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Kenya. Maasai – The concept of God

In the life of Maasai, God is always present. They are indeed a deeply religious people.

Not far from the border between Kenya and Tanzania, can be found the mountain the Maasai call Oldoinyo le Engai, “God’s mountain”, and it is half way between the white mountain, the Kilimanjaro”, and the black one, the “Meru”.

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It’s considered a gift from God and the Maasai worship in its shadows, praying for their cattle and children. Thunder and lightning are nothing but the presence and power of Engai, who lives on the mountain, and where the Maasai bring their lambs to be sacrificed. The synergy that the Maasai have with nature as they harvest the land is tightly connected to their faith in God.

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They believe in one God, Engai, who lives in both heaven and on earth. Engai is the supreme God, and no one else can be called by his name. He can have two faces: Engai Narok, the black god, good and benevolent, and Engai Na-nyokie, red and vengeful, that shows God’s wrath. The black god shows himself when it rains and thunders, and thus, bringing food and grass to the livestock and prosperity to the people; whereas the red god shows himself through violent storms that kill and injure, and through periods of devastating drought, bringing about hunger and death.
Enkai is called “Oloikurrukur”, “my thundering One”, or Magilani, “Poweful knowing one”, or olaidimani, “one who is able”. His power is already expressed in his function of originating or bringing to life. He is Enopeny, “the Master”.

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He is also called Patulusoo, “One who surpasses”, Natii ilakir, “where there are stars”. Enkai is believed to dwell in the sky but Enkai is not the sky. The sky is the abode of God. A prayer says: “My god you are surrounded by stars with the moon at your navel; you last forever.” Here also the eternity of Enkai is expressed. He is called Nalakua nataana, “far one and near one”; oldapaash, “wide one”. He is from horizon to horizon. Enkai is believed to be both transcendent and immanent, far and near according to the living situations of the Maasai.

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For the Maasai people, God dominates both life and death. Though there are prayer rituals during major ceremonies, their daily life allows for expressions showing reverence and thanks to the divinity. Prayers such as Engai, tajapaki tooinaipuko inono (God, protect me with your wings) or Engai ake naiyolo (only God knows). A Maasai who believes he has been betrayed by destiny or an unkind person will say “Tapala amo etii ake Engai” (It doesn’t matter, because God is always present). Some of the Maasai refer to God as a man and some refer to God as a woman. One prayer recites Naamoni aiyai (she, to whom I pray) or Olasera ingumok (he shines a thousand colours).

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According to the Maasai, God includes all attributions, and they consider prayer very important. They often invoke God, and for them, it’s not a simple formality, and they also offer him sacrifices and say his name in a respectful manner. There are no celebrations in which God’s name isn’t mentioned, and food and drink are always offered during such gatherings. God is always present in their lives, for the Maasai are indeed a deeply religious people. (F.M.)

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