Maasai community is a Nilotic group of people who are seminomadic. They live in the South Rift region of Kenya and Northern Tanzania (McQuail 1). Oral tradition stories tell that Maasai come from lower Nile valley north of lake Turkana. Maasai people are one of the most known African ethnic groups since they reside near East Africa’s game reserves. They are also famous for their unique culture and mode of dressing. Maasai people speak the Maa language, which is related to Dinka and Nuer. In addition to the Maa language, Maasai speak official languages of Kenya and Tanzania: English and Kiswahili..
Maasai society has several ceremonies to mark the passage of various stages in life (Maasai Culture). Some of these ceremonies include Kipaata ceremony (senior boy), Emuratta ceremony (circumcision), Eunoto ceremony (warrior-shaving), Enkiama ceremony (marriage), Eokoto e-kule ceremony (milk and blood-drinking),Enkang oo-nkiri ceremony (meat-eating), Orngesherr ceremony (junior elder), Eudoto/Enkigerunoto oo-inkiyiaa ceremony (earlobe), and Ilkipirat (leg fire marks). This paper aims at describing the stages of Eunoto ceremony and connecting them to the structure of Maasai.
The Eunoto Ceremony
The Eunoto ceremony is performed by the Morani (warriors) after ritual seclusion in the forest. During the ceremony they eat and drink a lot to gain strength for the coming 7 days (Maasai Eunoto Ceremony). It indicates the status of a junior Morani and their transitioning to senior warriors, who are also known as junior elders. The ceremony takes place after a decade, which means that the Morani must have been warriors for the past decade. The ceremony is a key to a new life since after becoming junior elders they can marry (Maasai Culture). Marriage means being ready to become husbands and fathers and raise families. However, it also marks the end of freedom and privileges that warriors had. If they live long enough in their respected status, they will become senior elders (Maasai Eunoto Ceremony). The venue of the ceremony is a specially chosen Boma (camp) that has 49 Manyattas (houses). The 49th Manyatta is called Osinkira, a large mud hut made for the Oloibon, who is the ritual leader. Warriors have to raise eight bulls prior to the ceremony to give them to the elders at the day of graduation (Maasai Culture).
Three key leaders must be chosen by warriors before the ceremony. They must be young warriors of commendable conduct. They must have leadership qualities and have no physical vices (Maasai Culture). The three are Olaiguanani Lenkashe, who is honored with a specially chosen female cow, Oloboru Enkeene, andOlotuno, the initiate one. Most of them do not like these leadership positions, particularly the Olotuno. This man carries all of his age set’s deeds either suitable or unsuitable (Maasai Eunoto Ceremony). Oloboru Enkeene is honored with a leather strap with a knot symbolizing his age. By the end of Moran hood, this knot will be unbound to free warriors from their secluded world. The knot is meant to allow warriors to do things in an independent way from other men their age. A bullock is slaughtered after being approved by the Oloibon (ritual leader), and the chosen leader (the Olotuno) drinks the blood from animal’s neck first (Maasai Culture). After the ceremony, the Olotuno may choose any girl he wishes to be his wife. After all further rites are conducted, restrictions on drinking milk and eating meat, which applied throughout his junior warrior life, are finally relieved off him (Maasai Eunoto Ceremony).
It is the opportunity that the community gives to warriors to heal from all hardships they have undergone. Maasai boys must endure many painful tests such as teeth-pulling, burning, tattooing, ear piercing and circumcision. They spend a season living alone in the forest to become mature and learn to respect others. After the Eunoto ceremony, they return to their villages as real mature men to use their acquired wisdom and understanding for the good of the community.
Mixing days are days when different Maasai groups get around the ceremonial venue. They come from Kenya and Tanzania, and all 49 clans represented socialize (Maasai Eunoto Ceremony). They celebrate brotherhood and try to learn from each other. Warriors spend two days at the camp dancing and singing. Singing and dancing continues throughout the night. This is because warriors are not supposed to sleep during this period (Maasai Eunoto Ceremony). In order to shorten the night, they encourage each other with exuberant displays and stories of their bravery. They also light fire at night to keep themselves warm since their clothes cannot protect them from cold (Maasai Culture).
