Feasts are taking place all over these days as families celebrate the transition to warrior-hood of their sons. It is also the mid-year school break so those boys that attend primary or secondary school
are home for a month providing time for them to be circumcised. Each family puts on the most sumptuous feast they can. Naponu, the subject of my recent blogs, slaughtered two goats last Friday for the circumcision of her son, Tetia. This is in contrast to the blowout celebration staged yesterday by Shaudo, one our Christian leaders and the richest man around. He slaughtered six oxen and seven goats to feed the many hundreds of well-wishers gathered to celebrate the transition rites of the twelve boys of his family.
A new age group opens about every sixteen years. All the boys circumcised during the time that the age group is open are members of that age set. Traditionally the members have a very close bond and help each other in difficult times. An example of their closeness and interdependence is food. A warrior is not supposed to even take a drink of water alone. He needs to be with an age mate and share the cup with him.
At Naponu’s celebration for her son, we had a good meal of roast goat and rice together with family and friends gathered for the party. Shaudo’s celebration by contrast was amazing. Happy crowds gathered for his feast. Warriors and young girls were dancing and singing in one place. In another, women in great numbers were singing their songs of happiness at having children or laments for lack of them.
The day before, the boy’s heads were shaved and even their eyebrows are carefully removed. Circumcision signs a new birth for a boy, a new beginning where he leaves the carefree happy-go-lucky
life of a child and begins to shoulder the responsibility for the welfare of his family and village.
Boys, circumcised in recent weeks, dressing in their black sheep fat saturated clothing, and with white and black painted faces gathered the previous evening. Through the night they sang to the twelve who would fall under the knife at dawn. They sing songs of warrior hood aimed and giving courage to the twelve. Showing any sign of fear during the procedure, even a twitch, could bring disgrace on the family. The boys needed all the help their new age mates could provide.
Huge platters of roasted beef and others heaped with rice and potatoes waited for us in the house of Shaudo. Many families, the clan of Shaudo among them, do not have alcohol at their feasts, so there was very sweet tea and soda to drink.
“Sodbusters” is the name of this new age group, a name derisively given to them by the older warrior age group. . The name points to the fact that these days and where possible the Maasai cultivate plots of corn, something that used to be forbidden. The Maasai grow corn. People don’t have the herds of cattle that they had in the past and farming has become a necessity for survival. In the Conservation Area of Ngorongoro, where cultivation is forbidden, people with few cattle struggle.
One of the boys to be circumcised, a boy with the baptismal name of Yohana, was renamed the day before his circumcision. He was given the name “Lobikoo”, “The one who will endure.” This name was chosen because it belonged to a man in the history of his family who possessed great herds of cattle. The elders blessed the new name and he will be known by that
name from now on. This is one more strong reason for using the traditional Maasai names at baptism. These carefully chosen names are given shortly after birth with much blessing and ceremony. I haven’t been able to find out why Yohana didn’t already have a Maasai name.
This time of feasts in Maasai country is a happy time and people are eating their fill. I think I’ve gained at least five pounds since the celebrations started.