The Masais warriors

Drugs to fight – 1° part  

The Masais warriors of Tanzania were known for their aggressiveness and violence, which overcame that of the afraid near tribes.

Just reached the proper age to become a warrior, the young Masais are submitted to an initiation of military-religious nature and in that occasion they are also begun to the use of the “fight drugs”. These are a dozen of different drugs, every proper for a specific aggressive action: they chew the roots of a kind of Albizzia when they have to chase animals that quickly run, or the bark of an acacia when they chase the lion, or they drink an infusion of a kind of mimosa when they prepare themselves to a battle with other tribes.

All these drugs have exciting characteristics, that the Masais warrior (moran) show to know very well; they have elaborated a specific terminology to describe and to classify them.

Just entered the sect of the warriors, the young morans are impatient to show their strength and their courage, overcoming as soon as possible the state of ebor alem, that of the one who ” doesn’t have the lance soaked with blood yet”. And for every year in which they will lend service as warriors, their activities will be connected to a notable use of “fight drugs.”

In the camps, the warriors hold suspended to the huts a stomach or bladders of animals full of roots infusions and psychoactive barks and in the days preceding the battle with other tribes, they drink exclusively these infusions. In this way they reach a state of fury, with drivel to the mouth and eyes full of blood out of the orbits, which they use for launching to the attack of the enemies.

The type of drugs and the quantities are definite from the heads of the warriors, that are both military that religious heads. The heads establish the doses to assume for the whole troop in base to the physical appointment and of courage necessary for that specific warlike action.

During the battles with the western colonizers, the reporters brought that warlike battalions of 100-150 Masais quickly stirred from a head to the other of the areas of conflict, armed with the only but dangerous lance and full of sacks of barks and roots that continually chewed. This allowed them also cross in one day 80 km, catching by surprise and attaching the western troops here and there.

As in all the human races, some Masais do not “answer” to the drugs or they suffer the effects of it in smaller measure than the other warriors. Because of this lack of effect of the fight drugs, the warrior is less brave and he’s calles os sioki, a coward. The os siokis have a difficult life inside the group, badly approved and have no rights.

In the case the war events are prolonged in the time, for some weeks, the warriors continue to assume the fight drugs and frequently they reach a special state of uncontrollable fury, that they call em boschona. It deals with an attack of violence that is pre-announced with an inhuman cry. The warrior is then subject to strong muscular convulsions and the skin, already dark, becomes even more dark. As soon as the convulsive state has passed, the warrior is picked up by an irresistible violence and he casts against whoever is around him, without minding if are enemies or friends. This is a “crisis of nerves” induced by the assumption prolonged of fight drugs, accompanied by a partial loss of the conscience.

Inside a camp of Masai warriors, when one of them make that cry, the other ones are alarmed and prevent his harmful actions disarming him/ and tying him with some ropes. These attacks of em boschona are not deplored by the community: they are considered of divine nature and – with the due precautions – they are approved and integrated moments in the daily life of the Masai warlike. They often mimes an attack of em boschona in front of the other warriors to show their strength and their resoluteness.

The purpose of the assumption of the drugs doesn’t entirely reside in their exciting aspects for the body; the exciting state also influences the mind (rather it is driven from the mind) and the principal effect – in a context of violence – it is the increase of courage.

The military experts of all the armies know well that the courage of the troops is a main point in the war action and they’ve elaborated techniques – a lot of psychological nature – to maintain it alive. For a long time, wide attention has been dedicated to the employment of psychoactive substances able to inhibit the brakes pacifists (hendorfinic), to bait the aggressiveness (adrenaline) or even to instigate states of “fury” (serotonin or other).

In the European military culture since the times of the Romans the most diffused drug among the troops during the battle has been the alcohol. But wine and grappa infuse courage in raw and indirect way, damaging the “combative promptness” that has to accompany the action of courage. In the modern era, the amphetamines have still replaced the alcohol and more effective drugs and specifications are adopted by the marines and other special departments of the modern armies. The formulas of these “super-amphetamine” are not known, and are elaborate and maintained secret inside the medical military elites.

It’s famous the case of the CIA interested in the LSD as possible war drug, but of the whole rest, of what happens in the military environments, of what intentionally is assumed in the battlegrounds, we do know very little. If we could have the examinations of the blood of the men died in wars during these last decades, we would see a crowd of positive reports to the most disparate drugs, some legal and a lot of illegal, some even unknown ones to the official science.

In many contexts the drugs or their lack, have played a decisive role in the battles and the stores where they were crowded were looked like a deposit fuel.

During the recent conflict Somalia-Ethiopian, the anti-aircraft of both armies shot against whatever military airplane or foreign civilian, but both minded well to demolish the airplane that every day supplied of khat the two armies. This is a exciting vegetable spices of those regions, it must be chewed to the fresh state, otherwise it loses the psychoactive characteristics, for this reason big daily supplies were necessary for the troops in trench and the airplane full of fresh khat, coming from the Yemen, could land in a place arranged along the front of war, without incurring in some risk, while everything around there were shot and cannonades.

And how many soldiers have returned from the war accustomed to the amphetamines or to the alcohol! The Masais are devoted to the consumption of the “fight drugs” only during the years when they’re warriors. When they get married, besides deposing the weapons, they depose the drugs. Only desultorily, on the occasion of the commemorative meetings among ex-warriors, they assume some of these drugs, to remember the beautiful times of the past youth, when, full of energy, had the drivel to the mouth and the lance dirt of blood.

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Ethnic- botanic. For over twenty years he has developed searches on the ritual and social use of the drugs, in ethnologic and archaeological contexts. He has published different volumes and kept lectures in Europe, Africa, Latin America and India.

Published on Dolce Vita International 1