The rite of passage: Bukusu Circumcision

Keeping up with the Bukusu's:Circumcision season

Boys dance immediatelly after Khuchukhila

Every August of even year is a very busy month for Bukusu, Tachoni people as they embark on the activity of circumcising their young boys.

Some choose to circumcise their boys from the hospital while others go the traditional way.

One wonders why Bukusu people circumcise their male children. It is not just for the sake of having a circumcised son in a home but it’s a process that is so significant in the life of an individual.

Talk about circumcision anywhere in this Kenya and people will recognize Bukusu people for it even though many tribes circumcise their male children across the country.

Knives being prepared

That is why the retired president Daniel arap Moi knew that Bukusu are people of bakheba, people who swear in the name of the way they were circumcised and would do anything they want but not accepting to be called uncircumcised or to be circumcised for a second time.

Circumcision among Bamasaaba people is believed to have been started by a man called Samba Sambaranila Engunyi. Who was initiated by a woman called Khabale.

Different elders whom I have interacted with have had different versions of the origin of circumcision but many have the version that I am going to explain to you.

Circumcission, Sikhebo is believed to have originated from a place called Esituluku where Bamasaaba people settled for sometime on their journey to their current place. Note that there is a difference between Embalu and Sikhebo and I will explain it in detail as I continue with this story.

Back to Esituluku, when Bamasaaba people were at that place fierce war erupted between them and people believed to be Arabs which led to the killing of all Bamasaaba men living behind only women.

Fortunately, a young boy Samba Sambaranila Engunyi, the son of Mukhale survived as he was hid by women.

Later the enemies started surveying the area in order to find out if there was any male person they had left behind. Word went round the homestead of Bamasaaba women who later sensed danger of keeping the young boy Samba.

They decided to vacate the place and leave the boy behind so that he could be killed if found. They therefore send him to look after cattle but those women left immediately the boy went out. They left for another village living behind the boy.

Watch you tube full videos for the Bukusu circumcision here.

When he came back the boy was surprised to find everyone gone to unknown place something that made him to run into the forest where he survived on fruits and honey from the forest. He slept on branches of trees.

Samba later found an opening and suddenly he reached a certain homestead. He entered it and went straight up to the place where women used to pour ashes.

Later, one of the women went to pour ash at the place and found the boys sleeping there. She woke him up and asked him where he was coming from and where he was heading to. The boy said he did not know where he was coming from and going to.

The woman having stayed for too long without making love after all the men had been killed in that area asked the boy if he could function and the boy accepted. To confirm, the woman held the boy`s sexual organ and indeed she found out that he was no lying.

A woman is overwhelmed with the spirit of circumcision is cooled down by Mzee Sinino

The woman then secretly took the boy into her house and prepared a special place where the boy used to go for the long and short calls, Sirerera. The woman would pour the wastes in the morning but in a very careful way so that other women could not see her.

Later, the woman`s physical appearance started changing and she also started experiencing many changes implying that she had conceived. That one was like a miracle to the other ladies in the compound because they wondered how she could be pregnant bearing in mind that there was no man around.

They confronted her but she did not say the truth. They later threatened to kill her unless she said the truth something that worked because she pleaded with her fellow women not to kill her but instead she brought the boy from the house and revealed to them that he was the one responsible for the pregnancy.

Because women had stayed for a very long time without making love they all wanted to make love with the young man. He could not manage bearing in mind that he was not circumcised and some women argued that they would harm the young man`s sexual organ.

One woman suggested that they cut the boys foreskin so that he gets easy time during the sexual act. They all accepted and therefore two stones were brought and used to cut the skin.

One woman pulled the foreskin and it was placed on one stone and another woman, Khabale cut the foreskin using another stone. The young man felt a lot of pain but he had no otherwise. Because he now had a wound, women gave him time to heal as they used to pour ashes around the cut so that it could heal faster and indeed it did not take a very long time before it healed.

After healing women in the vicinity agreed that the boy will satisfy all of them sexually but on duties. The boy therefore could spend a night in respective houses until he finished the cycle and started it a fresh.

This aspect of the origin of circumcision also explains why Bamasaaba people argue that polygamy was started by women themselves. That it was not the wish of men to marry many wives but women themselves accepted it during Samba Sambaranila Engunyi`s time.

