The Guardian
Email YouTube Facebook Instagram Twitter
Everything you need to live well

The Bodi Tribe Where Men Drink Blood And Milk

By Njideka Agbo 16 February 2018   |   8:30 am

Ethiopia is a land of many cultures that have been preserved despite western civilization. Along the Lower Omo valley river in Southern Ethiopia resides one of these kinds: the Bodi Tribe. The Bodi people are neighbours to the Mursi Tribe. The Bodi people are agriculturalists who still engage in trade by barter system.

These pastoral people revere their cows. Their cows are so special to them that its blood together with fresh milk is a source of food for this people. Rather than kill the cows, they make a hole in one of its veins to get the blood out and close it back with clay.

These animals are also used in certain ceremonies. Among the ceremonies is the peculiar new year celebration.

At the start of each year [the month of June in the Gregorian calendar], they hold a “Ka’el ceremony” (ceremony of fat men) to mark the new year celebrations. The Ka’el ceremony is a competition for men who are not married which involves drinking the blood mixture. The 14 clans present a man who is single and they deem fit for the competition. Those who are contesting prepare for six months. During this period, he must not have sex and must not be seen outside his hut.

There is a procedure for drinking the first bowl of 2 litres at sunrise while the rest comes easy and is taken all day.

It is not unusual to see some of these contestants vomit the mixture because two litres was more than they can drink.

Bodi Tribe. Photo Credit: Eric Laforrgue

On the day of the competition, they cover themselves with clay and ashes and display their acrobatic skills.

As part of the competition, they run around sacred trees for hours sometimes with the assistance of women. While at it, they are under the watchful eyes of their judges. After this, the people use a sacred stone on a cow before killing it. The intestines are then used to predict what the year holds. When a winner is chosen by the elderly judges, they crown him, “fat man of the year title.”

Just like other beauty pageants, there is a prize only this time, it is the lifelong admiration of the Bodi people.