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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The Loonkidongi Prophets and the Maasai: Protection Racket or Incipient State
Author:Spencer, PaulISNI
Periodical:Africa: Journal of the International African Institute
Geographic term:Kenya
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Religion and Witchcraft
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/1160028
Abstract:The Maasai are widely assumed to be a highly egalitarian society whose past success in dominating their neighbours owed much to the advice of their Prophets ('loibonok'). This article examines the practice of divination and prophecy in relation to the reputation of and the beliefs surrounding the principal family of Maasai Prophets, the Loonkidongi. Undermining the egalitarian ideal, which is shared by the Maasai themselves, the Loonkidongi are shown to have been accepted as an elite. Throughout the 20th century they have continued to dominate the Maasai in initiating and controlling sorcery, giving protection on the one hand and fostering the belief in Maasai vulnerability on the other. Living apart from other Maasai, with more wives and larger herds, with their own dynasty and dynastic feuding, with their mystical powers and networks of influence, the Loonkidongi have the symbolic trappings of a superior class of rulers. From this point of view the Maasai are not egalitarian, but are the clients of a protection racket that in precolonial times amounted to an incipient State. Today the Prophets continue to wield influence and are accorded more power popularly than elsewhere in eastern Africa. The author carried out research among the Kenya Maasai in 1976-1977. Bibliogr., sum. also in French.