The Bukusu culture covered in refreshing detail and breadth along with rites of passage, stages of life, and events such as birth, naming, circumcision, marriage, burial, and death is of significance to the Bukusu community. The Bukusu are widely known for their circumcision culture which is deeply rooted in them. There are some significant practices that many people are not aware of.
The Kenya News Agency visited a renowned circumciser (Omukhebi) Josephat Musungu Makoye who narrated that he inherited the spirit of circumcision from his uncles (bakhoma clan). He fell sick when he was young and developed some mysterious wounds on his body and later during the circumcision ceremony he fainted on the(stabicha) a special soil applied to those awaiting to undergo the circumcision, He was given (lukembe) a knife used for circumcision and (Nyuli) a metal made by blacksmiths that is believed to calm down the spirits.
“When I was given the (lukembe) and got healed, that’s when I realized I possessed the spirit of circumcision. Two years later, I responded to the calling and began serving my purpose,” He narrated.
Musungu who is also a pastor received prayers to liberate him from the spirit but all this was in vain because it is in their bloodline.
“A pastor told me, if I circumcise a person then blow a whistle and it becomes a final say, if I lay my hands on the sick, they get healed,” Musungu affirmed.
He explained further that during the circumcision period, when they fall asleep, they dream about the boy who is about to be circumcised and foresee what will happen to him.
“The moment the boy steps in (stabicha) a special soil applied to those awaiting to undergo the circumcision, my body trembles, and my heart beats faster when the soil is applied on his body, I begin saying my own things when he steps out of the stabicha the crowd starts singing (sioya) a song sang during circumcision, I become possessed by a spirit and behave like a mad person the moment I cut off the foreskin I come back to my senses.” Said Mr. Musungu.
However, Musungu expounded that there are ladies who have the spirit and they get possessed on hearing the sioya, this makes them run tirelessly like mad people to where the the singing crowd is regardless of the distance unless they are given lukembe by omukhebi to calm down the spirits, they might never stop running and causing disturbance during the ceremony.
The application of soil on their body signifies they are dressed in an attire which they will never put on. The boys apply the soil on their body leaving a small area where the heart is located to allow breathing, Musungu shed explained further.
After a long walk with (Omukhebi) Josephat to the (Stabicha) a renowned place where the smearing of soil takes place Josephat explained more about the smearing process.
“After the smearing of the soil the boys are not supposed to use the path, they initially came with,” Musungu pointed out.
During the odd years, a year where circumcision ceremony doesn’t take place the (stabicha) remains still like a normal ground contrary to even years where the stabicha automatically gets wet and bubbles in preparation for the period.
It is believed the stabicha is guarded by a snake, in case of any interruption in the area the snake migrates to a new place and automatically the stabicha disappears and moves to the area the snake migrated.
Nevertheless, the placing of grass on the head signifies the boy will be the head of his home and the moment he dies (Lusuli) a stick that is put on top of a hut’s roof which signifies the grass that was placed on his head during circumcision, is removed to show that the head of the house is no more. Moreover, it is believed when he dies the cock is not supposed to crow in his absence, when it does it should be killed with immediate effect, Musungu told KNA.
Musungu said that (lukembe) the knife used for circumcision is made in (Lirumbi) a shrine, surprisingly the person who makes it should be naked as a sign of blessing it, before the circumcision period, (Busaa) is prepared in the shrine, a white hen or goat is sacrificed to foresee what will happen during the circumcision period. Lukembe is carried facing upwards by omukhebi when he is going to perform the act, an implication of the connections with the spirits.
The Daily Vendor Newspaper gathered that the handle of the knife (Lukembe) used in the cut, is from a special root of a Kamukimira tree. The root usually cuts across the path, this implies that the knife will be used to circumcise many people.
When the (omusinde) the boy who is to be circumcised, goes to stabicha his mother remains seated on the floor stretching her legs, when she folds her legs the omusinde screams calling the name of his mother which may lead to her death.
The placing of the meat around the neck signifies the father paid the bride price, this only applies to the firstborns Whereas, second-borns are given cows to go with, a slap on the cheek implies motivation or courage.