The Staff of Power and One to Curse

A retired Oleguanani: “Can’t do the travel anymore.”

Maasai leaders, “Illeguanak” gathered from far and wide this week to choose the new “Oleguanani Lo Losho”, one of the three leaders of the Maasai of Tanzania. There were no written ballots. Long discussions settled on the articulate, well liked and rich Olendooki. He and lesser kingpins walked the five miles to the village of the retiring Olendioto, the outgoing leader, to “steal” his staff of office. I have learned that there are two knobbed sticks, one is carried by the Leguanani wherever he goes, the insignia of his position. The other, kept hidden in the house of his oldest wife and never seen in public is the “Cursing staff”. Only used in crisis situations to ward of some great malevolent situation or calamity threatens the Maasai people.

Five stalwart warriors carried Olendooki from the entryway of his village to the middle. They carefully lowered his massive bulk in the midst of his bellowing herd of cattle, angry at being held back from pasture, for the celebration. Here Olendooki was blessed by the assembled elders, sprinkled with milk and honey beer from gourds sprouting rich green grass. Olendooki held his staff of office, the other “Cursing staff” now hidden in the house of Ng’to Moson, his senior wife.

It was a very big deal. All of North and most of central Maasai will now call Olendooki their “Spokesman.”. The outgoing leader, Olendioto, who lives just a few hundred yards from my home here at Olbalbal, has become too old for the travel that the job calls for. The new man, Olendooki is also the leader of our Christian community at Ngoile, eight miles from our center.


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