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The Laibon culture is an important part of the Samburu community. Samburu's main commercial operations are recognized for their formidable reputations as cattle rustlers and warriors. The aim of Laibons in the community was to keep their social rites, practices, and traditions alive, such as circumcision, their age-set form of social organization, and vocabulary pieces. The Laibon are healers, diviners, and sorcerers who hold a special place in the Samburu communities. The aim of this paper is to examine Laibons' social status by highlighting individual and collective rituals practiced by Laibons, as well as the impact of these rituals on their influence. Social Position of Laibons within the Samburu Community
The position of the Laibons within the Samburu community is different compared to other members who were expected to be cattle rustlers and warriors. The Laibon were diviners, medicine men and ritual experts which gave them a special social position within the Samburu community (Fratkin 20). Fratkin shares the social position of the Laibon as livestock herders apart from their special roles and position. The social position of Laibons makes them fundamentally important because they were consulted on pertinent social issues and customs like rituals, new diseases and when the community needed divine intervention (Fratkin 15). The position ensured that they were always the first people to be consulted when there were social problems within the community.
The position of Laibons within the community as diviners, ritual experts and medicine leaders ensured that they could used mystical and medicinal as well as healing powers to heal the sick and any kind of ailments (Fratkin 50). These medicinal and mystical powers gave them special social power. These powers were compounded with the fact that the community, elders and leaders dependent on them on social any social issues. They ensure that there was social order by providing leadership structure through the age-set social organization. They also ensure that their herders were safe from draught as they could sermon rains during famine and drought. The people needed their guideline when performing rituals. For instance, they aided many activities and tasks by the age-group leaders known as olaiguenani. The Olaiguenani leaders were chosen to perform the rite of passage ritual like circumcision (Fratkin 47). The Laibon ensured that they chose and train them on how to circumcise different age-group as well as offer guidelines until they were old enough.
Collective and individual rituals performed by Laibons
It is important to understand that the Laibon were specifically chosen within the Samburu community. They were only one Laibon within one clan. They had many roles such as officiating and directing ceremonies, healing person from the mental, physical and spiritual alignment as well as sacrifices. Some of the rituals that were as performed individual by Laibons was officiating and performing sacrifices. Laibon worked individually when healing people from the physical, mental and spiritual ailments (Fratkin 37). These activities were performed individually because there was secret medicine that was not told or revealed to every member of the community. They also offered advice to elders about the spiritual aspects of the community matters were done individually.
The Laibons also performed some rituals collectively with the communities. The selection of the olaiguenani was done collectively to ensure that the circumcision ritual was done correctly. The Laibon ensured that they chose and train them on how to circumcise different age-group as well as offer guidelines until they were old enough. The second ritual that was performed collectively was praying for rains during drought and famine periods. Rains were important because, without rain, their herds would not have sufficient grass. Despite, their prominent collective roles, they had no political power. It was their collective responsibility to bridge the gap between man and God (Ngai) (Fratkin 89). They also open and closing ceremonies of the age-set transitions. It is believed that the Laibons came from one family in the Nkidong'i location and it was inherited.
Effects of rituals on the power of the Laibons to heal and protect the community
The Laibons were more than healers and diviners. Despite not having political powers to run, they advised the elders and leaders on the matters affecting the community. The power of the Laibons was very imminent with the purpose of ensuring the social wellbeing of the community. The effects of these rituals were meant to ensure that the herds had enough grass and support growth of their wealth (Fratkin 79). The collectively rituals like officiating ceremonies such as opening and closing the ceremonies had the effects that earn them respect and mutual understanding from the community. They ensured that rituals were not missed from one ceremony, these activities and tasks performed by the Laibon ensured that community has a social order.
The Laibons had social powers that even the elders and leaders could not command. The purposes in the power of the rituals were so important that they cannot be performed without them. For instance, they were healers and medicine men who could see health barrenness, malaria, and other ailments. The effects of their rituals were meant to ensure that people are well taken off socially, spiritually and physically. As a bridge between God and people, he ensured that people prayed and offer sacrifice to God and reconcile. They knew when God was not happy or punishing the community. Therefore, the power they had ensured that the community could offer sacrifice to appease Ngai and forgive the community
Fratkin, Elliot. Laibon: An Anthropologist's Journey with Samburu Diviners in Kenya . AltaMira Press, 2011.
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