Circumcision is part of the Maasai Culture, known in Maasai as (Emurata.)
In Maasai culture a boy only becomes a man once he has been circumcised. and a young girl may only get married once she has been circumcised. Circumcision of boys is carried out every seven year period, each seven year period is given a name eg Nyangusi the next seven year group Seuri the next group Makaa etc.
Once a boy reaches a certain size he is asked by an elder if he is ready to be circumcised if he agrees preparations are made brewing beer (Anaiho in Masai) which is made up of honey, sugar and water this is left to ferment for three days then aloe roots are added the brew is then left for a further two weeks. When preparations are complete the celebrations start one day before circumcision day in the afternoon the warriors sing and dance with the boys to be circumcised known as ( Layoni ) this carries on through out the night then early in the morning.
The Layoni are taken to the bush by the Moran or warriors and washed with cold water this is known as (Engare Endolu) once they have been washed they return in silence once they reach home the boys are taken to the entrance of the cattle kraal (cattle boma) where the Witch doctor (Olakitoi) is waiting while one boy is being circumcised the other boys are guarded by the Moran in side the Boma. Circumcision takes place on a cow skin placed at the entrance of the boma. No antispetic or anesthetic is used.
Boys are circumcised by the witch doctor using a sharp knife. The boys who do not cry out while being circumcised are honored by the relatives giving them a cow or a goat. It is classed as a sign of weakness if the boy cry’s out while being circumcised. This rarely happens as they are outcast. Once circumcised they are taken inside the house and put to bed to wait for blood diluted with milk which helps the boy to recover his loss of blood, when the boy (Skolio) has had enough he is left with one Moran ( warrior) to tend to him till he gets better which is about seven to ten days. The celebrations continue to the evening, Moran and young girls sing and dance drink milk and eat meat while the elders drink beer and eat meat. The Skolio circumcised boys (pre warrior) spend the next seven months or a year recovering, singing and enjoying them selves in this period they only wear black and paint their faces with white chalk, during this period the warriors and woman are not allowed to eat in front of the Skolio however the elders may. After this period there is another celebration as the Skolio now become Moran and change from wearing black to wearing red cloths at this stage they have very short hair for a period of six months then they are allowed to have long hair.
Female Circumcision:- Is carried out once the girls are mature and not by age. Preparation for circumcision is carried out much the same as for boys. The girls are washed by the elder woman relations, they are then taken to their mothers house were they will be circumcised by a female Witch doctor (Engakitoy). During the circumcision the senior Moran will appoint two warriors who will watch the girl being circumcised, the other moran dance behind the two morans watching. Once she has been circumcised the two warriors will enter the house and hand the girl their spears, handing the girl their spears is a sign that all is over and she must now getup. The two morans then leave the house and join the dancing morans out side where they continue dancing. The girl then comes out with the two spears and hands them back to the morans, she then returns to the house to rest but the calibrations continue all night much the same as for the boys. The girl the same as the boys must wear black. During the recovery period they are called (Eskolio) Once they have fully recovered they can then get married.
Female circumcision is illegal in Tanzania, unfortunately this still takes place underground and is very hush, hush.
It was really interesting talking to these six young men. This is myself and my daughter with six young boys after their ceremony. They would normally not agree to such photo’s being taken, but kindly agreed.
A moment I will never forget.