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Thread: SEME, Sword of the Massai

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
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    10,682

    SEME, Sword of the Massai

    I have always been fascinated by seme. Maybe it is due to the Massai. For what purpose do the Massai warriors used their swords? As far as I know they use spears for fighting/hunting. Am I correct? I really appreciate your input. I also appreciate your input regarding the warrior culture of the Massai tribe.

    Thanks.

    Kind regards

    Manouchehr
    Courtesy of Oriental Arms
    "eme, the classical sword of the Massai people of East Africa. 28 inches long, well forged blade widening to almost 2 inches toward the tip in a spear point shape, and with a strong central rib. Hide covered handle and scabbard with its original leather belt decorated with small white bids. Total length 34 inches (compared to 26 inches in the common ones)."
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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
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    England
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    The Masai (Maasai) are a cattle-herding people. Their arms, traditionally a spear with a long narrow blade and the seme short-sword, plus a shield at times, were largely employed in protecting their cattle. The young-adult unmarried Masai men form a distinct class in society called Moranis (or Moranes, or Il Moran), they form the major part of the cattle herders (along with younger boys) and are the warriors of the Masai. The Moranis dress their long hair (women shave their scalps entirely) and anoint their skins with a mixture of oil, plant sap and red-metallic pigment which gives them a characteristic red-sheen. When herding their cattle which are their major, essentially only, measure of wealth the Moranis live off milk and fresh blood which is taken from their cattle's jugular veins (the cattle are not killed by this blood-letting). Older men, once they can afford to marry, become "elders" and would raise a family. Once a woman stops menstruating she also achieves "elder" status and would be viewed as being hardly distinguishable from male elders.

    Traditionally, lion hunting with hand weapons (ie not missile weapons) was an integral part of Masai custom. In a lion hunt the seme would be a weapon of last resort. In war the Masai were relatively well organised and fielded war-bands of shield-bearing spearmen who often fought in fairly close-order, shoulder to shoulder. Again the seme would be a side-arm to be used if the spear was lost.
    Sweord ora ond sweordes ecg.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Posts
    10,682
    Thank you very much Martin for your excellent input. when I was in Brussels for a lecture, I bought a book "Le Maasai: pays, historie, économie, environment, croyances, culture matérielle" by Xavier van der Stappen published by La Renaissance du Livre in 2002. Unfortunately, I did not have time to read this book yet, but he has an entire chapter on the Massai warrior. There is a chapter that is entitled "Le Guerrier Maasai: un produit colonial" they are some old pictures from 1900-1910 depicting Massais armed with spears, shields, semes and clubs. There is also a chapter on material culture where weapons are again discussed.

    Kind regards

    Manouchehr

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