The Samburu children, or Layeni in Samburu language, do not have a role in the society, the only task that is entrusted to them is to lead goats to grazing; only after the initiation ritual they are entering a stage of maturity and play an active role.
The initiation ritual for the Samburu establishes the transition to adulthood and consists, like in other populations, in the practice of circumcision, a ceremony that takes place around the age of 15.
During the ceremony the boy is shaved, is given new shoes and is covered with a sheepskin on which the mother has previously sprinkled grease and coal dust.
For the time it takes him to recover, usually a month, the young man stays in his mother’s hut, after that he leaves the village and learns to hunt birds with the bow and arrows received as a gift.
Each moran chooses a new name and a rite is held, to celebrate this passage of the Samburu life; the celebration includes the sacrifice of an ox that is killed by suffocation: the animal, however, should not fall to the ground, it must be held up by the young people for whom the ceremony is celebrated, as a demonstration of their strength.
After 10 years of their lives spent as warriors, the Samburu boys move on to the next step and become ipayan, i.e. young elders, a stage of life when they get married and have children.
The ceremony, called imugit in the local language, that marks this passage, consists of sacrificing an ox the meat of which is eaten up completely and the bones are burnt; at this point the moran age-set terminates and this passage is over only after the tribal haircut.
The groom will also provide several heads of cattle to be sacrificed during the marriage ceremony.
According to tradition, on the wedding day, at dawn, the bride is practiced clitoridectomy, but fortunately today this practice has almost disappeared.
The next day the bride must leave her mother's house and move to her husband's village, she has to travel all the way to her new home without ever looking back; on her arrival two lines of elderly bless the new couple.
In the new hut the bride lights up the fire, using two sticks rubbed over dried donkey dung: the fire should not go out until the new family moves elsewhere.
In the case of infertility, the wizard performs a fertility ritual that consists of placing a mud figure at the front of the door of the woman’s house to keep evil spirits away; a week later, a ceremony is organised, during which the husband invites the entire village, sacrifices a bull whose fat is smeared on the belly of his wife while she recites the "God will give you a son" prayer.
Life, tradition and culture of Samburu people
- Samburu social organisation and villages
- Samburu religion
- Samburu rituals and ceremonies
- Livestock farming and diet in Samburu communities
- Samburu jewellery and clothing