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The Birth of a Pökot Child.

When a pregnant woman is about to deliver usually other women, most probably two, help her. One of them is an expert mid-wife; this lady is called kama echö. When the mother is about to give birth and her pains have started she is given an amulet to chew. This amulet is a piece of wood from a special tree, the moykutwö. After the child has emerged from the mother’s womb, its umbilical cord is tied with a piece of twine from a tree called sitöt, or with a slate of gramineae, seretyon. The mother herself is the one to cut the cord while she says ‘tuka, tuka’, (meaning, ‘remain, remain’). If it is a boy the umbilical cord is cut with a terema (the small arrow used for bleeding cattle), while if it is a girl is cut with an arrow, kotït, or any other utensil.

pok 2 - 2

After the delivery the midwife washes the child and blesses it by spitting on him. The washing of the child is done with water into which she has put some leaves of manam pelyon. She must be sure that the child does not see the blood of its mother, because it could cause blindness to him/her. Then she cleans the mother. After the cleaning the midwife gives the child to the mother to suckle. If the baby is a boy he starts suckling the right breast, if it is a girl she starts from the left breast. While this action is going on, another woman digs into the fireplace of the house through the ashes till she reaches the ground.
She takes a handful of it and puts it into a small pot. She mixes the soil with water and some small pieces of wood, till they make a sludge substance, which is used to smear the child with. Then that remaining is thrown into the bush.

pok 2 - 3From the moment the child has been born, the fire of that house cannot die out, nor can the ashes be swept away from that fire until the umbilical cord of the child has dried. When the placenta emerges, it is placed on the left side of the mother, together with the blood she spilt during the delivery. Both things remain there till the sun rises. The placenta is placed with the left hand if the child was a girl, and with the right if it was a boy. When two days have passed the women who helped the mother to deliver her baby come to the house brandishing branches of a tree called manam pelyon. In coming into the house four of those branches are placed on top of the entrance of the hut, four in front of the door, and four inside the house.
Some other branches are mixed with water. Then the midwife washes herself with the water, followed by her companions, the small child, and lastly the mother, who is seated on a goat skin. During this time the child is held by one of the ladies who came to visit her, but it must be hold in the dress of the mother.
The old ladies then take some tobacco and put it in the fire, slowly, while they circle the fire. The tobacco must burn. (Most probably this is an offering to the ancestors for allowing a happy delivery).

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After three days, when the umbilical cord has dried, the same ladies come with a special medicine. This beverage is put in a pot and then into the milk of the child, who will drink it with its gourd. At this last stage of all the ceremonies, old men must also be there. After the child has drunk its milk these old men will bless it, together with its mother and the house. Before leaving the house the women place two small branches of sitöt on top of the door to show that a woman has delivered and has been honoured. Finishing the prayers, the house is swept, and the visiting ladies and elderly men are paid with beer and tobacco.
(T.H.B.-D.P.-A.L.)

 

 

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