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CugelTheClueless's avatar

Do the Maasai have vampire stories?

Asked by CugelTheClueless (1539points) March 29th, 2013

Vampire stories of one kind or another appear in many cultures. Does anyone know if the Maasai (a pastoral people of eastern Africa) have vampire stories? I’m curious, because the Maasai often drink the blood of their cows. They will open a vein and take some blood without killing the animal. I’m wondering if this gives them a different take on vampires. Maybe a creature that drinks blood would not seem all that scary to them, or on the other hand, maybe a monster that treats them the way they treat their cattle might seem even more horrible. Information about vampire stories in other cultures that drink blood is also welcome.

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8 Answers

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

Sorry that I don’t have a direct answer to your question, but after living in Africa for six years, I do know about the Tokoloshe. A little scary guy that come and gets you in the night. He is why the natives will not sleep on the ground, and put their beds up on bricks. Out of curiosity, I read about it on Wikipedia, but their description hardly resembles what I got from the natives themselves. All of the tribes have this same superstition.

Coloma's avatar

They probably have stories of the cow and goat vampires that steal the blood they drink from their herds.
“Damn, bled my cow dry last night!” lol

Berserker's avatar

Africa is an old continent, and vampire beliefs are much older than the contemporary Christian vampire, but before that, it took on a bit of a different flavor. Still, vampirism, if you want to call it that, always has one thing in common, the draining of life.
It does not actually need to be followed by the rising of the dead, and in African beliefs, is often replaced by disease or ruin. Which I believe must be the origin of vampire folklore, anyways. (even the word ’‘nosferatu’’ is derived from the Greek word ’‘nosophoros’’, which means plague carrier)

That said, I have absolutely no idea what the Massai specifically believe when it comes to vampires. Here’s an interesting article about African beliefs in demons and vampire like fiends, which not only drain the blood of humans and livestock, but also of fruit, and who also steal drinkable water)


I don’t know how it works in differing African cultures, peoples and tribes, as in if they all share the same beliefs, mythologies or if each group has their own specific sets, but when reading that article, a lot of it seems to resurface. The Massai though, hold cattle as a very important part of their lives. In fact it’s pretty much what defines them. The cow is important and sacred to them, and if they do drink the blood, I don’t think it has anything to do with vampires, as most of their rituals are in a positive light, (I do not specifically know what their rituals are) and often used to lessen the gap between themselves and their deity.

Sunny2's avatar

All I know about the Masai I read in Jomo Kenyata’s book correcting sociologists misinterpreting of what they observed. The Masai believe that the gods gave them all the cattle on earth and if anyone else has cows, they were stolen from the Masai. They only eat beef on special occasions.

CugelTheClueless's avatar

@Symbeline Interesting article. No shortage of vampire stories in Africa! If the Maasai don’t have any of their own, they can get some from their neighbors.

By the way, the Maasai practice of drinking cow’s blood is not a ritual, it’s a routine food source. As Sunny2 said, they rarely slaughter their cows. They mostly use them for milk and blood.

@Skaggfacemutt What part of Africa did you live in, and who were the tribes of that area?

Earthgirl's avatar

@CugelTheClueless Well, here it is almost Easter Sunday so I thought you might find this article The Blood is the Life interesting. It mentions the Masaii in passing.
“The symbol of blood in all realms, be it spiritual, physical, scientific, religious, supernatural, or metaphorical, has been immortalized and analyzed since the dawn of man. For starters, there are endless accounts and legends of blood rituals and sacrifices throughout history from the early pagan beliefs in eastern Europe to the ancient Mayan civilization to centuries of warriors, tribes, practitioners of magic, serial killers, and scientists done in the name of progress, religion, or any number of causes or beliefs. Warriors, for example, have been known to ingest the blood of their enemies in order to increase their own strength. Likewise, in the modern era, the Masai warrior tribe of Kenya exsanguinate blood from the jugular of their cows and consume the blood with milk in the belief that it will give them extra strength.”

The whole article is intersting though.
@Symbeline Good job tracking down African vampires!

CugelTheClueless's avatar

^That’s interesting indeed, but from what I’ve heard about the Maasai, their blood drinking should not be lumped in with the other rituals mentioned. Blood is part of their diet, and while they have religious beliefs connected with food (like just about everyone else), drinking cow’s blood is not a ritual or for them in the way that the other examples in that paragraph are for other people. That “likewise” is misleading.

Blood as food

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

@CugelTheClueless I lived around Johannesburg. My parents’ farm was in Witbank. The majority of the natives around us were Zulu. The rest were Bantu.

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