Birth Traditions

eggs

As you can imagine, my thoughts are very occupied by the subject of pregnancy and birth in these days (because I am pregnant). A lot of things that I heard over the years about this theme are coming back to mind.

For instance, my mother told me that in Chinese culture, there is a tradition of using dousing to predict the gender of the baby, with a pendulum over the mother’s belly. If the pendulum moves in a line, then the baby is a boy. If it moves in a circle, then it’s a girl. They did this with my mother when she was pregnant with me, and the pendulum moved in a line, so they were expecting a boy and they were a bit surprised when I came out! Perhaps the system measures more than just the physical aspect.

There are so many traditions, beliefs and superstitions about this subject. Here are a few interesting ones that I found from world cultures:

pregnancyChildbirth. To mitigate potential birthing pain, in China the mothers drink a strong herbal potion. In Guatemala they drink a liquid made by boiling a purple onion in beer, to speed up the delivery. In Morocco, the midwife performs a massage on the mother’s stomach and vulva with olive oil and offers her an infusion of herbs such as mint, thyme, cinnamon and cloves.

Opening. In Mexico, they close all the doors and windows during childbirth to protect against negative forces. In India, however, they leave the doors open and the mother’s hair free to symbolize the opening of the womb during childbirth. There is also this practice of openness in Morocco.

The placenta. In Hindu translation, the placenta is considered to be almost alive, as if it were the twin brother or sister of the newborn, and they have a complex ceremony to bury the placenta on the land around the home. In Bali, they also have ancient practices to give value to and bury the placenta. In Cambodia, the placenta is wrapped in a banana leaf and kept close to the baby for three days before burying it.

The name. Many cultures have a practice of naming the child 7 days after birth. In Pakistan and other Islamic countries, the child’s hair is shaved at this time of the aqiqah, the baby is weighed on a scale with gold and silver that is then donated to the poor, and there may even be sacrificed animals. In Egypt, the mother and baby receive religious gifts and jewelry. In Japan this time is called the oshichia. Hawaiian names are unique for each child with deep and powerful meanings, and the names are usually complex to avoid the attention of negative forces.

The bath. In Nigeria, with the omugwo tradition, the grandmother (or aunt or friend) gives the baby his or her first bath as a gesture of solidarity toward the mother, to show the support of the women in the community. In Tibet the pang-sai, or purification of the baby, is a ceremony that takes place 3-4 days after birth with gifts of food and clothing to symbolize a life of abundance, and the wisest person present present choose the name for the baby.

After childbirth. In Bali, newborns do not touch the ground for the first 105 days of life. They are always in the arms of their mother or relatives. In Latin American cultures there is the quarantena, a period of 40 days that is spent just taking care of the baby and breastfeeding, without making any other efforts, not even making love.

meerkatNow that I am entering ever more deeply into our Damanhurian birth traditions: rituals, prayers, godparents, characteristics, Temples and Sacred Woods, I see and appreciate the thought and collective efforts of the community that that come together in synergy on so many levels to welcome a soul who is coming home.

Quaglia Cocco
The Befana

 

Tradizioni della nascita

Come potete immaginare i miei pensieri sono tanto occupati dal tema della gravidanza e la nascita in questi giorni (perché sono incinta). Mi tornano in mente tante informazioni in merito che mi sono arrivate negli anni. Continue reading

Springtime birthing in community

blossomIt’s Spring Equinox time and the rebirth of nature is in the air. I feel the heat of the earth rising, the colors blooming, the light in the sky and the eyes shining. Many things are being born, growing and strengthening. Dreams launched, projects and partnerships chosen, reaffirmed and reinforced.

In Damanhur, we have recently welcomed a soul and new child into the Popolo. For me, Eros’s birth has been an expansion of the understanding and awareness about what it means to give birth to a child in Damanhur. Every full moon with my Sacred Dance group, we dance a ritual for the women of the community who are pregnant or intending to have a child, which brings thoughts to the arriving soul, even before conception and birth. I have also begun a new Apprentice role (now that I have concluded the Befana apprenticeship and fully taken on the honor), this time with Vigogna in Sacred Dance, to dance prayers that recall certain characteristics for the baby in the womb.

Hall of Water Every week for some months before Eros’s birth, Vigogna danced a prayer to invoke characteristics and talents for the child in a temple of Damanhur, and I did the same dance in the Hall of Water in the Temples of Humankind, the hall connected to femininity, pregnancy and birth. Feeling this ritual and subtle contact with a soul that is coming from afar has gifted me with new perspective and emotion. I can feel that this child is everyone’s child… everyone who has thought of his characteristics and personalities, and performed the rituals, prayers and preparations, those who were singing in a circle around the mother as the childbirth began.

In addition to the parents, there are relatives, godparents, friends and nucleo community residents who support. It’s a beautiful network of extended parenthood, like ancient peoples would naturally weave, while today we need more awareness and intention to dedicate time, to be present and supportive. I wish all the best to Eros and family in these precious moments of growth!

childrenThis all reminds me of the World Summit on Birth by PerLa Donna (an organization dedicated to women’s heath and childbirth), which I volunteered for in organizing and translating the Summit, as one of the first projects that presented itself on my path right after I came to live in Damanhur. It was a synchronic teaching, entering into this world of birth with many midwives, obstetricians and experts in the field. From the plethora of presentations and sessions, the impression that has stayed with me is that birth is an event that can be transcendental and even pleasurable, if not downright “orgasmic” as Debra Pascali Bonaro shared with us at the Summit. I saw a window into the power of the feminine in pregnancy and birth, the traditions of the peoples, water birth with dolphins, and I understood the value of the placenta. I began to approach pregnancy as a sacred event, not just something to cautiously avoid, as was my relationship with pregnancy up to that point.

I wish you all a beautiful springtime, with the joy of giving birth to new aspects of the self… life, vision, action and creation in every field!

Quaglia Cocco
The Befana

ITALIANO

Sono i giorni dell’Equinozio di primavera, e si sente la rinascita della natura, il calore della terra che si aumenta, i colori che affiorano, la luce nel cielo e negli occhi. Molte cose stanno nascendo e prendendo forza. Sogni inviati, progetti ed alleanze scelte, riscelte e rafforzate. Continue reading

birth: creation, autonomy, self-destruction and Renaissance

bird_roughBirth. the birth of anything, a divinity, a child, a fire, a love, from seed to flower, from an ingenious idea channeled in the night, feverish and awake until dawn, to its completion, the fatigue repaid three times over again by the joy and satisfaction in materializing something… it is always an act of trust. a letting go.

once alive, the creation takes the reigns of its own life. it can gallop, run like a wild horse, fly like a phosphorescent pegasus, sing in every color and form… or burn out and destroy itself, not in the flames of passion and excess which would still be a spark of vitality — even if intensely brief like those that shoot from the bonfire, launching themselves toward the stars, pretending to be shooting stars before darkening into ashes escaped in the wind — but the most destructive destruction is the one that doesn’t dare to fly, dance, not even walk. shut in darkness and silence, in the shadows of inflated fears and ghosts of regret. an illness that I can only heal myself. rebirth. Renaissance. infusion of courage in the blood and pills of artistic impulse coursing through the lines and veins.

life is gifted only once, then it is regained with every breath, movement and creative act.

la Nascita. la nascita di qualsiasi cosa, divinità, bambina, fuoco, amore, dal seme un fiore, dall’idea geniale canalizzata di notte, febbrile e sveglia fino all’alba, alla compiutezza, la stanchezza ripagata tre volte dalla gioia e soddisfazione nella materializzazione… è sempre un atto di fiducia. un lasciarsi andare. Continue reading