Spencer’s “Becoming Maasai, Being in Time”

I found Spencer’s “Becoming Maasai, Being in Time” an interesting read, but I felt like I would have liked to find out more on the sorcery of the Maasai. That is the topic I am planning to research more in depth. The author, however, did give the reader some insight on this topic.
I found out that the sorcerer is an image of what Maasai should not be: he is the Godless inversion of the Maasai ideal, a nefarious being somewhere out there in the bush while the others congregate in ceremony.
There is also the theory of wastrels. The Maasai believe that some boys are born to be wastrels, whereas some might lapse into that state only after murranhood. It is the wastrels of the Maasai society who are thought to be most likely to be tempted to take short-cuts through sorcery, although very serious accusations of sorcery among the Maasai are rare.
The immigrants of the Maasai society are sometimes associated with sorcerers, too. Every now and then there are strangers who become assimilated into Maasai society. For such men there will always be only partial assimilation. A stranger who has certain attributes of a wastrel is usually a prime suspect for sorcery and liable at some stage to be completely expelled from the society of Maasai.

The article also touched on the different Maasai communities, how they differ from each other and how they actually form one big Maasai society. For example among the northern Maasai, it is the division between murran and elders – between age grades rather than age-sets as such – that is emphasized. Further South, it is the competition between adjacent age-sets rather than age grades that is more pronounced. Also, at the inauguration of each new age-set, before any circumcisions into it can be performed, the Keekonyokie Maasai from the north act as hosts in mounting a competition between boys from the northern sections to seize an ox’s horn. Versions of this ceremony are performed among tribal sections to the south, but none of these can be mounted until the Keekonyokie have done so. Same with the olngsher in Kisongo. It is not only the celebration it marks for them, but also its significance in making possible the promotion of all Maasai of this age-set finally to elderhood. So even though the Maasai are scattered over a few countries in East Africa, they are all united through these ceremonies.


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