Saturday, 14 November 2015

Masai Eunoto ceremony

The Eunoto ceremony is performed by members of the age set, ten years after warriorhood. It marks the status of a warrior transitioning to a senior warrior. This initiation also permits senior warriors to marry, which in turn prepares them to become future fathers. The ceremony takes place in another specially chosen camp that includes a total of forty-nine houses. The forty ninth house is known as Osinkira, a large mud hut made specificaly for the Oloiboni. Warriors on a daily basis will entertain the Oloiboni until the event is over. Every graduating warrior must shave his long ochre-stained hair, which is done by the warrior's mother. During the festival, warriors are prohibited to carry weapons such as sticks, spears, knifes, etc. Also, during this event, an animal horn is set on fire and warriors are forced to take a piece out before it is completely burned. No one wants to take the piece out, because whoever takes the horn out of the fire will suffer misfortunate throughout his entire life. However, if warriors refuse to take the horn out from the fire, the entire age-set will be cursed. It is better for one person to be unfortunate than many. 
Warriors must raise eight bulls, before the ceremony, to be distributed to the elders at the graduation day. Three important leaders must be chosen by the warriors before the ceremony; Olaiguanani lenkashe, Oloboru enkeene and Olotuno (the initiate one). No one would like to be one of these leaders, particularly the Olotuno. This person shoulders all of his age set's bad and good deeds.  The Olaiguanani lenkashe is honored with a specially chosen female cow; Oloboru enkeene is honored with a leather strap with a knot that symbolizes his age set. By the end of warrior-hood, this knot will be untied to free the warriors from their isolated world. The knot allows warriors to do things independently from other age mates. This stage of life is a transition to an elder.
A few months after the Eunoto, warriors form a small camp for Enkang e-kule, the milk ceremony. Before the Eunoto ceremony, warriors are prohibited to eat alone without the company of others. Excuses are not accepted; even the sick must obey the requirement.  To drink outside the camp is allowed but only if women are not present. Such social taboos are established by the Maasai to teach young men to be self-reliant rather than dependent on their mothers who mostly prepare food for her husband and the young ones. Also, such  taboos train and prepare warriors to adapt to harsh environmental conditions such as famine etc. The milk ceremony requires the entire age set to shave their red ochre stained hair. It is the mother's role to shave her graduating son. No warrior will shave his hair before his highly respected age set chiefs. Many of them prefer to graduate on the same day as their chiefs. For the first time, warriors feel awkward and shameful to eat in front of their female lovers. It takes a while for them to get used to this.  After the milk ceremony, warriors undergo minor bouts of emotional stress, because they are disbarred from the world of warrior hood.
The next initiation is Enkang oo-nkiri (meat ceremony/initiation camp), which is performed in a selected camp that contains ten to twenty houses. The selected houses are from wives of the initiating junior elders. This camp is located in a convenient location near the home of a friendly age mate. The age-set is allowed to have as many meat camps as they need throughout the region. 
The meat ceremony permits warriors to eat by themselves meat prepared by women of the homestead. Every graduating warrior is anxious to see this date. A specially chosen bull is slaughtered for the ceremony. A wife must prove to her husband that she hasn't engaged in an illegal sexual affair with a man of the younger age set.  Whether this has occurred or not will be revealed by participating in the bull's skin ritual. Men wrestle with themselves to get near the bull's skin to see if their wives have been unfaithful to the age-set. It is right for a wife to have affairs with men of the same age set but not outside the age set. If a woman is found guilty of violating such a commitement, she will be disrespected by her husband and by her entire age set. 
For a woman to regain respect from her husband, she must go back to her father or relativ's home to obtain a female cow. No man would refuse such an apology; however, the man might not keep the cow. he would then give the cow to his friend as a gift. 
At the end of the meat ceremony, men and women fight against one another for the specially roasted meat. Warriors who violated their age set taboos and laws are punished before this event takes place.
The last age set's initiation is Orngesherr (junior's elder initiation) and marks the status of a junior elder. It is performed in a selected camp that contains twenty or more houses. Every one in the age set looks forward to this final initiation. Every man is honored with an elder's chair in this ceremony. In the early morning of the day of the event, he will sit on the chair and be shaved by his wife. If a man has more than one wife, it is the older wife's responsibility to shave the husband. This chair becomes a man's friend until it is broken. If a man dies before the chair breaks, his older son will adopt the chair.  After this ceremony, a man would become an elder and would assume full responsibility of his own family. He is now allowed to move away from his father's homestead and form his own homestead. However, even though the man is now an indipendent man, he would still have to rely on his father's advice. A man would assume total responsibility of his family at the age of about 35 years.
It is important to note that many of these initiations and rituals have been eroding due to outside influences. We are told to abandon our way of life and to embrace western ways of life, which has been deem reliable and sufficient to ours. Our culture remains uncertain in the face of modernism, western religion, and environmental challlenges.
"It takes one day to destroy a house; to build  a new house will take months and perhaps years. If we abandon our way of life to construct a new one, it will take thousands of years", Maasai belief.

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