The pacification of the Maasai and the transformation of the Prophet's tribute


en Anthropozoologica 16 - Pages 67-74

Published on 01 October 1992

This article is a part of the thematic issue Animals and their products in trade and exchange. Proceedings of the 3rd international meeting of HASRI, Oxford, 8-11 November 1990

Maasai regard the success of their warfare in precolonial times as largely due to the oracular power of the dynasty of their Prophets. In return for his advice, a Prophet who instigated a raid would be given a prime share of the cattle gains. Following the abolition of intertribal warfare with colonialism, the dynasty of Prophets have retained considerable power among the Maasai In a transformation of their former role, they now sustain their herds through continued tribute of cattle from the Maasai themselves in exchange for ritual protection from super-human agencies that are felt to pose a widespread threat. The thrust of this paper is to examine the contemporary ideological framework that links Maasai attitudes towards cattle with the oracular power of their Prophets. The herd of the Prophets are assumed to play a role in their mystical ability to divine and control misfortune. It is the ideological aspect of tribute that underpins the continuing economic success of the Prophets.


Africa, Maasai, Tribute, Prophets.

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