Vol. 21, #6
June 26, A very special Maasai wedding
A wedding in our village of Endulen is a very special event. The one that took place yesterday was especially significant for me because the groom was Moinga Olelengine, a boy that I have had the privilege of educating since his primary school days. He is now a registered teacher educating Maasai children here at Ngorongoro. Moinga and his bride Rehema, a Maasai girl from down South, graduated in the same class from Teacher Training College. They work together at Esere primary school near Endulen.
During our Maasai wedding ceremony the bride and groom clasped their right hands and I smeared fat on their joined hands. Among the Maasai, different kinds of fat are used for different kinds of blessings. When a person dies, an ox or sheep is slaughtered and the body anointed with the fat of the slaughtered animal. At our wedding ceremony we used butter made that morning from the milk of a cow that had given birth many times. The living butter that we smeared on their clasped hands was a clear sign of life and the blessings that we hoped would follow this new family.
We replaced the usual exchange of rings with traditional Maasai symbols. At marriage a girl puts on a light chain attached to her ear called emonyorit. Moinga placed this emonyorit chain around the neck of Rehema. A chain may not be the most appropriate sign of marriage for many, but it is the custom among the Maasai. When it is time for the circumcision of his child, a Maasai man puts on a unique necklace of dark blue beads that he wears for the rest of his life. Rehema placed the engonongoi necklace around the neck of Moinga at the wedding ceremony. Both the chain and necklace were liberally smeared with the living butter during the wedding ceremony. The ceremony closed as the father of Moinga blessed the newly married couple with a sprinkling of milk from a gourd whose mouth was stuffed with rich green grass. This is a traditional way of blessing among the Maasai asking God to bless the new couple with cattle and every kind of good thing.
People came from far and wide to celebrate with Moing and Rehema. There was the slaughter of an ox and goats, dancing and celebrating till the evening. It was a great day for all of us.
June 13, Poachers thwarted by Maasai Warriors
Maasai warriors were patroling their borders near the Serengeti boundary on June 13th. When they were crossing the dry river bed of Engiju Ngiro, they came upon the tracks of many Sukuma warriors, traditional enemies of the Maasai. They followed the trail for some hours and presently saw a column of smoke in the distance. Approaching the smoke stealthily, they came upon a carefully concealed camp of young men hanging the meat of wild animals on branches to dry. Strewn around were the remains of the partially dissected carcasses of zebra, wild pig, antelope, and even what looked to be a giraffe. After assuring themselves of what they were seeing, leaving two warriors to keep watch on the camp of the poachers, the body of warriors traveled loped to Endulen to alert the game authorities. It came out later that the purpose of the camp was to provide a base for spotters to search out where the large herds of Maasai cattle might be and to make preparations for a major cattle raid. The game police waited till about nine that night, then mounted two land rovers and led by the Maasai warriors, traveled to the poachers camp. Dousing their lights, they approached the camp silently. The culprits had no inkling up to this point that they had been discovered. When they realized that game police were cautiously approaching, they began shooting. The police returned fire and killed ten of the culprits in the ensuing firefight. Eight ran off under cover of darkness and two of these were captured. One was seized unhurt and the other was hit in the leg. The wounded one had lost a lot of blood by the time he arrived at our hospital here in Endulen. The unhurt prisoner was taken to District headquarters at Loliondo on the Kenya border. The wounded one was closely questioned by police and admitted that he came from the village of Sakasaka Senani near Maswa in Shinyanga He was asked how long they had lived in their camp near the Serengeti. He responded that they had been living at their camp for three weeks. He went on to say that they had eaten the maize flour that they had brought with them during the first few days. When that was finished, they began to hunt wild animals for food. He told the police that there were twenty in the raiding party. After three days, during which the wounded Sukuma was being treated in the hospital, another Sukuma man showed up in Endulen clearly in a bad state from lack of food. He went to a village leader but was so weak, he could not speak. He was given food and when he had regained a little strength asked for money to travel home to Kahama in Shinyanga. He was given money, found a car going his way and went off home. It soon became apparent that he was one of the raiding party that had gotten away. The wounded Sukuma warrior fingered him as one of the raiders, but by that time, he had already left for home and got away clear. After he gets well, the wounded Sukuma will be taken to District headquarters to face poaching and other charges with the his unhurt companion.
The Maasai people do not hunt wild game and it has been fear of the Maasai that has preserved the great herds of wildebeest, zebra and the other wild animals on the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro areas.
June 10, Bornana Ethiopian ordained for Nairobi slum ministry.
Today I received a newsletter from Fr. Vince Stegman, one of our Spiritans and an American working among the Borana. He describes the celebration this month of the ordination to the Catholic priesthood and the traditional reception into Borana elder hood and leadership of Dide Wario. Borana elders wrapped the ceremonial black turban around the head of Dide and presented him with the ceremonial whip. It must have been quite a day spiced with great platters of Meat, rice, and enjira, the huge round Ehiopean flat bread.
Dutch, American, Nigerian and East African Spiritan Missionaries have been active among the semi-nomadic Borana people of Southern Ethiopia for 33 years. They have worked to establish Christianity in and through the Borana traditional culture, making many of the traditional religious symbols and practices of the Borana vehicles to enflesh gospel values and church celebrations. The traditional Borana coffee ceremony is an example of this. Traditionally it is a rite of prayer and community bonding. Spiritans have seen it grow into a Christian Liturgy celebrating our dependence on and gratefulness to God, a celebration of sharing food and good conversation.
Till next month,