During the past few days we had a double wedding at our outstation of Lorlmunyi. A double wedding took place high in the mountains above. Arkado went by foot the day before, a
three-hour uphill trek. I followed by car on the day itself. The road is ugly, strewn with sharp rocks and deeply rutted through dense forest. Although it came through the trip undamaged, I feared for the safety of our Toyota Land Cruiser. The heavy rains this year have made an already almost difficult track, just about impassible.
Since wedding celebrations would take place in each of the bridegroom’s villages, the blessing of the marriages took place in the small church. In addition to the traditional exchange of rings, there is the customary necklace of blue beads placed around the neck of the groom by the bride. The groom places a light metal necklace around the neck of the bride. Another unique feature of the Maasai wedding is the liberal smearing of sheep fat on the joined hands of the bride and groom. This is done when the priest says: “What God has joined, let not man tear apart.
groom. Eventually, marriages often end up polygamous with the taking of a second wife. This puts Christian marriage in an awkward position. The Tanzanian government recognizes traditional weddings that are potentially polygamous, but stipulated that Christian marriages be monogamous. Theoretically, a church marriage that becomes polygamous would be against the law.
There are strong reasons for polygamy among this semi-nomadic people. Maasai life, lived on the edge of survival depends very much on building a strong family consisting of more than one wife and many children. The work of a woman is hard. She carries water sometimes at great distances. She cuts firewood and brings it back to her village. She must care for the children. She looks after the small goats and calves that are left in the village when the herds go to graze. A Maasai woman goes to wherever corn, the staple of Maasai diet, is sold and carries it back home. She milks the cows and cooks the food and, of course, builds her own house. She is the first one to push her husband to look for a second wife, because alone, if she falls sick, the family will falter and is in danger of crumbling.
Asked what role the Maasai men have, it is often said with tongue in cheek, “They deliberate and make the decisions.”