An ox is slaughtered and then skinned as night falls. Elders give each initiate a small piece of raw meat, known as orikingamati. This is the first time warriors share food with elders (Maasai Eunoto Ceremony). One junior warrior is given the opportunity to be the first to drink animal’s blood after it is collected in a gourd. Elders make rings from the skin of the slaughtered ox. Each warrior is given his own ring known as orekereti that symbolizes power of the union of the group of Morani (Maasai Culture).
Warriorsare usually dressed in short gowns and their hair plaited and red ochre dyed on everything. They all have some beaded jewels and wooden spears (Maasai Culture). They are not allowed to carry any weapons with them. Warriorsdance by jumping alone or in pairs, while the group chants and bounces along. Then they stop for a second and one Morani sings a verse (Maasai Eunoto Ceremony). One of elders starts the Morans on a procession around the inside of the ceremonial Boma circle. In front are Morani, who have killed lions with spear and sword. They are differentiated from the rest by wearing headdress mane made from lion skin. The most respected people and leaders follow with shields. They do so because it is believed that leaders should lead by example so that other people could then follow (Maasai Eunoto Ceremony).The procession moves inside the ring of Bomas and continues in a circle. They stop and kneel down as the horn continues to sound the Morani chant and bob their heads. Then, they stand up in unison and hold their spears horizontally. Any moran with a red strip painted on his chest must have killed a man as a Moran (Maasai Eunoto Ceremony).
Red days are characterized by collective singing and dancing. Red symbolizes battle, lion hunting, and blood. Maasai have everything painted red (Maasai Eunoto Ceremony). Maasai community, being a nomadic one and one that values animals a lot, used to be involved in cattle raiding (Maasai Culture). This resulted in battles since one cannot take anybody’s livestock without fighting. This ceremony involves two days of red dance. Every moran should be glistening with red ochre. They dance the red dance, an accolade to the hot temper of Maasai warrior. This is to train them to control their tempers as they begin family life (Maasai Eunoto Ceremony).
Then come the two days known as white dance during which warriors dance with their faces painted with white chalk as they are changed into elders (Maasai Eunoto Ceremony). White days are the most important days. White is the color of life meaning avoidance of violence, presence of peace, and elderhood. Warriors paint themselves with white chalk from the river (Maasai Culture). Black ox is killed through suffocation, and all warriors drink the mixture of blood, milk, and alcohol. This is the first time they are allowed to drink alcohol usually made of fermented aloe roots and honey. Drinking alcohol signifies the passage of Morani from junior to senior status and is one of their new privileges (Maasai Eunoto Ceremony).
They eat raw meat as it is their last meal together as warriors (Maasai Eunoto Ceremony). The warriors start a procession before the celebration, while having different signs painted all over their bodies. They wear only the smallest toga to expose all the paint. At the top of their wooden spears they carry a piece of red cloth, almost like a flag. Then warriors start to run towards a distinct Boma built in the center of the compound. This Boma has gifts reserved for warriors who had not broken any of warrior taboos (Maasai Eunoto Ceremony). A death spell kept people from entering it, except the few, who had observed all the rules. Everybody is keen to observe them so that people could see who among them is the bravest. This is because those who have broken warrior laws cannot enter the manyatta. One of the laws is not having sex with a circumcised woman or older women (Maasai Eunoto Ceremony).
Each warrior has his long hair shaved off by his mother as he sits on the same cowhide he was circumcised (Maasai Eunoto Ceremony). Warriors’ heads are then painted red. Some of the graduating warriors often cry and tremble when their hair is cut. This is because a warrior hates to lose all the freedom he had. He has a sense of exploration, fear, and his self-esteem changes (Maasai Culture). Long hair is the symbol of all this. He feels that he has lost a portion of himself and that independence is no longer as limitless as it was. The Oloibon sips milk and sprinkles it on heads of new elders. White dust can also be used for this purpose. Milk is considered sacred and its white color means life. This is a symbol of blessing, which was used by many African communities. This Eunoto ceremony transforms them from glamorous long ochre-stained haired warriors to calm bald elders within a period of 7 days (Maasai Eunoto Ceremony).