A boy being smeared with millet flour mixed with water

Samba Sambaranila Engunyi is highly respected among Bamasaaba people for he is the father of circumcision and through him women accepted polygamy.

Bamasaaba people then went on with the rite of circumcising boys although many of those who were being circumcised were mature people most who were even above 18 years.

As Bamasaaba people kept migrating, they were faced with very many challenges on the way such as wars, hunger, diseases among others.

Those challenges made them to put off circumcision for sometime as they had no time to circumcise their youth.

When Bamasaaba people among them the clans of Omumeme, Omukhurarwa, Omuchibino, Omutakhwe, Omukisiai, Omukombe, Omukongolo, Omuleyi, Omukhone, Omumunaa were staying at a place called Mubwayi, now areas around Amukura, they interacted with Barwa Bakinisu who according to Mzee Situma Manyasi and Wafula Sipengi were descendants of the Maasai.

Olukayeti, Olukulesi from Barwa Bakinisu at one time are believed to have taught Bamasaaba people how to fight at night when they were fighting with Iteso people.

During that time there existed a terrifying python which is believed to have killed very many people plus livestock.

Several attempts were made to kill, prevent the python from killing more people in vain.

A pot for Khuchukhila ceremony tied with special grass called Lukhafwa

In the first attempt, a man called Khasotio Wa Opinyi placed poison on a wooded tray for the snake to sip and die but unfortunately only the young snakes sipped the poison and died leaving behind the terrifying python.

Because the python was killing people day in day out, Bamasaaba people came up with an idea of placing well chopped stones on their heads and moved around with them. Those stones prevented Bamasaaba people from any attacks from the python as it would die if it went for anyone`s head.

Remember the python was targeting people`s heads and anyone it would reach his or her head died instantly.

Later, Bamasaaba people started carrying with them very hot porridge in pots which according to them would kill the python if it attempted to strike them.

Despite all the efforts, the python continued to strike and kill as many people in the vicinity.

Among Bamasaaba people who were killed included the son of Khasotio from Omuchibino clan who was sitting under a tree, son of Wekesa Omukhone, son of Opinyi, Omutakhwe, Mukongolo`s son, Malasile Wa Sibanga, Omukhurarwa.

Others were Wanjala, Wekesa, Wakwabubi who were all sons of Kambisi Omumeme although a section of elders argue that he was Omukhurarwa.

Kambisi, the son of Wetungu had four children namely Wanjala, Wekesa, Wakwabubi and Mango their mother being Nabwile.

After the python killed three of Kambisi`s sons he decided to confront the reptile using all means. He therefore went to Olukayeti who gave him an axe, sword, spear (Wamachari) to use them to attack the enemy.

Before he went to the cave where the python used to stay, he went to the river to bath where he used sand, mud, leaves from Kumikimila tree to bath.

That according to Mzee Manyasi that was to ensure that the python could not sense any human smell around the cave because that could make it easy for it to kill Kambisi.

Kambisi also cut pieces of traditional trees called Kumusilisisi and Kumwifubulu which he placed at the entrance of the cave and hid himself inside the cave armed with his weapons.

When the python came in the evening, it surveyed suspiciously outside its cave but finally attempted to enter the cave.

Without wasting any single second, Kambisi who was hiding in the cave chopped off the python`s head. According to Mzee Wafula Sipengi, the python`s head went and bit a nearby tree called Kumusilisisi which dried instantly.

Kambisi came out and cut the python into pieces before rushing to the river to smear himself with mud bearing in mind that a lot of blood from the python had sprinkled on him.

He came out shouting as a hero telling people that finally he had killed the killer python although people did not believe him until they got to the cave and saw for themselves.

Now, because Kambisi had killed a terrifying python that had claimed lives of very many people, he could not be allowed to enter leave alone spend a night in his house and therefore elders organized for a cleansing ceremony where a sheep was slaughtered and Kambisi cleansed.

The following day, Kambisi who had suddenly became a hero demanded to be circumcised but elders did not support that arguing that because he was aged, he would die if they circumcised him.

