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Child Birth Traditions of the Tigre Ethnic Group (Part II)

Another frequented ritual during childbirth among the Tigre ethnic group is the day the mother’s clothes are washed. On this day, the midwife will go to the river, wash the clothes of the child and the mother, and throw the branch of the palm hanging on the mother’s bed. The mother also takes a bath on this day and after she returns from the river, the midwife is fed porridge and fried cereals. As a reward for her services, the family will also give her crops but the crops aren’t all delivered to the midwife at once, because of the fear that the children may not survive. The crops are delivered to the mid-wife at the time when she herself gives birth.


The last ritual is the day the mother gets back to her daily activities. On this day, the mother crosses over a fire and there will be a celebration with coffee and tea. On this day, the children of the area will gather in the house of the mother and touch the stove with the palm of their hands while the midwife throws water on top of their hands, to bless the child to grow up and be strong. Once the fire is out, the children will take the ashes and bury it under a tree. After they finish their task, they will get fried cereals and a new fire will be lighted in the house.  Cereals will be fried on this newly light fire, and the mother wearing her best clothes sits at the front of the house with the baby in her hands.

After the mother is out, a child who has both parents starts a new fire and the mother, holding the child on one hand and an iron on the other hand will cross over the fire three times facing towards the north. After this ritual is over, she will sit on a carpet and corn will be thrown over her head. On this particular day, among majority of the Tigre tribes the mother and the child will apply kohl –eyeliner- on both eyes while the women and children who participated in the tradition apply the liner in one of their eyes.

Among the Mensa’e tribe, there is a different ritual after the crossing of the fire. The mother sits on the carpet, one of the women asks the mother where she came from and the mother answers that she has come from far. Then again, the woman asks her why she came and the mother will answer to grow crops and pour milk in the area. At the end, the women will ask the blessing of the mother and she blesses them to have many offspring. 

After this tradition ends the mother returns to her daily activities: the fire that has been burning at the front of the house of the mother is put out and the bell is removed. The father and other men can go inside the house and any one can hold the infant after this day.

Shaving the baby’s head is also a tradition that is celebrated colorfully among the Tigre ethnic group. Among the Mensa’e this tradition takes place on the day the mother crosses over a fire while in other tribes the tradition takes place on the seventh day after a baby is born. First, an elder will shave a small area and then other family elders and including his father will shave the baby.

Many of these traditions were practiced around 30 years ago and are now out of date or only few are being practiced today. Although there might be simpler medically proven methods followed by a mother after childbirth, everyone has the responsibility of preserving cultural traditions of its society.

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