In the beginning, ENGAI lived on Earth in joyful communion with all the cattle in the world. Then one day a terrible catastrophe occurred which sent him — and the cattle — zooming off into the sky. (We’re not sure what kind of catastrophe, but there was a suspiciously active volcano nearby.)
ENGAI and the cattle tried to live in the clouds, but there wasn’t a lot of grass up there to keep the cattle fed. So ENGAI called down to a human named NAITERU-KOP and told him to expect a special delivery.
NAITERU-KOP, who lived near the aforementioned volcano, must have been rather surprised to see a large herd of cattle sliding down to Earth on a vine. Cattle don’t usually do that sort of thing. "Look after them for me," said ENGAI. "They don’t like it up here so I’m giving them all to you."
NAITERU-KOP was amazed. Look at all those goats and sheep! He was rich! One of his neighbors was even more amazed — and spitefully cut the rope through sheer jealousy. Thus endeth the Great Cattle Bonanza. But with divinely-granted ownership of the entire cattle population of the world, NAITERU-KOP wasn’t complaining.
He immediately founded the Maasai, a tribe devoted to cattle. Looking after cattle was their raison d’etre; not just a means of survival but a holy occupation expected of them by their God. The Maasai are still going strong today — and still believe that all the cattle in the world belongs to them. This gives them the perfect right to rustle cattle from neighboring tribes. Not cattle thieves but cattle rescuers.
As for ENGAI, he’s still up there in the clouds, and can veer between two different manifestations. When he’s in a good mood (Engai Narok), the clouds are black and full of nourishing rain. When he’s annoyed (Engai Na-nyokie), the clouds are dry, red, and full of life-zapping lightning. When there aren’t any clouds, he’s probably taking a vacation at the holy volcano Oldonyo Le Ngai (Mountain of God).
When some of the Maasai migrated from Tanzania to Kenya, they found another holy mountain and another manifestation of ENGAI worshipped by the Kikiyu. See our entry on NGAI for details.