The greatest of the Maasai medicine-men was Mbatian, after whom the summit of Mount Kenya is named. He died in about 1890, at the time when an outbreak of rinderpset swept through East Africa.
When on the point of death, he called the elders of Matapato, the sub-district in which he lived, and said to them: ‘Do not move from your country for I am about to die, and I will send you cattle from heaven. If you move, you will die of smallpox, your cattle will all perish, you will have to fight with a powerful enemy, and you will be beaten. I wish my successor to be the son to whom I give the medicine-man’s insignia. Obey Him. The elders said: ‘Very well,’ and left. When they had gone, Mbatian called his eldest son Sendeyo, and said to him: ‘Come tomorrow morning for I wish to give you the medicine-man’s insignia.’ Sendeyo replied: ‘Very well,’ and went to lie down.
While this was taking place, Lenana, who had hidden himself in the calf-shed, overheard the conversation. He arose early in the morning and went to his father’s hut. On his arrival he said: ‘Father I have come.’
Now Mbatian was very aged and he had only one eye. He therefore did not see which of his sons was before him and gave to Lenana the insignia of the medicine-man, at the same time saying: ‘Thou shalt be great amongst thy brothers and amongst all the people. ‘Lenana took the medicine-man’s insignia and went away. Sendeyo then went to his father, but was told that his brother had already been there and been given the medicine-man’s insignia. When he heard this, he was very angry and said: ‘I will not be subject to my brother; I will fight with him till I kill him.’ Mbatian died and was buried near Donyo Erok. When he was dead, some of the people proclaimed Lenana the principal medicine-man, ‘For’ they said, ‘Mbatian told us that he would give the insignia of his office to whichever of his sons he wished should succeed him.’ They therefore remained with Lenana. But others said: ‘We will not acknowledge this man for he is a cheat,’ and threw in their lot with Sendeyo. Now disease broke out amongst Sendeyo’s people, many of whom died, their cattle all perished, and they were defeated by the Germans; whilst those people who remained with Lenana did not fall ill, and they obtained cattle, as Mbatian had predicted. The two rivals waged war for many years, and eventually Sendeyo was beaten. He came in 1902 to beg his brother to allow him to live with him, and peace was concluded between the two parties.
The Masai: Their Language and Folklore