- It is the 1st stage of life; the whole community is involved including the ancestors.
- Having children is considered so important that a barren woman is despised and made an outcast.
- From the time of pregnancy, there is rejoicing in the community. The expectant mother is accorded a lot of respect and is given special treatment including;
- Eating special food and avoiding some i.e. eggs and fatty meat which may make the baby too big hence creating complications during delivery.
- Refraining from heavy tasks e.g. splitting firewood, carrying heavy loads.
- Refraining from sexual intercourse because pregnancy is believed to make the woman ritually unclean.
- Avoiding handling iron tools in the house for fear that such tools may cause injury.
- Not speaking to her husband directly but can only do so through an intermediary.
- Returning to her home to give birth there and coming back after weaning her baby.
- The mother carries protective charms to protect her from people with evil eyes and bad omen such as sorcerers.
- The midwives assist the woman in delivery and the sex of the baby is announced i.e. 4 ululations for a boy and 3 for a girl.
Rituals observed after childbirth
- The child belonged to the community.
- The birth of the baby is witnessed by the elderly women who act as midwives.
- Men are not allowed to go near the delivery place.
- When the baby arrives, its sex is announced by shouts/ululations.
The rituals observed during childbirth are:
- Thrown into a running stream/river
- Dried up and kept for rituals performed later
- Carefully buried near the homestead or in uncultivated field/ shamba with bananas/cereals.
- Hung in the house to symbolize the continuity of life.
- A purification/cleansing ritual is done on the mother and the child by a medicine man/diviner to prepare the mother for the birth of the next child including ritualistic washing.
- Protective rites, performed by the local medicine person. They are meant to protect the child from evils i.e. magic, malicious spirits, sorcery, witchcraft and evil eyes.
- The baby is committed to God for protection and to bring good fortune. An object is tied round the neck, waist, or wrist as a physical sign of the ceremony.
- Thanksgiving ceremony performed to show gratitude to God for the safe arrival of the baby.
- Prayers offered for continued blessings for both the mother and child
- The baby’s hair is shaved after sometime as a sign of purification and newness. When new hair grows it will signify a new phase of life for the baby.
- Mother’s hair was also shaved to show that she has cast off that pregnancy. New hair symbolizes new life.
- In some communities the mother and the baby are secluded from the rest of the community, so as to give the mother time to rest.
- The whole community celebrates this rite of passage by rejoicing, singing, dancing and bringing gifts to the mother and the child.
The importance of rituals performed during a naming ceremony in Traditional Africa Communities
- Bathing of the child sets in the beginning of a new life.
- Shaving of the mother and baby’s hair symbolizes a new status.
- Choosing of an appropriate name to give to the baby is for identification/ incorporation into the wider community.
- Feeding of the baby symolizes a new life/ growth.
- Holding of the baby by members of the community shows concern for it/ shared responsibility.
- Saying prayers/ words of blessings for the mother and baby signifies long life.
- Slaughtering of an animal signifies thanksgiving.
- Feasting is a sign of of joy/ socialism/ welcoming the baby.
- Giving presents to the baby and mother is a sign of goodwill.
- Wearing of charms signifies protection to the baby and the mother.