MAASAI LIFE > CULTURE & PEOPLE
The semi-nomadic Maasai tribe in Kenya is steeped in rich traditions, beliefs and culture. As a keynote speaker at the Beliefs and Beyond International Conference in Bangalore, India, Salaton’s message on ‘Communication with Nature’ shared many facets of Maasai life, diving into the wonders and mystique of Maasai culture & people.
This part of the Maji Moto Maasai Cultural Camp website takes inspiration from Salaton’s speech at the prestigious international conference. Where he shared a holistic perspective of the expectations, beliefs and way of being for all Maasai.
Stages of Maasai Life
The traditional life of a Maasai man is guided through three prominent stages - Childhood, Warriorhood and Elderhood. Maasai women have two stages with Childhood/Teenage years combined, followed by Adulthood. Stages are signified by traditional marks made to the body, such as ear piercing and burns from natural twigs, as well as removal of lower front teeth.
Ceremonies are held for different stages, such as head shaving for babies at one year old, graduations from warriorhood to elderhood, and special rituals for weddings and funerals. Each stage brings its own set of challenges and expectations with the transitions in life marked with blessings and new levels of wisdom.
The Maasai people believe in the spirit of Enkai, the one God, guiding force behind all that they do. They feel Enkai is within each and every one of us, so in their eyes we are actually all Enkai/God and must respect ourselves and each other in the interconnected tapestry of spirit. As semi-nomadic people, the Maasai pray everywhere and anytime. They don’t construct temples or churches, as all of nature is their sanctuary.
Their spiritual practices include morning prayers to North, South and East, asking for blessings on that day for themselves and the world. They don’t face West because that is where the day has left with the setting sun the night before, so they let it go and start fresh with this day.
At night, Maasai people give thanks around the fire or home, for having received the gift of another day. When traveling, they ask their ancestors to go ahead them and meet with the ancestors of the people they will meet, as part of their intention for shared protection as they move in the world. Ancestors are always there to speak with and offer guidance when called upon.
Connection with Nature
Throughout Maasai life there is a deep connection with nature and wildlife. The Maasai consider themselves protectors of wildlife, with a tradition of living in harmony with nature. They don’t hunt for food or sell animal products, but they do raise cattle (goats, sheep and cows) to drink milk and blood as well as meat to eat and leather for clothing and household goods.
There is a mutual respect between the Maasai people and animals. Consciously treating animals well during their lives and offering appreciation for what has been received during slaughter. Every single part of the animal is used to support the Maasai livelihood, from hoof to head. As semi-nomadic people they are not farmers, so this is their way to survive.
Health & Healing
The connection with nature and health runs deep as Maasai people also use plants, water and stones for healing. Nature is seen as a relative to the humans, supporting life in harmony as a shared family. This bond with nature is shown in how the Maasai ask permission from the plant or tree whenever a root, bark or leaf is required for ceremony or healing. Once granted and taken, gratitude is shared for the nature’s gift.
The Way Forward
As with all indigenous people, the Maasai tribe faces significant challenges to their culture and way of life.
Threats to culture include land development, climate change, religious conversion pressure, and education through book knowledge replacing natural knowledge and wisdom teachings.
Salaton’s daily life is to work with elders and medicine people to ensure the youth are on a positive path to becoming future leaders who will carry on what matters most in Maasai culture, beliefs and traditions.
In the coming years, the balance between preservation of traditions and adaption for the future will become and even greater challenge. Without successfully managing this delicate balance, the magic and authenticity of one of the most inspiring African tribespeople could fade away in future generations. Maji Moto Maasai Cultural Camp is dedicated to serving as a pillar of example and support on the journey for the Maasai build self-sustainable communities that preserve the very best of their ancient culture.