Gender and Religion

Among the Maasai, fertile women epitomize the creation of life. The mythical originator of the Maasai, Naiterukop, a creature or "thing" (entoki) possessing both human and divine qualities, has a feminine singular relative prefix, na- (literally "she who begins the world"). The feminine gender of the originator expresses culturally constituted cognition of the female as "an originating source" (see Hillman, cited by Talle, 1998). In the mythological accounts Naiterukop possesses both human and divine, female and male qualities, the two being simultaneous aspects of the same entity. Thus the duality of the Maasai social order was laid down cosmically from the very beginning.

The term for God, Enkai, meaning rain or sky, is also etymologically feminine (prefix en-). God, however, while still being somehow like humankind (oltungani) is not comparable to a man or a woman (see Hillman, 1992; Talle, 1998). God is two in one like a husband and a wife, or like a mother and a father (Wagner-Glenn, 1992). Although fixed in some objects (clouds, mountains, sacred groves, trees, sky) Enkai does not have a materiality. Rather, God is an essence or life force that may be invoked by, for instance, individual women's morning prayers and offerings of the first drops of milk from the cows, or collective prayers for children or by offerings of green grass and prayers at shrines.

Maasai religious prayers are for well-being and prosperity. Women are more religious than men are—they pray daily and more often than men do, and the participation of women in communal religious ceremonies is particularly conspicuous.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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