The warriors have been holding meetings the past few days on the unlikely subject of “wife stealing”. It is time for the Korianga, the older warriors, to start families and become independent of their fathers and older brothers. They are marrying in large numbers these days. The poorer among them lack the means to give their prospective fathers-in-law the traditional cattle to secure wives. Many shepherd the herds of richer men and in exchange, are promised a daughter of the family after ten or even fifteen years of herding. Others are lucky enough to have a sister of marriageable age to exchange with a family that also has a daughter and is looking for a wife for their son. Still others muddle through by offering a few goats now and more sheep and goats to follow later. In these latter cases, close friendship between the families helps the in-laws overlook the fact that the young man has little or nothing to offer for a wife.
All the above situations have a couple of things in common, the prospective suitor is relatively poor and the father-in-law is not getting much material recompense in exchange for a daughter. This situation provides fertile ground for the abuses that have prompted the recent series of meetings of the Korianga. A man with cattle to spend and unwilling to go through the long process of negotiation for a wife in the normal way, swoops in with his wealth in cattle and “steals away” the wife of a newly married age mate. He approaches the father-in-law of the newly married warrior and makes him an offer of cattle that is hard to refuse. The avaricious father-in-law then takes his daughter away from her husband and gives her to the richer age mate.
The Korianga are reacting strongly to this phenomenon that is becoming all too common. They have gathered from all over the Ngorongoro highlands and are meeting not far from the mission. Since they can do little to stop the practice short of mayhem and murder, they have opted for an equally extreme Maasai solution, “The Curse.” In extreme cases their spokesmen, the “ileguanak,” can resort to cursing an offender, who will not listen to reason after many warnings. The Spokesmen of the age group have agreed to curse the wife robbers. Also, the Witchdoctor has agreed to curse the rich wife hunters. Each age group has it’s own Olaiboni, witch doctor, chosen at the inauguration of the age group.
This now has taken place. The Korianga chose nine of their number, including a couple of their “Spokesmen”. These nine have publicly and solemnly put a fearful curse on any man who would offer a father-in-law a bribe of cattle to break up a marriage and take another man’s wife.
This solution is likely to have some good results. People are very afraid of being cursed, especially by a parent, an age group spokesman, or worst of all by a Witch Doctor, the Maasai Laibon.