Furthermore, during the ceremony, an horn of an animal is put on fire and warriors have to take out a piece of the horn before it becomes totally burned (Maasai Eunoto Ceremony). Among all warriors, there is no one who would wish to take it out since the one who pulls the horn out the fire will be misfortunate for his entire lifetime (Maasai Eunoto Ceremony). However, if no one takes the horn out of the fire, all other people will be cursed.
Significance of the Ceremony
Eunoto ceremony reflects the target and aim of life of Maasai. Maasai men are warriors in nature and all they do is aimed at conserving this long-held belief. The significance of this ceremony is reflected by how it is performed. Each day and each stage of the ceremony has meaning and significance in the life of a Maasai man. Each stage prepares a warrior for future responsibilities in life. Every Maasai man yearns to go through Eunoto successfully so that his future life could be full of success. The significance of Eunoto is also proved by the fact that it is held after every decade. This means that men wait for long in order to transform from junior warriors to senior warriors. It is, therefore, an event that every man adores and cherishes for long.
In addition, Eunoto ceremony depicts social nature of Maasai. This is shown by the meaning of each day of the ceremony. For instance, mixing days show how Maasai love to be together with other members of the clan. It shows how Maasai value their kinsmen. When junior warriors share meals with senior warriors for the first time in life, this shows how Maasai respect their senior warriors. This is a sign that Maasai respect human achievement, especially the state of conquering nature by being a warrior.
Choosing special colors to signify days during this ceremony shows how Maasai are associated with nature (Maasai Eunoto Ceremony). Red days signify blood and the urge of Maasai to protect their possessions in the form of cattle. White days depict life. They signify how Maasai associate themselves with peace during their elderhood. Thus, Maasai value peace and avoid war in order to live a life of prosperity (Maasai Eunoto Ceremony). It is in this day that junior youths are allowed to take alcohol for the first time. This means that Maasai do not allow young men to take alcohol since it will have a negative impact on their lives as junior warriors.
Moreover, this ceremony shows the place of women in Maasai society. Women are given a special role to play in this ceremony. Their role is to support their sons, who are graduating from junior warrior to senior warrior stage (Maasai Eunoto Ceremony). It shows that women play a big role in offering and denying freedom to warriors. Maasai give freedom to junior warriors in all their endeavors before they can be allowed to get married and have a settled life with their families. Indeed, this ceremony may be considered as the summary of the story of Maasai men.
Furthermore, this ceremony reveals that Maasai believe that at every age there must be a person who carries a curse for other members of the group. They, therefore, believe in sacrificing an individual in order to make other people live a better life. Significance of this belief is to ensure that each junior warrior should strive to live a pure life. Therefore, it shows how Maasai people are concerned with living a life without bad deeds, and instead, a life full of concern for others.
In summary, the ceremony is one of the major events in life of Maasai men. This ceremony attracts many tourists who come in large numbers to witness graduation of junior warriors to senior warriors. This means that this ceremony has an economic advantage to Kenya and Tanzania. In fact, such ceremonies and peculiar culture of Maasai are elements that have contributed to fame of Maasai throughout the world. It is observed that this ceremony and many more ceremonies are anticipated for a long time by Maasai people in order to achieve elderhood and the stage when they become able to make decisions in the family.
However, there is a question that needs to be answered. The question is: how long will these traditions and cultures hold before they totally disappear? It is still difficult to get a direct answer to this question. This is because Maasai community is the one which has been embracing its culture and traditions compared to other communities in Kenya and Tanzania. The government of Kenya and Tanzania is working hard to ensure that this community embraces a new western culture. It is evident that laws are changing in these two countries that make this community fail to preserve some of its traditions. For instance, there are laws that limit free movement of citizens across the border. Formal education has also minimized chances of junior warriors to go to the forest. Therefore, some clans cannot be represented when some of these traditions are carried out. However, there is also a new force that is emerging. Some non-governmental organizations and other local organizations are against efforts to terminate some of these traditions. Therefore, a battle still is fought and people should continue to wait and see which one of these forces wins
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