Blood Rituals and Warriors: The Maasai People of East Africa’s Great Rift Valley



Image: April Maciborka

Searching for the jugular

Half a dozen Maasai warriors wrestle with the struggling cow. Another waits with his bow drawn, arrow at the ready. Finally, they have the straining animal in position. The warrior with the weapon shoots straight for the bovine’s jugular. Warm blood gushes into a waiting bucket, pumped out by the animal’s still-beating heart.

The blood keeps flowing, almost filling the container, before the cow is released – its punctured neck sealed with a dab of cow dung. It will live to see another day. Its blood-donating job is done, at least for another month. The Maasai men who perform this blood-draining ritual do not intend to kill, or even harm, the animal. They merely want some of its nourishing crimson fluid to drink.


Image: April Maciborka

A jar of yummy blood

The Maasai (or Masai) people of Kenya and northern Tanzania are among the most recognizable African tribes to those outside of their continent. Most people know them for the red sheets they wrap around their bodies, the long, thin braids of their warriors, the blood-drinking ritual just described, and the unusual jumping dance they sometimes perform. Yet there is a lot more to this proud and ancient people, whose nomadic herding lifestyle dates back centuries.

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