their section land for about four months announcing the formation of their new age-set. The boys are accompanied by a group of elders spearheading the formation of a new age-set. After enkipaata ceremony, boys are ready for the most important initiation known as Emuratare (circumcision).

MAASAI

deangichuki

8/13/2021 3 min read

What is life without a little bit of celebration, in fact, that is the sole thing that we, as Kenyans, have in common. In most cultures also, there is a concept of celebration when there is a change from one stage to the other. What are some of these ceremonies in the maasai culture, you would ask. Lucky, we will be discussing that today.

The many ceremonies in Maasai society are an expression of Maasai culture and self-determination. Every ceremony is a new life.

The first boy's initiation is Enkipaata (pre-circumcision ceremony), and is organized by fathers of the new age set. Enkipaata can only happen, when the senior warriors are settled. A delegation of boys, aged 14 to 16 years of age, would travel across their section land for about four months announcing the formation of their new age-set. The boys are accompanied by a group of elders spearheading the formation of a new age-set. After enkipaata ceremony, boys are ready for the most important initiation known as Emuratare (circumcision).

Circumcision ceremony is the most vital initiation of all rite of passages in the Maasai society because it elevates an individual from childhood to adulthood. In order for the boy to be initiated he must prove himself to the community. The healing process will take 3-4 months, and boys must remain in black cloths for a period of 4-8 months. After they are healed, they have become a new person and receive the status of a new warrior.

After circumcision, the next step is to form the Emanyatta (warrior's camp).

Emanyatta contains twenty to forty houses randomly selected by warriors. Each Maasai section has its own age-set. A special pole, planted in the middle of the camp, is used as a flagpole. The white and blue colored cloth, the Maasai nation's flag, is tied to the pole before planting, and remains there as long as the Morrans (warriors) are still in the camp. Two morran chiefs are chosen to lead, guide and represent their camp. The purpose of the camp is to keep men of the same age set together and fulfill their role as a military force. After the emanyatta camp the warriors would head for eunoto ceremony (senior warrior's initiation).

The Eunoto ceremony is performed by members of the age set, ten years after warriorhood. It marks the status of a warrior transitioning to a senior warrior. This initiation also permits senior warriors to marry, which in turn prepares them to become future fathers. The ceremony takes place in another specially chosen camp that includes a total of forty-nine houses. The forty ninth house is known as Osinkira, a large mud hut made specifically for the Oloiboni(propehet). Warriors on a daily basis will entertain the Oloiboni until the event is over. During the event, an animal horn is set on fire and warriors are forced to take a piece out before it is completely burned.

A few months after the Eunoto, warriors form a small camp for Enkang e-kule, the milk ceremony. The milk ceremony requires the entire age set to shave their red ochre stained hair. It is the mother's role to shave her graduating son.

The next initiation is Enkang oo-nkiri (meat ceremony/initiation camp), which is performed in a selected camp that contains ten to twenty houses. The selected houses are from wives of the initiating junior elders. The age-set is allowed to have as many meat camps as they need throughout the region. A specially chosen bull is slaughtered for the ceremony. At the end of the meat ceremony, men and women fight against one another for the specially roasted meat.

The last age set's initiation is Orngesherr (junior's elder initiation) and marks the status of a junior elder. It is performed in a selected camp that contains twenty or more houses. Every man is honored with an elder's chair in this ceremony. This chair becomes a man's friend until it is broken. If a man dies before the chair breaks, his older son will adopt the chair. After this ceremony, a man would become an elder and would assume full responsibility of his own family. He is now allowed to move away from his father's homestead and form his own homestead.

What are some of the celebrations in your culture? Are they any similar with those of the Maasai? Share with us.