A girl overwhelmed with the spirit of circumcision is cooled down

In his place therefore his son, Mango was circumcised. Mango who was between 16 and 18 years was circumcised traditionally where milk was poured on a traditional seat which he sat on as he was circumcised. He was circumcised by Olukayeti Omukinisu assisted by Wele Musiku Omuchesongwa (Omutili).

After Mango`s initiation, many Bamasaaba people came out and demanded to be circumcised arguing that if Mango who was younger than most of them had been circumcised, nothing could stop them too.

Mango is remembered mostly among Bamasaaba people as a person who launched circumcision, Embalu, as after his circumcision many men, boys underwent the rite.

After his circumcision at around 1800, many things were incorporated into circumcision among them songs, Sioyayo, jingles among others.

Sioyayo song came from Mango`s mother`s words. Mango`s mother could not believe his son was courageous enough to face the knife so she was crying;

Haa hee hoo, haa hee hoo

From those words, Bukusu people used the tune of hyenas` sound to come up with the popular song Sioyayo.

Several stanzas were composed each with a specific meaning.

They include Mango maalule wekhale which mean the spirit of Mango who re launched circumcision plus other forefathers is present to witness circumcision.

Circumcisers lift up their knives as they sing Sioyayo

Wangwe wamusiru walindile meaning the traditional circumcisers are ready and just waiting for the initiate(s). Omulekhele……….Abaale, Leave it to him to operate.

Omusinde oteremaka acha ebunyolo, meaning any initiate who trembles should go to Luo land where they don`t circumcise.

Nosili Omwana wibele which means if you are young then just leave it for another time.

Omwana wo munang`unga obira oyu……Wa Sipengi. This stanza is meant to tell the public the clan and father or family of the boy(s) to be circumcised.

At the moment a well laid down procedure is normally followed before young boys are circumcised.

When the boy is mature enough, for example at the age of 15, he would inform his parents that he wants to be circumcised. Note that initially Bukusu people circumcised their males when they were as old as thirty years with some being married.

Sometimes if the child fears the father may use a mediator to deliver the message and later faces the father and explain his position as far as circumcision is concerned. In many cases the boy would first tell his mother who will in turn inform the father.

After the child has been given permission by his parents or guardians to be circumcised, he will be given a hen to take to the black smith to make chinyimba and birere (bells) for him. This is because the person who makes the bells birere needs to know the size required according to the size of the hand.

Boys dance immediatelly after Khuchukhila

Sometimes a boy could borrow the bells from a friend only to use them and return after circumcision with a fee or chicken.

A special tree called lufufu is used for tying the chinyimba as a handle. Lufufu is usually used as it is believed to be a shrub of life as it renews the life of an initiate.

The parents need to prepare in advance, for example by informing the clan members of the mother to know how they can welcome the initiate and reward the young accordingly including slaughtering a bull.

The parents should also ensure they have done all the cultural requirements concerning marriage, for example dowry payment, sitiso, sitekho, and chinyinja. If the mother has not undergone all these, she will not be allowed to cook for her son after circumcision.

The boy will then begin khusaula chinyimba after the circumcision date has been set to move around dancing while playing chinyimba to invite relatives and friends from their homes.

The first relative to be invited by the boy is normally the aunt, sister to the boy`s father who will later on been given a specific obligation to perform just seconds before the boy is circumcised.

Two days to the circumcision day, the circumcision candidate undergoes a process called khuchukhila which serves as a covenant with his father that he must be circumcised let come what may.

After khuchukhila the boy is send by the father to invite key relatives and friends that are required at the function. For example Bakoki (people who were circumcised at the same time with his father).

On the eve of the circumcision day, the initiate is send to his maternal uncles’ home (Ebukhocha) as the clan members to the mother bless him and give him a go ahead to be circumcised.

One of the uncles will slaughter a bull and put a special part of meat called Luliki around the neck of the initiate to walk with it up to their home to show how the parents of the candidate were sleeping on one another in the child making process.

The reason for smearing initiates with busee (internal content of the rumen) is to neutralize in hindrances to the circumcision of the boy, nga liosio khurusiao bubi.

