Initiation ceremony for the new Maasai warriors
Friday marked the arrival of a new generation of Maasai warriors, or murrans. A ritual called “Enkipaata” was marked in our district to see if the new murrans were ready to go under the knife (circumcision) and become the next Maasai army. This celebration happens every 13 years, or sometimes longer.
The murrans to-be were made to spend a night in the bush on their own with no one to guard them or protect them. The next morning elders go and see if they are alright and check whether they were able to endure the night without blankets and not fearing any wild animals.
These photos show the murrans being blessed by the elders because they have been able to spend the night out in the bush on their own. It signifies that the warriors are now ready to be able to take care of their community, and I hope of the wildlife that they live with too. The circumcision ceremony will take place a few months after this ritual.
When such an occasion happened last I was 7 years old, so I wasn’t allowed to attend. Now I am 23. You can imagine how old I will be when the next ceremony happens!
Antony – Let us hope and pray that “enkepaata” will take the place of the murrans spearing and killing the lions. This would prove they are indeed getting better at living with wildlife.
Yes Anthony, I see all those young men and start counting dead lions. I cringe. Otherwise the colourfull ceremony must be a feast for the eyes for especially for visitors.
Hi Antony. What if a young Maasai does not want to be a part of the ceremony and stay in the bush or get circumsized? Are they outcast from their home & family? Do they always agree to do this?
Lynne’s question reminds me of the circumcision experience of an acquaintance of mine. I cannot say I knew him well, as we didn’t meet very many times, but I did know him well enough not to think of him as a generic Kenyan, representing all Kenyans alike. He was very much an individual personality to me. He had come here as post-graduate student in mid-80’s, so he must have had his circumcision rite in 70’s or so. I don’t know his tribe, I just know he was the son of a priest. I cannot remember which particular Christian church it was, or even if it was Catholic or Protestant. In any case, he was subject to the traditional coming of age ritual just as any other boy in his age group. In his village, the boys had to stay in the bush (or ws it in forest? my memory fails me here) not just one night, but for the time it took for the circumcision wound to heal. During the healing time, they were supposed to live and survive alone, not meeting even each other or anyone else. However, my acquaintance could not bring himself to heed the rule, because he could not leave behind a hemophiliac friend. He tried to help the friend in every way he could, by trying to stop the bleeding, getting him food and water, and so on. But it was not in his power to make a miracle. Eventually he’d sneaked in the night back to the village to tell the mom she’d lost her son. You can imagine this experience had an impact on his character, the person he became when he grew up, although there were other things too. Having to leave home for a boarding school at age six probably shaped him more than anything else into a person who does not have a strong reliance on community, someone who believes that everyone has to fend for himself all alone. Anyway, his story didn’t flash back to me until I saw Lynne’s comment. Now that I looked up his name on the Internet, I found a well respected professor who gets invitations to universities across the Atlantic. I hope it is the same person.