A Blog Post by Matthew Cole: Blood on the Leaves
First off, if you haven’t read my previous blog post about the circumcision ceremony I attended, please do so here as you may be a bit confused without reading it first. The lorara ceremony is much less emotionally charged than the circumcision is, so I was told I could take a few pictures.
I mentioned in the previous post that there is an additional ceremony after a month in which the circumcised boys fully become morans. This ceremony is called “lorora” or the bird throwing ceremony. I had the pleasure of attending the lorora at the manyatta where I witnessed the circumcision last month on this past Sunday. The ceremony starts at around 7 in the morning or so and the village is about 1.5 hours outside of Wamba. So Erick and I left Wamba at 5:30 right as first light was starting to occur. After seeing a magnificent sunrise on the way, we reached the village right as the lorora was starting. In the month since the circumcision, the boys have been hunting birds and keep the feathers of the birds they’ve killed in their headbands. To begin, each family with an initiate gives up one animal for the ceremony. It can be a goat, sheep or cow. For context, a goat or sheep is worth about 30-50 USD depending on its size and a cow is worth about 10 times that amount. Thus, this is not a cheap day for any family. Each boy then ties one leg of the animal and with the help of his ngiye (the godfather-like person described in my last blog post) and a few other morans, the elders slaughter and skin the animals. To kill the cow, a knife is driven into the back of cows head to attempt to sever the connection to the brain and kill it quickly. It’s not always precise so grass is put into the cows mouth to prevent it from biting and a few men generally help hold down the cow.
Then the animal is divided up based on the hierarchy of the Samburu. The ngiye receives the hind legs, the morans get the right side of the ribs and the front leg, the elder men get the left side of the ribs and front leg, while the women and children use the entrails. However, the loin cut off meat is reserved for someone special, the mother of the boy. The boy brings her the loin cut as a symbol of all that she has done for the boy up to this point in his life. While the animal is being divvied up, the other men and boys are preparing fires. To make a fire, two pits, each roughly 3’ by 2’ by 4″ deep are constructed near each other in a line. Then each boy goes out and retrieves exactly 8 large, thick branches which will act as the cooking grate of the fires. After that, a fire is made in each of the pits using acacia bark and small twigs. Once the fires have burned down to coals, the meat is ready to cook. Each boy is in charge of cooking his own meat, with help of course. Finally, after all of the meat to be consumed is cooked, the meat, both cooked and raw, is hung from a large acacia tree. It truly is quite the site. I unfortunately did not get a good picture of it because as a guest I was served first and I had to take a nap after eating all the meat. I was in such a food coma! When I awoke, the red tree had been hung and taken down. I must admit, while the meat was not seasoned at all, due to the freshness of it as well as the flavors imparted by cooking over smoke and on wood, the meat was quite satisfying. I was treated to both goat and beef, the latter being something I have not ate much of here, as cows are not often slaughtered.
After the meal and some conversation over a (warm) beer, the final event of the day commenced. The boys were finally allowed to change out of their black attire they had been wearing for the last month and into the traditional garb of morans. White cloth, bright beads and red ochre pigment on their heads and sometimes legs. Finally, the outgoing morans and the new morans danced together in harmony as the end of their journey came. Eric told me that I should join in on one of the dances, but out of fear of offending someone and making a fool of myself, I opted not to. That is until I felt someone grab my hand and I discovered one of the elder men dragging me into the circle to start dancing. So I can confidently say I did not offend anyone, but no promises made if I made a fool out of myself. Now that the boys are morans, they are no longer allowed to eat a meal inside of their village until the next set of morans are initiated in 15 years. I hope mom taught them how to cook!
After witnessing the circumcision and lorara ceremonies in the last month, I’ve come to appreciate just how lucky I am to have experienced all of this. Due to the fact that the Samburu are small in number (roughly 250,000, which is roughly 0.5% of the population of Kenya), live in a remote and harsh part of the country and only have these ceremonies every 15 years or so I realized that there are not many Western people who would have been able to witness this distinctive and salient part of this culture. Hell, I’ve even met Kenyans from other tribes who were jealous of this experience. My fellowship is already 1/4th of the way over, a fact that I truly cannot believe, and I’ve already learned so much, but I don’t know if I will ever learn so much about not only Samburu, but humanity as a whole that I have in the 2.5 months here.