A woman is overwhelmed with the spirit of circumcision is cooled down by Mzee Sinino

The animal skin of the slaughtered bull is carried together with other pieces of meat to show the color of the bull that was slaughtered for him.

The bull is only slaughtered at the uncle’s home in the presence of the initiate. Elders will then check the internal organs and intestines to interpret the initiation matters and matters affecting the community at large.

From the uncle’s home they are not to go to any other place other than their home without stopping even if it rains they endure the rains. Clan members for example uncles must accompany the team after giving them all the requirements.

In case the boy`s uncle gives him a live bull then his father will give his brother in law a piece of meat, sinama to take home. In the evening after returning from the uncle’s home lisombo a piece of meat from the cow or goat`s internal parts is put around the neck of the circumcision candidate, smeared with busee.

The reason for putting lisombo around the neck of the initiate is to ensure it makes the initiate rich as it is believed to attract wealth from all directions to the initiate. Lisombo lisomba kimiandu. The part that is picked for this ceremony is from the rumen but not from other stomachs of the bull.

Boys dancing after Khuchukhila

Then boys start dancing as people sing and dance around them, khuminya for some time as they take local brew kwete. Different categories of people are served in different pots, for example babakoki, (those initiated the same year with the initiate’s father), bakhocha, (maternal uncles), balebe, other relatives and friends.

Then babakoki sing to the initiates to celebrate then finish by singing sioyayo before allowing the initiates to go and sleep.

Before the circumcision candidate is allowed to sleep, he is given meat without salt to reduce bleeding during the cutting process. The meat is given in sizable pieces of meat as the initiates is supposed to put the whole piece in mouth without biting.

This is meant to make the circumcision exercise to be faster for the circumcisers. Bamasaaba people believe if the boy bites the pieces then the circumciser will do exactly that way when circumcising him resulting into a lot of pain.

The person to roast meat for the initiates must be a person of good character, a person who can be emulated. The stick used for roasting meat is kept safely to prevent ill intentioned people from using it in witch craft.

When a circumcision candidate starts calling relatives for the circumcision ceremony, there are various ululations, bikalakala that are raised but the major ones are three.

The first ululation is heard when the initiate undergoes khuchukhila, at their home, usually done by the mother. The second one is done at the uncles’ place after putting luliki around the neck.

The third one is immediately after circumcision as people celebrate the bravery of the initiates. Other ululations can be made at the homes of relatives, neighbours, friends and bakoki when the initiate goes to invite them.

The rule is that, ululations can only be made by women; men were not allowed to.

A boy led to face the knife

The circumcision candidate is usually taken to the river very early in the morning to be smeared with mud to make the body cold hence reduce bleeding during the cutting. In certain cases boys were taken to their grandfather’s or father`s graves very early in the morning to give respect to the dead before they go to the river. At the graveside, a cow or goat is slaughtered and Mzee Manyasi says it connects, invites the dead to witness the circumcision exercise.

Note that if the boy was named after the grandfather, he will not be taken to the grandfather`s grave. Bamasaaba people believe any traditional rite not only circumcision that will require them reach the deceased`s grave will harm children named after the deceased if they step at the graveside.

Remember that all the cows or goats slaughtered before the boy is initiated are also used to confirm whether something sinister might happen to the boy during and after the circumcision exercise.

People from the community who have the spirit of sensing sinister things by just examining the internal parts of the cow, goat or chicken are the ones who did it and gave the report immediately to the father and close uncles.

People rotate around initiates

Sinister things we mean the boy might run away from the cut, he might call his mother or father`s name after encountering a lot of pain during the cut, he might die from bleeding, the circumciser might chop off the whole of the boy`s sexual organ and many more.

The place where initiates are taken to be smeared with mud musitosi is so special as it is associated with cultural spirits concerning circumcision that make initiates withstand the circumcision pain.

After smearing him with mud, a special grass kwaututu is put on the head of the circumcision candidate. Kwaututu is a special grass among Bamasaaba people and putting it on the boy`s head signifies that the boy is now fully connected with the ancestors and also sends the message to the boy`s mother back at home that the son is coming and is ready to face the knife.

