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Rituals of childbirth in the Tigrigna of Ethiopia (Axum area).



This essay describes the rituals of childbirth in the Tigrigna traditions of Ethiopia, starting with the onset of labor up until circumcision of the baby at day 12. If labor lasts for more than 1 day, shots are fired from the woman's room to induce birth by shock. After the cutting of the unbilical cord, the cord from the mother is tied to her leg to prevent the cord and placenta from slipping back into the uterus. The midwife massages the woman's abdomen with butter to accelerate delivery of the placenta; if it does not have a smooth surface, it is considered incomplete and the midwife presses a water jar down on the abdomen until all the remains are discharged. The baby is expected to sneeze as soon as it is born; if it does not, a thread is used to tickle the nostrils. Childbirth is associated with uncleanliness; those present cannot enter a church for 20 days if the baby is a boy and 40 days if it is a girl. On the 7th day the woman makes either a spear and shield (for a boy) or a sieve (for a girl) and is offered fasting food containing no meat or dairy products. Then the women present close the door and dance and sing songs to make the new mother laugh and forget labor pains. On the 12th day the child is circumcised, and garlic and rice are sprinkled on the blood which is then mixed with kohl and used as a wound dressing.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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