Tuesday, 15 October 2013

I'm glad I crashed the wedding...

So how does a Rendille wedding work?
May I begin by saying that I only have a basic understanding of weddings, in any culture. My appreciation of Rendille weddings is minimal at best. There are some similarities with what I'm used to. Lots of people standing around for the day, waiting for the next meaningful event. Men dressed up. Women dressed up. A blushing bride. A nervous groom. Relatives. Friends. Dancing. Joy.
As for the differences...
Sunshine is pretty much guaranteed. The outfits are far more colourful and in keeping with the warmer climate. Not a shirt and tie in sight. At about 7am the groom appeared with his buddies to sing his way (rather mournfully) to the mother-in-law's house, with two goats leading the way. Once at the house, one goat is slaughtered outside on a bed of leaves/branches... throat cut, blood/life draining away slowly, the goat skin is removed with surgical precision and fat is removed. It's quite something for a Westerner to see an animal die in front of your eyes as part of a wedding. For everyone else this is totally regular wedding stuff. Looking into the eyes of the dying goat felt anything but regular. The bridal party were nowhere to be seen at this point.  
After a careful carving of the animal, the groom had to carry strips of goat fat into the mother-in-law's tent. The first time around, he reversed into the Min (house), carrying his fresh cargo. After re-emerging into the heat of the day, the guy had to carry yet more goat fat into the home.  
The symbolism of the dying goat underlines the significance of each marriage. One man explained:
"The goat dies and this represents a deep truth. The couple are now dead to their old way of life, as they begin their new life. The man and woman are united by the death they have just proclaimed. They cannot separate, unless death takes them."
That image of  the goat, bleeding and dying, will stay with me. I don't know how the warriors managed it, but they killed the goat and it was silent throughout, as the life drained from its body. The image takes me to another location, where history changed forever, outside the city of Jerusalem. Jesus Christ, the God-man, allowed himself to be sacrificed, hanging like a common criminal. The blood and the life slowly left his body. I love the words of the prophet Isaiah written hundreds of years before Jesus walked the earth. The whole of Isaiah chapter 53 is a staggering prediction of the suffering saviour:
Isaiah 53v7: He was oppressed and afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
    and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.
Rendille Warrior in the wedding procession.
Bridegroom walks backwards into the mother-in-law's tent, carrying goat fat.

Sharing chai with the Rendille warriors, who were just gearing up for some dancing.
It's all or nothing on the dance floor.
In the thick of it...
Bridal party, with the happy couple on the right. 
The "Maid of Honour/Bridesmaid" enjoying the day.
The dancing was just warming up again as the sun went down.

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