According to a 77 year old Mama Priscilla Nasimiyu, from Namanje village in Bumula Sub County,Bungoma County who has initiated all her six sons traditionally, she could experience a different feeling suddenly back at home when her sons were at the river. To her that was the time Kwaututu grass was being placed on the boys head. Note that that grass could not stand on its own and as such a piece of clay soil was placed on the boy`s head first to hold it.

Boys were shaved a few days before the circumcision day because after initiation they would not be allowed to shave until their passing out day called Khukhwalukha.

Traditionally, a person who was meant to smear the initiate with mud was to strip naked and then smear the initiates with mud as he tells them words of courage to face the knife without fear. Striping naked was to tell the boy that he must also appear like him in a very short time after circumcision.

The person to smear the initiates with mud at the river is supposed to be a person of good character, who was circumcised traditionally and is known for his bravery. In most cases it is the boy`s uncle who married a fresh woman not a widow, a woman who had given birth at her parents’ home nor a divorced woman.

Bamasaaba people believe that the initiate will emulate the person who smeared him so if he is contrary to those set requirements then it will affect the boy.

When they are coming from the river after smearing the initiates with mud, they are supposed to order the circumcision candidates to urinate and/or defecate before reaching home to prevent embarrassment of some initiates who might urinate during the process.

There are a few cases where immediately after smearing the initiates with mud, he becomes weak and start shivering, in such a case he is given the circumciser’s knife, lukembe or enyuli, a traditional metal used by blacksmiths to hold then he becomes normal again as they proceed with their process.

This was seen as an indicator that the initiate has cultural spirits for circumcision, bukhebi or bubasi, blacksmith.

Knives being prepared

According to one of the long serving circumcisers Mzee Watibini (deceased) from Kimalewa village, when the candidate is brought to the circumcision scene mutiang’i the circumciser at that time does not see anything else apart from the fore skin of the boy.

Etiang`i is a special place where the boy will stand straight when he is being cut. Initially elders used to sprinkle flour plus special baked sand around the place where the boy will head to straight when he reaches the homestead.

The circumciser will not recognize the presence of the crowd of people and in case he cuts himself while in the process of cutting, he will not feel any pain until after the process.

He said if the boy is approaching the scene and it happens that the circumciser feels the presence of people then he will automatically not perform his duty well. He might even chop off the whole of the boy`s organ which of course will result into beating from the crowd.

Also note that when the boy is on the way home from the river, the circumciser will send his assistants to check on him. They will and reach the boy to confirm because if at all the boy is afraid of the cut, those with the spirit of circumcising will automatically know and in turn inform the real circumciser that the boy is afraid.

He is not told direct, they only say Omwana abona, the boy is seeing. Normally when the boy is on the way he should not turn around and look at anybody, he should just be focused ahead. Confirming whether the boy is afraid of the knife helps the circumciser to apply a faster way of initiating him so that before he realizes he will be through.

When the boy is approaching the homestead, his aunt goes out to receive him. The aunt is smeared with soot, she carries a cooking stick dipped in beer, kamayeku, that the boy prepared during khuchukhila, then ties a piece of meat on her ear.

She is supposed to slap the boy using the cooking stick although in most cases many boys hit it down. All that the aunt carries signifies transformation of the boy from childhood to adulthood and also wishing him to be rich, produce and welcome people.

Lukembe, the knife used to initiate boys is very sacred as many miraculous occurrences are attached to it.

For instance, the medicine for curing the injury obtained during the circumcision exercise for instance if the circumciser cuts himself is the circumcision knife lukembe that is pointed at the cut place and it heals automatically with time.

Siphoning Busaa

In Bamasaaba community if one has a wound that has taken a very long time without curing, he or she had to mark the circumciser immediately after he cuts an initiate so that he points the knife, lukembe at it and it will heal after a while.

Sometimes, circumcisers would punish initiates who are known to be rude by sharpening the circumcision knife lukembe using black ants, chindangunywe a particular species of insects, to make the initiates have chisalila, a lot of internal pain immediately after the circumcision exercise.

Just in case the circumciser makes a mistake in the circumcision process and is beaten by relatives he should not fight back using the circumcision knife as if he uses it to fight the cultural spirit kumusambwa will desert him and he will no longer circumcise.

