Category Archives: Blog

Catechist family Meeting

Last week my catechists and their wives have gathered here at the mission for a week of discussions, presentations and time together. They came on Sunday evening and returned to their homes on Friday.IMG_1069

IMG_1068One of the subjects of discussion was polygamy. Usually, catechists say that they commit to having only one wife. In many cases, after a few years, some do take a second wife. This is not something that is discussed often among the teachers themselves. The teachers and their wives never discuss this issue. Last week it was brought into the open and the women had a chance to express their views. Some had very strong opinions about the possibility of their husbands taking a second wife.IMG_1074IMG_1073IMG_1075

Among the Maasai, who normally live a precarious life out on the plains, having more that one woman in the family “boma” makes for a stronger family, able to keep going in times of difficulty. When the mother in a family gets sick or incapacitated for some reason and she is the only woman there, the family can fall apart. The responsibilities of the woman are endless. It is her job to go for firewood and water, to care for the children, cook the food and build the house. Normally, she will push her husband to look for a second wife so that the family can become stronger and more stable and more prepared to handle trouble when it comes, as it inevitably will. The catechists, who receive a salary, although a minimal one, are not living quite so near the “edge” as many others. No firm conclusions were reached about polygamy, but the discussions were heated and some mutual understandings were achieved.

Another series of heated discussions took place around the issue of the “Laibon,” the Maasai witch doctor. Early on in the middle 70’s when the first Maasai priests were ordained, Those newIMG_1072 priests took the decision that a Christian must not go to the “Laibon’ for help. The problem is that some problems do not respond to traditional Maasai medicine nor modern medicine. These difficulties end up being dealt with by the “Laibon.” To follow the dictates of the Maasai priests means that a family in which, for example, the woman cannot conceive a child, is left with no place to go for help. Over the years this has been a bone of contention, with some going to the “Laibon” anyway and others not. This week there were strong views expressed on both sides and long discussions. As with the issue of polygamy, the question was not resolved, although much healthy give and take took place.

We slaughtered a goat on Thursday, to mark the end of our week together. It was really a great party. There was succulent roasted goat meat and soda for everyone, and the heated discussions and controversies were put aside for the moment.

The Custom of “embuata”

Many visitors to Maasai country remark of the fact that Maasai do not have the lower two front teeth. A Maasai elder recently talked with me about this fact. It is called “embuata which means the extracting of the two middle incisors of the lower jaw. A knife is used with which to perform the operation.

The Maasai extract their children’s two middle teeth twice. They take them out first when all its teeth are showing. Then they wait. After the child has lost all its milk teeth and obtained the permanent set at about twelve years old, the teeth are extracted a second time, and never grow again. I am told that when a child has had its teeth extracted, donkey’s dung is put on its face in order to cool it.

The elder that I was talking with told me that the origin of this custom of extracting the two lower front teeth is supposed to date back to a time when tetanus was a great problem among the Maasai. They discovered that it was a comparatively simple matter to feed a person suffering from lockjaw if two of his front teeth were missing.

When the Maasai see a man who has not had the two middle incisors extracted, they laugh and say: “Eng’arie ‘sirkon endaa.” He eats his food like a donkey.”

A Different Perspective

We normally talk about the “Prodigal Son” parable of Jesus in terms of the old merciful father showing us that God is our merciful father.

Matayo OleTajeuo recently composed a song based on that story of Jesus, but his take on the meaning of the parable is very different than one might expect. He immediately jumped to a situation common in Maasai country these days. Many young men with little or no education and few cattle, goats and sheep leave home to find salaried jobs to help their families. They usually end up as night guards in the towns surrounding Maasai country. Every year some of these young Maasai are seriously injured or killed in attacks made on the places that they guard.

In composing the song about the “Prodigal Son,” Matayo focuses on this problem.

Refrain: Etii apa ninye orpayan obo oata ninny ilayok lenyena aare. Nejoki ninny olayoni oti menya. Mekure ayieu nanu ena kitoria ino (x2)

Long ago there was a man with two sons. The younger approached his father saying that he no longer wanted to live under the domination of his father.

Ore peeye eshoo menye lenye inkishu neoriki si’ninche o’ndare tenebo. Nereu sokoni newalu impesai nelo enelakua nelo aishiang’itie.

The father gave him his inheritance of cattle, sheep and goats. The son drove the animals to the market and sold them. Then he went off to a far country and spent all the money on useless stuff.

Refrain…. (x2)

Ore peeye emuta pooki toki enye teng’iborra engong’u tiatua emerai, nelo aibung’are orkarsis lina’kop nejoki ninye, mirrita ilbitiroo.

When he had finished off everything with wild women and drunkenness, the boy went to a rich man who told him to go and take his pigs to pasture.

Refrain…. (x2)

Lemaasai lang, maipima inkatitin amu etarrueiyei olameyu lena’kata. Tatala sii’yie ilayok linono enebaikita tiatua indipati.

Look out you Maasai, judge the times because the dry season and drought have brought hard times. Watch out that your sons are going off to put themselves in harms way among foreign peoples.

Refrain…. (x2)

Amu ten’epuoo ninche ing’oru esiai nemeishore ninche inkulie siaitin. Kake eishori ina ‘rripor neaku ildiarin lemeirura iruai.

Because when they go to those places they are not given any other kinds of work. But they are given the work of night guards and they are like sleepless dogs watching through the night.

Refrain…. (x2)