Becoming Maasai, Being in Time

Spencer begins his chapter on describing how the Maasai have to learn how to identify themselves as “Maasai” to give a sense of purpose and meaning to their existence which is a central strand in the continuity of their society.

I found this chapter difficult to get my heard around, particularly the various models in how to understand the Maasai age system. As in the Maasai culture they have both age grades (successive statuses to which individuals are ascribed) and age sets (those within a broad range of ages who are formed into a group of peers with their own separate identity). 

What really fascinated me was the parallel Spencer drew between the Maasai and Durkheim’s theory of religion: that among people who are spread out, when they come together in worship or ceremony there is a sense of divine presence/omnipresent being, much like other religions in the world such as Christianity. For the Maasai their God is felt to be close and yet unknowable as they have no concept of his appearance. But by respecting their elders and the knowledge they possess and their ritual power to bless and curse is found in the respect for this all-knowing and all-powerful God.

He drew other parallels with Christianity, namely their belief in sorcery mirrors the Christian view of the devil: a shadowy figure of a sorcerer is always waiting to try and spoil various occasions. The Maasai age system links with religion because as they become older the celebrants becoming greater and closer to God, an image the Maasai play up to. 

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