The Samburu believe in a creator God named Nkai, who represents the fulcrum of religious beliefs, all the prayers, rituals and sacrifices are celebrated as a tribute to him; the same life of the Samburu people depends on him.

The word Nkai is also used to identify a series of guardian spirits that are associated with trees, rocks and some people, but also with the sky and rain; this explains why the Samburu believe that their God is everywhere in the Ng'iro, Marsabit and Kula mountains, where he resides, but also in large trees, caverns and water springs.

Nkai is the one who protects man but also the one who inflicts punishment to those who are cursed by a village elder, following extreme disrespect; the victim of this curse, to fix this situation and appease the wrath of God will have to make an offer in return of his blessing.
In addition to prayers to ask God for fertility, protection or healing, the Samburu celebrate a sacrifice twice a year to curry favour with God and express their devotion; the  sacrifice, consisting of offering a black fat, non-pregnant sheep,  is celebrated in each village at nightfall.

The meat of the black sheep is roasted and eaten: the right side is consumed by men while the left part is eaten by women; the blood is mixed with the stomach entrails and is smeared on the huts and animals as a sign of protection from negative influences.

The Samburu also believe in an evil spirit called Milika, who is opposed to the good God Nkai.

There are two very important ritual diviners to whom the Samburu have recourse  to celebrate propitiatory rituals or for predictions: one is the magician-healer or shaman, or Loibon, Loibonok in the local language, who is contacted in the event of illness, infertility or cattle plague; the second one is the soothsayer who predicts the future, interprets dreams and predicts the arrival of the rain.

Usually magicians-healers and soothsayers do not require a fee but receive gifts like oxen and rams for their service.

Shamans pass on their knowledge and skills down to their children, teaching them the secrets of herbs and poisons; when they die they are buried under a pile of rocks.


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