Category: Folklore Published on Thursday, 29 September 2011 13:27 Written by Arnold Wekesa Hits: 1881
It is in every Kenyan boy’s destiny to pass the ultimate test, the rite of passage from childhood to manhood. And our rituals and customs revolved around the knife.
We are still strong traditionalists as far as the rites of passage are concerned. In our village the tradition is still strong and untamed. As simple as it may sound, preparations for circumcision begins as early as two months. It was my time to face the knife. I was required to take a pearl-white chicken to the local blacksmith in exchange for two bells that I was to use to invite my relatives to the ceremony. All candidates, whose bells were ready, gathered under the mother tree in the sacred forest each night and revolved twelve times around the forest rehearsing circumcision songs up to as late as 2.am.
As the D-Day neared, each candidate visited all his relatives’ homes ringing the bells as a way of inviting them to the ceremony. The men beat drums and the women ululated as a confirmation or acceptance of the ritual. In accordance with the traditions, the day before facing the knife, I visited my maternal grandfather who spat on my forehead and chose a male relative to stand by me throughout the process, and was given a bull as a gift. The cost of the entire ritual is very costly but my family had saved up enough money.
A calling to the ancestors was the next step. At dawn of that special day, the chosen relative who happened to be my uncle accompanied me to the sacred river which flows from an ancient forest in the hill-top. He smeared my nude body with mud, and planted a weed on my head to signify that I was in communication with the ancestors. I can’t really say that I ‘talked’ with my ancestors then, but there was this intense sensation in my whole body, like I had been possessed or my soul was in dialogue with a higher being. A group of the council of elders escorted me back home while singing circumcision songs.
The ‘fresh men’ who had recently undergone the cut were entitled to bully me and harden me for marriage life and travels of the world. I finally got circumcised at my grandfather’s compound as senior relatives and clan members observed keenly the process of my graduation from an omusinde (uncircumcised) to an omusiani (circumcised). After successfully going through the knife, I got showered with lots of gifts from friends and relatives.
The other ‘fresh men’ and I were then isolated from the community and went to live in a single dwelling known as murumbi. Relatives brought us highly nutritious food which they left with the janitor as any contact with us was considered a taboo. The healing took two weeks and we came back to the community and our graduation was performed. We were men.