afterbirth

General - The placenta, in some cultures, is regarded as having mystic powers, ruling the life of the person. Concerned or acting as guardian or twin; should it be eaten by an animal, the child will grow up with the characteristics of that beast. The Baganda are among those who regard the afterbirth as the twin of the child. They put the afterbirth in a pot which is then buried under a tree. Here it becomes a spirit, which enters the tree. If the tree is damaged or if someone outside the tribe should eat the fruit of that tree, the spirit leaves, whereupon the twin is forced to follow and will die. In the case of a king, the socalled twin is housed in a specially built small temple where it is guarded by an official known as the kimbugwe. Part of his duties is to expose the placenta to the light of the moon once in each month and, after anointing it with melted butter, return it to its resting place. Australian Some of the Aboriginal tribes believe that part of the soul, known as the choi-i, is to be found in the placenta, which is buried in a spot marked by a small mound of twigs. This enables the fertility spirit, Anjea, to locate the afterbirth which she can use, they say, to make another baby. Chinese The Chinese had a practice, like that of the Hebrews, of making medicines from the afterbirth. East Indian (1) In Java the afterbirth is cast adrift in a small boat decorated with fruit, flowers, etc. to be eaten by the crocodiles who, it is said, are the products of afterbirths or are ancestors of the tribes. (2) In Sumatra, some tribes say that the afterbirth holds a tutelary spirit that will guide the person concerned during his or her lifetime. Others say that one such guardian exists in the afterbirth while a second exists in the embryo. Some bury the afterbirth under the house, others keep it after preserving it in salt. Finno-Ugric In countries occupied by various branches of the Finno-Ugric peoples, the placenta is hung on the branch of a tree in the forest and sacrifices are offered to it in recognition of its role in nourishing the child. Hebrew An ancient custom involved burning the placenta and mixing the ashes with flowers or milk as an antidote to disease or a charm to protect the user from witchcraft. New Zealand The Maoris plant a tree when a baby is born and bury the placenta under it so that both the child and the tree will develop together. North American (1) The Hupa tribe place the afterbirth in a tree that has been split open to receive it and then bind the split; if the tree thrives, so will the child, and vice versa. (2) The Kwakiutl treat the afterbirth differently according to the sex of the child. That of a boy is put out to be eaten by the ravens in the belief that this will endow the child with the power to read the future; that of a girl is buried on the shore to ensure that she will become expert at digging up clams, a useful accomplishment in the coastal area of British Columbia. Cherokee, Creek and Pawnee, say that a real living twin can emerge from the afterbirth. Siberian The Yukaghi people tie the afterbirth inside a reindeer skin together with miniature hunting weapons for a boy and sewing implements for a girl so that they will acquire the skills appropriate to their sex. South American The Aymara bury the afterbirth alongside tools for a boy and cooking utensils for a girl. In some cases the afterbirth is burned so that the ashes can be used to make medicines. Also identified as afterbirth, placenta or placenta.

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