Chisalila is an abnormal pain that affects initiates immediately after the circumcision exercise. It can come naturally or induced by circumcisers.

When the circumciser finishes cutting the boy, he whistles and then the boy`s mother seated in the house in a group of other women will come out with ululations as they sing the famous song khwera omurwa.

If in any case the boy shouts out the mothers name during the cutting exercise a ritual had to be performed to cleanse the mother or else she might pass on or live unfortunate life.

The entire circumcision process is identified by the famous circumcision song sioyayo that is sung five times for a person to be circumcised.

Sioyayo is sung first when a son is making a covenant with his father, Khuchukhila, second is sung when luliki special piece of meat is put around the neck of the initiate at the uncles’ place.

The third one is sung when lisombo is put around the neck of the initiate in the evening a day to the circumcision day. The fourth is sung at midnight by babakoki before the initiate is given permission to sleep in readiness for the cut the following day.

The final sioyayo is sung when the initiate is being brought from the river in the morning for circumcision.

Immediately after circumcision initiates who were called Bafulu, would stay in a special hut called Likombe where they are to stay until their pass out ceremony. Or else before this ceremony they were not allowed to enter any other house unless it is Likombe either their own or in the neighborhood.

Normally immediately after circumcision, initiates were given guidelines on how to move around, where to go and where not to go. For the first three days after circumcision, the initiates were expected to remain indoors until the third day Musialukho is when they are set free to leave the home and meet other initiates in the neighborhood.

A person who is selected to take care of the initiates is called Namachengeche and is meant to feed, and take care of all their needs, receives information and passes it to the initiates and passes their communication to the other members of the society. Namachengeche is normally a girl, mostly the sister to the initiate or an aunt.

Namachengeche is like a nurse to the initiates (Omufulu). There is also Namakhala who are usually young uncircumcised boys who accompany the initiates’ to offer security, act as spy and messenger, can do any small assignments as assigned to them by the initiates.

Namakhala will always inform the initiates in case the age mate to their father (Bakoki) are around the way and just in case the father to the initiates did give Lubaka to the Bakoki then they would alert the initiates to hide to avoid being ridiculed by the person who shared the same knife with their father and the father didn’t reward them.

Namakhala will receive rewards on behalf of initiates, as initiates are not expected to come into direct contact with anybody.

The initiates are usually confined, in a special house, not to be punished by anybody as they are treated as special people who are always fed on a special diet.

The work of Namachengeche is to serve initiates with food, check just in case they are sick and any other services as required by the initiates.

The initiates are expected to respect Namachengeche for the rest of their lives. Initiates are not fed on milk, ripe bananas or milk tea as these foods are believed to delay the healing of the wound. Instead they were fed on special diet of dried meat, eggs and ugali.

The girl who removes the soil from the head of the initiate immediately after circumcision is usually special to the initiate.

After circumcision, the initiate is given lusanja to sleep on. A few hours after the exercise, the circumciser usually returns to advice to the initiates in a process known as khulumia. During khulumia, the initiate is also informed of the person who circumcised him. There are mostly three people who take part in the real cutting. The one who cuts, the one who puts baked sand, lipukhulu in the boy`s organ, then the one who pulls the foreskin before it is cut.

There are specific requirements before one is ordained to be a circumciser. One had to come from a clan that had the spirit of circumcising.

Clans that circumcise include Bakhoma, Balako, Babasaba, Baleyi, Babichu among others.

Note that one had to be married and his first born child should be male before he could be allowed to initiate. On top of that there were stages that one passed through before being allowed to circumcise.

One started with preparing sand for the rite, sharpening the knives, putting sand into the boy’s organ before it is cut, holding the skin for the real circumciser to cut the boy before being the knife officially to start circumcising on his own.

On cutting the first skin, it is placed on the boy`s body at either side of his waist. Circumcisers say it was placed there to avoid people with ill intentions taking it to bewitch the initiate.

We have had some situations where old women have been beaten to death after they swallowed the boy’s skin immediately it is dropped on the ground.

People siphoning traditional brew kwete from a clay pot

The issue of witchcraft is classified as one of the reasons that has made some of Bamasaaba people choose to initiate their boys in hospitals for fear that their children might be bewitched.

