Origin of polygamy in relation to circumcision among the Bamasaaba community
Written by Nandemu Barasa `Omutolometi’
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Origin of circumcision among Bamasaaba people has been explained by many people differently causing a big debate on the exact origin of circumcision.
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.
Circumcision, 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 began 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. When he came back the boy was surprised to find everyone gone to unknown place something that made him also to run into the forest where he survived on fruits and honey from the forest. He also 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 women used to pour ashes.
Later one of the women went to pour ash at the place and found the boys sleeping there. She asked him where he was coming from and also where 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 man had also been killed in that area asked the boy if he could function and the boy accepted. To confirm, the woman held the by`s sexual organ and indeed she found out that he was no lying.
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 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. The 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 said 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 skin and it was placed on one stone and another woman, Khabale cut the skin 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 although 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 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. As time has gone by churches came in and fought polygamy strongly although to some women`s surprise, polygamy has been legalized in many countries Kenya being one of them despite restrictions accompanied with it.
Samba Sambaranila Engunyi is highly respected among Bamasaaba people for he is the father of circumcision and through him women accepted polygamy.
Currently in Bamasaaba people polygamy is associated with wealth such that if one is wealthy then he must have more than one wife and also have many children because he would be in position to take care of them unlike poor men who cannot afford. Many women and children were also wealth on their own.
It is also argued that many men would prefer to get children with different wives to increase chances of getting productive, wealthy and even children who can be good leaders.
A polygamous man walked tall in the community and even in drinking places, his seat could be placed in the corner of the house unlike men who had only one wife and were therefore forced to sit at the entrance of the house.
Bamasaaba people believed that if a man with one wife was allowed to sit in the corner when drinking beer, he could break the beer pot if for instance he was called home suddenly that his wife had passed on. However, a polygamous man if he was called home in such a situation he would not be so astonished bearing in mind that he had more than one wife and cannot therefore be wife less. In fact elders joke that if a polygamous man received such news while drinking, he will drink for some time again before he leaves for his home.
Bamasaaba people call a polygamous man Omusecha while a man with wife is just referred to as Omusani meaning the one who was circumcised.
Initially polygamy was seen as a unifying thing but currently there is a lot of jealousy associated with it in that some co wives in a given marriage cannot see eye to eye and even some extend it up to their children by stopping them from associating with children of their step mothers. Some women now days attempt to poison their co wives` children although initially elders handled that by ensuring a polygamous father ate with all of his children. Wives could prepare food assembled all the children at their father`s house where they ate as a family. By so doing no wife could attempt to poison her co wives` children or even the husband because it could affect even her own children.
Currently many churches are opposed to polygamy arguing that God created Adam and Eve meaning a man should only marry one wife.
However, the Muslim faith approves polygamy up to the forth wife something that has made some many to cross from Christianity to enjoy that privilege.
Different thoughts argue that polygamy if all parties are respected it leads to many successes although others object saying it creates unfairness, jealousy and even death.
In my next article I will focus on many things that were later incorporated in circumcision and also Mango`s contribution on circumcision.