Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Celebrating the Birth of a Baby in Old Luo Culture...

In the Luo Culture the birth of a baby in the family was and still a big celebration among the members of that family and friends. In the olden days, the celebrations included some rituals which were done. Among the rituals were, naming the child, shaving, taking the child out side for the first time and visiting the mother and her new born baby.

Taking the baby out was done according to the sex of the child. Boys were taken out after 4 days and girls after 3 days. This was usually done in the morning hours between 9:00 am – 10:00 am to avoid the heat.

In olden days shaving of a new born was a ritual of its kind. The shaving was done by a grandmother or an aged lady from the some clan, if the grandmother was not around or was dead. The person shaving was required to have a calabash (Agwata) full of water, a traditional razor and traditional Herb. A calabash full of water was used to prevent the baby from being obese, the traditional Herb was used as soup.

NAMING OF THE CHILD (Miyo Nyathi Nying) 
This was done a few days after birth, by the parents of the child. Luos were naming their children after their dead relatives, the time and the season the child was born, and if a mother conceived without seeing her periods. Children born at a certain time were named after that time, i.e. Otieno/Atieno, these are children born at night, Okoth/Akoth born during rainy season, Okumu/Akumu born without the mother seeing her periods. Naming children after the dead relatives has now stopped, but they still name them after the seasons, time of birth and the living relatives.

VISITATION (Neno Nyathi)
According to Luo culture when a baby is born in a family, the relatives and friends must pay a special visit. In the olden days, many rituals were also performed during this visitation. The first visitation was done by the lady’s young sisters to represent their mother. The sisters were sent with cooked food and food which was not cooked. The cooked food included Meat (Sun dried) ,Ugali made from Millet flour, Indigenous Vegetables i.e. African Nightshades (Osuga), Spiderplant (Dek), Crotalaria (Mitoo). The cooked food was eaten cold and served in a small basket called (Adita). After this, one sister was usually left behind to help the sister until she was strong.

The visitation by friends and other ladies from the village was always arranged in advance before the day of visiting. The day of visitation, each lady was suppose to carry Millet flour, sorghum flour, dry Meat, dry Fish,  indigenous vegetables, fire wood and Beads for both mother and child. The Beads (Tigo) were tied around the mother’s neck for blessings and also tied around the child’s wrist for protection from the witches. The visiting was playing a big roll in bringing different families together, also bringing ladies together, what the modern people call CHAMA. TUNAJIVUNIA ELIMU   

Story Contributed by Monica Ondiek
Herbarium Library
National Museums of Kenya

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