The circumciser always steps on the boy`s left foot to cut the first skin but changes quickly to finish the inner skin. Remember that the whole exercise takes place very fast, a maximum of thirty seconds and while doing it the circumcisers communicates but no one can understand them because it is spiritual.

The handle of the knives used to initiate is made from a traditional tree called Kumukimila which means tradition. Note that the said tree must have roots that have crossed the road. Not every mukimila tree has roots crossing the road.

Bamasaaba people believe by the tree crossing the path or road shows that the tree has been crossed by both bad and good people and also bearing in mind that many people would have used that road, it will be very difficult for those with bad intentions to bewitch the initiates.

A circumciser can stop performing his duties if he circumcises a dead person, if he suddenly falls while running with his knife or if he develops lifwa (swelling of his testicles).

If the knife becomes worn out, a special ceremony is conducted where a cow or goat is slaughtered and then the knife taken to the river, musitosi and buried. Bamasaaba people argue that if it is just thrown away anyhow then it will cause a curse to the many people it was used to circumcise.

If a circumciser dies, his knives are placed on the house before burial and his fellow circumcisers will conduct a traditional ceremony before taking them back in his house.

When the circumcision month, August, approaches, circumcisers conduct a blessing ceremony called khubita chingembe where they bless the knives.

During the ceremony, a white or spotted goat is slaughtered plus a white chicken and the chicken’s blood is sprinkled on the knives while blood from the goat is mixed with busee and some herbs and placed on the calabash.

The old circumciser takes up the duty of blessing the knives praying that god allows them to use them well without sinister happenings. There after certain pieces of meat from the goat and chicken are roasted and boiled for the gathering to eat and then drink beer later.

Circumcisers smeared with herbs

Note that it is not a must for a goat to be slaughtered but a white chicken is a must. Chairman of Bungoma County Circumcisers Sinino Wo Mukolongolo who hosted the 2016 knives blessing ceremony in his home, Nalondo village, Kabuchai Sub County, Bungoma County says that Chicken which they call Engosia is slaughtered and used to bless and bind circumcisers before circumcision starts.

After the ceremony, one can circumcise without fear because the knives are blessed. Each circumciser keeps his own knife tied with banana leaves and kept in a very special bag.

Mzee Sinino says all the circumcisers must adhere to specific rules that will ensure they don’t cause problems to initiates.

For instance, after blessing of knives, all traditional surgeons will not be allowed to share a bed with their spouses. In short they will not be allowed to make love with either their wives or any other woman until boys pass out. Any circumciser who will circumcise a dead person will never be allowed to circumcise the living again.

In summary, any circumciser who takes a centre stage in any death rites will never be allowed to circumcise the living again. Bamasaaba people believe death and life are two different things and therefore rites that relate to the dead cannot be mixed with those relating to the living.

That explains why among Bamasaaba people during circumcision for example, one cannot be allowed to join those who are undertaking circumcision rites including Khuminya if he or she is from a funeral gathering.

In fact, if a person dies in a homestead after the ceremony of Khuchukhila, family members will just keep his or her body until after the boy is circumcised then funeral takes over.

Also at the moment, Culture Departments from County Governments have initiated a programme of registering all the circumcisers meaning only those ones that are registered, have certificates will be allowed to circumcise boys.

A woman is overwhelmed with the spirit of circumcission immediately she arrived at the knives blessing ceremony

In addition, Mr Sinino says all the circumcisers are supposed to ensure they use one knife per child as per advice from trainings that they have attended urging parents to also ensure that circumcisers adhere to all the laid down rules.

Circumcision opens a way to special instructions and rule called Lubito given to the initiate. It is a moral awareness development of a man as she/ he grows physically and mentally to help him/her grow conscientiously through society.

The youth will have to go through processes which will guide hum to form a conscience. These processes are peer group, egoism (self identification) Lubito makes a great impact on a developing person as it makes the individual aware of him/ herself as a mentor of a society because of the co-operation implied.

Self respect replaces fear as a basis of moral conduct.

The main impact is the great development of awareness of others and responsibility towards them, sensitivity is their opinions and attitudes.

