Monday, May 6, 2013

A little foreskin, a big responsibility

I've been here for about 35 days now. It would take 35 days to tell all that I have seen, heard, felt, tasted, and smelled. It's a lot let me tell you!

One day I had a conversation about thieves, drugs, gangs, and the Masai circumcision ceremony. That hour and a half conversation left me bug-eyed and thankful to be a woman and respecting the Masai men a little more than I had before.

I want to share with you what I learned about the circumcision ceremony.

As a woman I am not permitted to know some of the details. I'm okay with that!
This is what happens- according to my friend...

The boy decides when he wants to be circumcised. He approaches his father and tells him that he is ready to be circumcised. The father begins to beat him with sticks and "test" him to see if he really is ready. Asking, "Are you sure you want this?", "So you're ready to be a man?", and so on. All the while hitting him and making sure he is ready mentally and physically.

When the father can see that his son truly wants to go through with it he prepares for the ceremony.

The son is taken away from the family -no females are permitted to see him. With the father and few other men they start the ceremony around 2pm. The son is taken into the woods. There the men continue to torment him. Testing his mental and physical strength and determination.

As darkness falls and the moon is the only light, they take the boy farther into the woods. One by one a man leaves the group. He begins to make hyena sounds and animal cries to scare the boy. The son is questioned, "where is so-and-so?" He doesn't know because it's too dark and he is in unfamiliar land. They tell him, "We killed him just like we are going to do with you" or "The lion got him". One by one they leave until it's just the father and son. The son is soon left alone. In the dark. Not knowing what is coming next.

Day breaks. The boy is sleep deprived and hungry. The men continue to test him. The sting of the sticks against the skin, the pinching, the mental games forcing the son to have the courage to go through with the circumcision or to back out and lose respect from the community and the chance to become a man.

Finally the time comes, around noon, to perform the circumcision. The son is washed and prepped. He mustn't cry or even flutter his eyes. They sit him down. Two men holding him at the shoulders. The father performs the circumcision. The son must remain brave and strong. If he even flinches he won't be considered a man.

The procedure is done. The boy the came into the woods has emerged a man. Now, he can no longer be picked on or told what to do.  For 30 days he is celebrated. Singing, dancing, and fed choice foods and meats. Once he returns to the community he has earned the respect of the men, women, and children.

My friend that shared this with me got circumcised when he was 13. Wow. And, ouch.

To become a man is a choice. It isn't at a certain age or if you have sex or when grow facial hair.  It's a decision that carries a lot of weight and isn't taken lightly.

Kinda gets you thinking about what you would do to become a man doesn't it? And, fellow women, can you imagine the angst of being away from your son for thirty days not knowing what is happening to him? I couldn't imagine. As painful as the process is it shows that manhood is a responsibility that is earned not just assumed.

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