Day 3.5: Maasai Stories (Bogani Camp)
That night Wilson told us a bit about what life as a Maasai is like. What he told us really helped me get a better idea and a fuller perspective of the community we were working and living with. There were things I found quite cool and interesting, like the fact that they wait until you are five until they give you your name, which is either an ancestor’s name, something in nature, or something to do with your character. There were also things that were, well, not for me personally, like polygamy or circumcision. Again, nothing wrong with either of those things, they’re just not for me.
There’s also the whole deal with flinching that I found to be quite interesting. As a boy in a Maasai community, your circumcision is like a rite of passage into manhood, to represent the pain of adulthood. Men in Maasai culture strive to become Maasai warriors, like Wilson, and the start onto that path is your ability to resist pain. Your circumcision is like the final exam of that particular ability, because it’s taboo for a man to flinch at any point through the entire process. Flinching, however, is not just moving or wincing. It’s twitching, heavy breathing, even blinking counts. As a kid you would practice, Wilson tells us, with things like burns or fire ants. He shows us the two front teeth that he had cut out as well as the holes near the tops of each of his ears.
While flinching was quite interesting to me it can’t beat the awe I felt towards the Maasai community when Wilson told us the story of lion-slaying.
To become a Warrior, your final test, your final rite of passing for so long has been the slaying of a lion. A group of brave men will surround it, the first to strike gets the mane, the second gets the tail. If a Warrior dies, he and the lion are buried facing each other. This has always been the tradition.
But now, lions are becoming endangered, partially due to the lion-slaying. And as important as the Maasai culture was to the Maasai people, the lions were more important. My jaw dropped when Wilson told us that the community, the culture, had changed this way. Now, instead of slaying a lion, to become a Warrior of the community you can do things like getting a university degree.
Wilson’s stories really helped me in understanding the Maasai culture a little bit better, and I was glad to find parts that I like and didn’t, because that, somehow, made it much more real for me. And I can only hope that someday Western Civilization might learn a thing or two from the Maasai and their hunt of the lions.
The Maasai people slay lions. These lions used to be real ones, mane and all, but now they slay the lions of poverty, and lack of education. They slay the lions of famine and thirst. They slay the lions of the lack of health care and income. And, with Warriors as strong as them, there’s no doubt that those lions will too be slayed.
p.s. Sorry for the wait.