The rules given are organized to mould and prepare the youths into a morally upright and decent adult lifestyle. Any good role model from the community (clan) is allowed to perform it. One must be an elder of good morals, knowledgeable in Bukusu customs and of good standing in society.

It is very important to note that charges for circumcision vary depending on the nature of the initiate. By nature Mzee Sinino means twins (Omukhwana), We Sikumu, this is a boy who was born without his mother experiencing menstrual period mostly called Okumu,Omuboelala, a child who survives after his mother giving birth to many children but unfortunately they die mostly called Kundu, We Sitata, whose foreskin is very hard to cut, We Moni(We Ngitole), who appears as if he is circumcised yet he is not, We Kumwayu, whose foreskin is open, We Sichunjuni, whose foreskin appears as if it is closed, We Chifubu, epileptic.

In case a boy falls in any of the above, the circumciser will be paid sheep on top of the normal rate.

According to Bamasaaba people, that sheep will be used to cleanse the knife used to initiate the boy so that his nature doesn’t spread to other boys who will be initiated using the same knife.

Bamasaaba people have classified all the people who have been circumcised in eight age groups. Omusawa, Omukolongolo, Omukikwameti, Omukananachi, Omukinyikeu, Omunyange, Omumaina, Omuchuuma.

The most recent has been Omukolongolo which ran from 2000 to 2010. This year`s group is Omukikwameti number 3. Note that a new age group cannot find a person who was classified in the same group alive. That means by 2024 all men who were classified in Omukananachi group must not be alive.

If it happened that any man was still alive when an age group he was classified in was approaching, Bamasaaba people would extend the existing age group. However, it has never been easy for that to occur. It only occurred, once making Bamasaaba people to extend Bachuma group from 6 to 8.

By the time Basawa were just about to start, Mzee Wambilianga Wa Khapwondi from Babulo clan called for a meeting for all Bamasaaba Clusters of Kikai, Nabayi, Silikwa, Neala,Mwalie,Malaba to confirm if there were any elders classified in Basawa group who was still alive.

During the meeting it was established that two Basawa elders were still alive namely Makutukutu Wa Malasile Wa Sibanga, Omukhurarwa from Neala cluster and Lukhalabanda Enyama ya Ndosi, Omumuyonga from Kikai cluster.

Therefore, the elders agreed to extend Bachuma group for two seasons. That explains why Bachuma age group has 8 age sets. Bachuma we age group we have at the moment were initiated in the years of 1972, 1974, 1976,1978, 1980, 1982, 1984, 1986 then paved way for Basawa from 1998.

In some cases, Bamasaaba people would forcefully kill any old person who was still alive by the time his age group was approaching.

Mzee Situma Manyasi says what Bamasaaba would do was simply to slaughter a goat then give the old man a raw piece of liver to eat. Manyasi says in most cases that raw liver would kill the old man once he tasted it.

Another school of thought has it that whenever Bamasaaba people wanted to forcefully kill old people, they would place them outside their houses mostly facing the gate then pretending to have not seen him drive cattle on him letting them to step on him.

Siphoning Busaa

The many cows stepping on him bearing in mind that Bamasaaba people kept many cows, sheep, goats would kill the old man.

Bamasaaba people attach unique happens on all the age sets

For instance Omusawa who was circumcised in 1998 the age set was called Omusawa Okhalaka, sia bomu, in relation to the bomb blast that exploded in Nairobi at US Embassy.

Those in the same age set have a special bonding and they share meat or any gift, Lubaka whenever one circumcises his son.

Elsewhere, the official launching of Embalu in Inzu Ya Masaba is slated for Saturday 6th August 2016.

The function that will be graced by Uganda President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni will take place at Mutoto Cultural Centre and is expected to attract Bamasaaba people from Uganda Kenya and the rest of the world.

According to the culture Council, all the plans are going on well with the leadership of the Council among them Mzee Omar Njofu, Situma Manyasi expressing hope that the ceremony will be colourful.

Already a section of Kenyan leaders among them Bungoma Governor Hon Kenneth Lusaka have hinted that they will attend the launch.

According to the plan seen by the West Media, those who wish to attend the launch from Bungoma and Trans Nzoia Counties are required to pay one thousand shillings for an invitation card, the money that will be used to facilitate the function.