Throughout the history of the Pokot, their nomadic lifestyle has brought them into contact with many other peoples from the region. Intermarriages between them and their neighbours has led to the intermingling of social customs, mainly from the Turkana and Karamojong peoples.
The Pokot society is governed through a series of age grades and membership to any specific group would be determined by the age at which one went through their initiation into that group or society. For the men it is usually between the ages of 15 and 20, whereas for the women, it is around 12.
Young people are allowed to form matrimonial binds once the initiation has been completed as well as begin taking part in the local economic functions. There are close bonds formed within the initiation groups, that are functional in future political ties as they move through the ranks of the tribal structure. When Pokot peoples reach old age, they get a certain degree of status and the respect that goes with that.
Elders have responsibilities to the rest such as presiding over important tribal decisions, festivals and religious celebrations. The Pokot are mostly cattle herders/farmers, but about a quarter are cultivators, mostly growing corn but at the end of the day, whether a cultivator or pastoralist, the measure of wealth among the Pokot is determined by the number of cows one owns.
Cows are used for barter, which further goes into ‘bride wealth’. A man is permitted to take more than one wife, as long as he has enough cows to offer her family in exchange for her hand in marriage.
Their cattle are hardly ever slaughtered for meat as they are far more valuable alive. The cattle also provide milk, butter, and cheese which are an important part of the diet of the Pokot.
The Pokot believe in Tororot as the supreme deity. Prayers and libations are offered to him during a variety of tribal festivals and dances that are overseen by the elders.
Within the community are also diviners that are responsible for maintaining the spiritual balance of the community. Diseases are seen as related either to some natural phenomenon like certain mists or some supernatural power from the shadows of dead people.
The Pokot are also superstitious and believe in sorcery. They call on various forms of protective talismans to ward off the ill will of any sorcerers. They also revere other deities such as the sun, moon and the spirit of death.
The force of the psyche as a determinant of disease is stressed and ceremonial cursing, in particular, is thought to have the power to induce illness and sometimes death. This kind of thinking has its benefits in society. For example, the belief that the shadow of a woman whose child has just died is dangerous may serve to reduce the spread of infectious diseases.
There are several categories of medical practitioners in Pokot society:
- Chepsaketian, an older woman skilled in the diagnosis of most diseases and the use of herbal remedies.
- Koroyokyon, a specialist trained to foretell the future.
- Kokeogh, the midwife.
- Werkoyon, a prophet who receives his powers by inheritance and is a key figure in the prevention and containment of diseases.
- Chepsokoyon, a female diviner concerned with the problem of witchcraft and
- Kapolokion, a specialist believed to manipulate forces that cause mental imbalance.
In recent years, especially since the 1983 completion of a tarmac road through the district, there has been an erosion of traditional practices. This has been accompanied by changing patterns of existing diseases as well as the introduction of diseases that were previously absent from the region.