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A Big Step for Olbalbal Teenagers

These days warriors go off to school and during leave time join in the activities of their age mates. But it wasn’t always so. In 1967 when stationed with Fr. Vince Donovan at Loliondo near the Kenya border, Vince asked for my help. He had chosen a boy, Parkurito, to enter the seminary and asked me to talk to the parents and get him ready to go off to school. I was still new to Maasai country and little did I know what a formidable task that was going to be. It seems that Parkurito was a warrior and there were some major hoops to jump through before he could join his secondary school mates. As a warrior he could not eat anything or even take a drink of water without sharing with at least one other warrior. It turned out that the boy must become an elder before leaving for school. He went through a telescoped version of the rites of passage and thus technically became “old”, no longer a warrior. No one batted an eye. This, clearly, wasn’t the first time such a process had been employed. Parkurito’s head was ceremonially shaved of warrior pigtails; he drank milk without the presence of another warrior and ate meat from the cooking fire of his mother. All this accomplished, Parkurito could now go off to school. During leave times though, he could no longer dance with the warriors and girls at celebrations, and although a teenager, he was counted among the old men.

These days, here at Olbalbal, the Ilkurianga warriors are taking a major step in the process of becoming elders. They drink milk, each one individually. The warriors in transition are presented with a milk gourd by their wives or if single by their mothers.

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