Vol. 17, #11
Yesterday, I received the following in an email from Knud Erikson in Denmark: “Thanks for you newsletter. I have five strong Adler typewriters and we would like to donate them for your project”.
This is great news. These machines will be arriving about the first of the year. With the addition of these five, our touch-typing program and computer lab will have seven typewriters and one computer. The six boys and girls that worked with the two typewriters and one computer this year have made real progress and all ended up being able to type at 15 words a minute or more.
The young Ngorongoro Maasai that went to the “Way of the Warrior” competitions in South Korea have returned. They had a wonderful time and took second place in the competition. The aborigine people of Australia won first place. The Maasai spears, shields and knobkerries were no match for the Australian boomerangs that blew the judges away. Our Maasai didn’t think much of South Korean food …fish, fish and more fish. Although they were offered something their hosts claimed was cow meat, they didn’t believe it, since they never saw a single cow during their stay in South Korea. The food was their only complaint. They found the Korean people warm, friendly and welcoming.
Today no one of the retiring age group, men between the ages of roughly 30 and 45, is to be seen. Every member of the Olking’onde (Lendisi) age group, and I mean every single one, is home at his village with his family. It is a very special time. At a mountain in central Maasai, Oldoinyo Moruak, one of the most sacred “rites of passage” of Maasai life, the final transition of the senior warriors to elder hood, the ancient rituals of Olng’esherr that have taken place at Oldoinyo Moruak for all living memory are being performed. In this full confirmation of elder hood, representatives of the retiring warrior age group come from all over Maasai country come together and their age-group name is confirmed and blessed. A large ceremonial village (emanyata) is constructed, and at its center is placed the symbol of the ceremony, a mound of cow dung containing a stone from a clear running stream, stuck in the top of the mound is a long green leafed branch from a certain tree having no thorns. Today, the day chosen by the ritual experts, an unblemished bull is brought to the village, black with a white patch on its chest and not having spots or broken horns. The bull is captured at dawn by the elders and suffocated at the center of the manyatta. Its dewlap is split, and blood is forced out by puncturing the heart. A powdered charm from the Laibon (ritual expert) is dusted into the liquid. One by one, starting with the owner of the bull and then the two generation- chiefs, the hundreds of new elders kneel and drink. As the blood diminishes, milk or honey beer is added to give each elder a sip of the ritual drink.
Inside a skin enclosure the senior elders supervise the butchering and roasting of the sacrificial ox. The initiates gather inside and the senior elders bless each new junior elder by rubbing a piece of fatty chest meat on his forehead and giving him a bite of the meat. An important part of the Olng’esherr ceremony is the blessing of the cattle sticks of the new elders. The branding irons of the elders are heated to red hot and plunged into a pool of cow urine; the new elders wave their sticks through the steam caused by the cooling branding irons in the pool. Then each elder carefully collects his branding iron that he will take home and brand his cattle with his own distinctive marks.
At the end of Olng’esherr, the skin of the ceremonial bull is stretched out to dry by the women. Special marks are made on the hairy side when the skin dries, and the skin is kept by the age group leaders.
As the final blessing of Olngesherr, one of the most revered of the senior elders circles the manyatta and plants a shoot of green grass at the cattle entrance of each new elder. He anoints the entrance poles with honey beer, whispering a blessing for the future of each new elder.
When the representatives from our area return from Oldoinyo Moruak, the new elders of each area of Ngorongoro will gather at central villages to celebrate. In our area, the designated village to celebrate is that of OleJumweiya… Some major partying is in the works.
Some weeks ago, many Maasai women from the Ngorongoro area went on pilgrimage (Elamal) some hundreds of miles North and East to the Sonjo valley. They went on pilgrimage to Sonjo to ask God for various things, some of the women are barren, others have sicknesses themselves or in their families that have not responded to modern medicine, and others went hoping for help with various other difficulties. The Sonjo are a farming people living in a single valley in North Maasai near the Kenya border. They call God Hambageyo and have a wide reputation as a deeply religious people. Our Ngorongoro women returned yesterday from Sonjo after a trip of many days on foot. They are very tired and happy to be home.
Till next month…Ned