Groom barefoot on wedding day to elude ‘bad omen’
Samburu, Kenya: It is a tale of two weddings on the same day in the quest to embrace cherished traditional customs alongside the thrill of modernity.
During a couple’s big day last weekend at Archers Post in Samburu East, it was evident that African culture need not necessarily clash with new customs.
For the groom, Daniel Lesrayon who is a Kenya Army soldier and his bride Mary Leprtobiko, a community development professional, they were determined to enjoy the best of both worlds during their big day.
Though stout Catholics, the couple, for the love of their Samburu culture, struck a compromise that gave way to two weddings: a traditional ceremony early in the morning and in the afternoon, a church occasion.
For the uniqueness of the two occasions, there were two sets of best couples. In the traditional rituals, Mr and Mrs Boniface Lesanjir did the onus.
Thereafter, Mr and Mrs Daniel Letoiye stood by the couple in the afternoon as Catholic priest Rev Fr Peter Leseketeti presided over the holy matrimony.
Perhaps the only common thread throughout the two contrasting occasions was that the groom and his best man were bare feet.
Samburu culture forbids the groom and his traditionalwedding best man from wearing shoes. Neither should he carry any weapon — like a sword — common among the men in the community.
According to Lesrayon, this is an important part of tradition that is revered so that even during the Christian church wedding he chose to be without shoes.
“A long time ago, a newly wedded man wore shoes during his big day and war broke. Since he had shoes on and a sword, he joined the fight and got killed, leaving his new bride,” he explains.
Lesanjir and Lesrayon say walking without shoes symbolises a weddingday when the groom is not allowed to leave his wife. He is required to stay at home (the manyatta) to celebrate to avoid bad omen.
Thus it is believed the penalty for anyone who violates the tradition could be so severe as to include the elders taking away the bride.
It is too high a price to pay.
Letoiye did not want to risk wearing shoes before two days were over lest the elders punish him.
Although religion, Western culture and education have eroded traditions among some communities, the Samburu still hold tight on their rich culture.
Among the valued customs is the traditional marriage ceremony. It includes the slaughtering of a bull.
The groom and his best man wore traditional attire. They coloured themselves in red ochre, famous among the community.
For the bride, the perfumes and beauty creams had no place for the morning traditional ritual. Instead, the bride applied the red soil, which she had to wash away in the afternoon in time for the church wedding.
She had shaven her hair, like her fiancée, applied the red ochre on her head and wore huge beaded necklaces.
If you had seen Mary in the morning you would hardly have told she was the same bride in the church service in the afternoon.
With her best lady beside her, they sat in the smoky hut.
Although the bride is allowed to wear shoes, the groom isn’t. He has to walk barefoot even during the Christian wedding ceremony.
Early in the morning, as is customary among the Samburu, a huge bull was slaughtered and meat chopped in a special manner.
An elder handed the groom and his best man, Lesanjir, long chops to take to his bride who sat in the smoky hut. The two had to do the onus four times during the ceremony, which began at 6am.
The bride then hurriedly changed for the Christianwedding but made sure the wedding dress reflected her treasured culture.
Even the bridesmaids were spectacular in their dressing sprinkled with traditional beauty.
The compound was a beehive of activity that morning as women cooked for the many guests that were invited to the ceremony.
Mary said she felt happy because they had received blessings twice; from the elders and the priest who had placed their marriage before God.
After the two weddings there was a photo session followed by celebrations.