By Paul Spencer
Uncertainty is a daily point of lifestyles for the Maasai of East Africa. They take ritual precautions opposed to mystical misfortune of their small and dispersed villages, and position neighborhood existence within the palms of elders whose collective knowledge is underpinned by means of a trust in an ethical, splendid and unknowably provident god. This balance is, in spite of the fact that, edged with main issue for mystery malcontents who may search to create havoc via sorcery and whose elusive magic lies outdoors the elders' strength. Time, area and the Unknown follows on from The Maasai of Matapato and The Samburu to teach how uncertainty and misfortune impact the social lifetime of the Maasai.
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Additional resources for Time, Space and the Unknown: Maasai Configurations of Power and Providence
Once this point has been reached, the seniors avoid humiliation by discarding the privileges as no more than ‘children’s play’, and take a significant step towards elderhood. In this way, the change-over from one age-set to the next involves a certain jostling for control of the lower rungs which may begin to build up even before the new initiations and continue for some years. By comparison, the mid-cycle transition within an age-set – from the right-hand to the left-hand – is treated essentially as an internal matter: after right-hand moran have paraded the privileges over a prolonged period, they extend them to the left-hand as a gesture, but they do not discard them in disgust.
If teenage pubescent boys seem to be at a natural stage for adolescence in Western terms, then the point to note here is that they are treated as preadolescent among Maasai. It is the moran who are treated as adolescents, excluded from the family as more than mere children, but not yet accepted as adults. They are held in a limbo – a state of social suspension – well into their twenties and occasionally beyond the age of thirty; and their delinquencies have to be viewed against this background.
Maasai is a society where one can conceive of the charisma of old age. As in the Hindu parallel, practice may fall short of the ideal on occasion, but the ideal remains strong. They have reached the top of the ladder and can be harried no further. Meanwhile on the lower rungs, the assertions of power lay bare the contradiction between age and youth, which gives the age system its vitality. 10 Correspondingly, on the dominant rung of the Maasai age ladder, the ruling firestick patrons may be in an unchallengeable position in one tribal section, or their unity may be threatened by unresolved differences of opinion in a second, or they may find themselves increasingly harried by the next age-set jostling for this rung in a third.
Time, Space and the Unknown: Maasai Configurations of Power and Providence by Paul Spencer