Tuesday, April 23, 2024

The irreduceable minimums in the Bukusu’ circumcision ceremony

As we make our way to the village center, traditional chants and hymns can be heard from a distance.

After meandering through footpaths for hours, we arrive at a small mud house.

Six men stand outside wearing their red and white uniformed shirts and black trousers.

We need a white hen, there must be some Sim Sim for us to share, traditional millet flour ugali, and some groundnuts

Mzee Muyekho

They don traditional caps made of animal skins and whistles in their mouths.

They continue chanting while making circular movements around the house.

Each holds his knife up in the air.

The soloist is quite occupied as he also holds a white-feathered cock besides holding his knife.

Cleansing ceremony

According to Eliud Muyekho, the director of the group, the knife cleansing ceremony is a long-standing tradition that they have been holding for centuries just a few weeks before the main circumcision ceremony.

“This is a tradition left to us by our forefathers, it is meant to connect us the circumcisers with our forefathers so that we acquire fortunes before we proceed to circumcise our children,” he explains.

The Bukusu community in Bungoma County is known for its strict adherence to the traditional circumcision rite of passage which happens in August of every four years.

It is that time that the community seeks to admit its youthful boys to adulthood.

However, this time around the community holds its circumcision in July due to disruptions occasioned by a change in the school calendar.

This is a tradition left to us by our forefathers, it is meant to connect us the circumcisers with our forefathers so that we acquire fortunes before we proceed to circumcise our children

Mzee Muyekho

“Unlike in the past when schools closed in August, our children will be at home for a short period in July, that’s why we also are preparing early,” added Muyekho.

Apparently, the preparation for circumcision is also an event of its stature guarded by a rich tradition.

We catch up with this group of circumcisers from Namikelo village in Kanduyi Constituency as they prepare their tools for the circumcision ceremony.

The elders slaughter a white chicken during the ceremony. (Photo: Bonface Tengeya, LRB).

The barefooted men are part of a team of 18 certified circumcisers by the region and as their director narrates, every action they partake in is guarded by tradition.

The white hen

We seek to know what other prerequisites must be met for them to consider the ceremonies complete.

“We need a white hen, there must be some Sim Sim for us to share, traditional millet flour ugali, and some groundnuts,” he explains.

The circumcisers slaughter the hen and sprinkle blood on the knives.

They also take sips of the traditional liquor which they also sprinkle on the knives while they make chants.

They believe that the blood from the hen and the liquor connects them to their ancestors who will give them a greenlight to proceed with the main event, the circumcision.

We also seek to know what it takes to be part of the team.

“We identify potential circumcisers very early in their teenage years,” he explains.

Potential circumcisers

The potential circumcisers must have an interest in the process and in tradition in general.

They are then taught the processes involved through apprenticeship. Social personality and a diligent character are the main considerations.

As we exit, the elders admit the tradition has been greatly threatened by a change in times and more especially the Covid-19 pandemic which disrupted the school calendar.

They, however, remain hopeful to circumcise a few children this month hoping for resumption of normalcy in future.

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