Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Drunken Prayers of a Masai Laibon

by Chris Masterjohn

Unfortunately, many parts of the WAPF site including the blogs are down.  The problem has been identified and is currently being fixed.  As a result, my recent post on gender, sexuality, and spirituality in the Masai is lost in cyberspace until the site is fixed, at which point it will magically reappear and I'll let you all know.

In the mean time, I thought I'd offer this tidbit.  

My first two posts in this series are mostly covering the work of Melissa Llewelyn-Davies, who studied the Masai with a focus on gender relations for about twenty years.  For the first two years she took no pictures or video, but once she established a strong friendship with them, she made five movies, one of which was a five-part series.  

Melissa married Chris Curling in 1974.  This is the same year she published her first documentary on the Masai, which Chris directed and produced.  She released the movies I'm using in my blog post in 1984.  She directed them herself and co-produced them with her husband.  As a result of his involvement, their names sometimes pop up together in the films.

Beer  — traditionally made with honey and at this time often made with sugar — is an important part of all Masai religious rituals, and the laibon (a religious elder) can only prophecy under its influence.  On one occasion in the film, he drank the beer from his gourd and offered the following prayer:
May your wealth be extensive, may it even support the Whites.  Even the Kikuyu.  May it support every sort of person there is.  Bless my breast that everything sucks, God!  Give me food so people can eat.  To take them through all God's years.  God has said, God has said that you will never be without food -- forever and ever.  Chris!  I'm asking God for food so this people may eat.  Melissa!  We shall have food to give each other.  Food for all, for every sort of person.  God, give me much food that all the Masai will eat, that children will eat, and all the Masai, White and Black.  May no one, may no one be hungry.  May it be good if people visit you from Europe.  If Melissa brings food, may it be sweet!  If Chris brings it, may it be good!  Receive whatever comes!  Let peace not die between the Whites.  Melissa, let's ask God for much food, so all people will come and eat.  All peoples -- Whites, Blacks -- from Europe and from all God's lands.
When discussing Masai marriage, a young woman says to Melissa, "In marriage, we're not like you.  Our marriage is different.  Aren't you in charge of Chris's cows and all of his wealth?"

Read more about the author, Chris Masterjohn, PhD, here.

1 comment:

To create a better user experience for everyone, comments are now moderated. Please allow up to one business day for your comment to post. In order to avoid the appearance of spam, please avoid posting links, especially to commercial destinations, and using all-caps.