OF THE RITES AND CUSTOMS THAT ARE
PRACTICED FROM THE TIME OF PREGNANCY UNTIL THE TIME OF CHILDBIRTH IN THE
A. What happens during the time of pregnancy.
While women are with child every one of them must
observe the following taboos lest what is born from her be miscarried.
The woman who is with child [must observe this:
1) There is a cattle-tribe called sengutt. ') She
must not drink the milk of this cattle nor eat their meat nor spread
their hide nor tread upon their dung or urine. Nor must she look at
them: they are taboo for her. But she who wishes to break this taboo
takes a little round piece of red clay 2 ) and some spices and sends
them in a small vessel to the cow-herds. And when the cow-herds receive
it, they, again, put some of the [butter-] milk of cattle and some
butter in the vessel of the woman and send it to her. The woman drinks
the milk and smears the butter on her head and asks a blessing. And in
this way the taboo ceases for her ; but if a woman breaks the taboo of
senguli except in this manner, her child is miscarried.
2) Another taboo: There is a kind of cattle whose
colour is called zelala (i. e. dark-brown with black specks); she must
not look at them, last the colour of her child become like that of the
3) Some women do not eat the meat of cattle that have
a deadly disease nor that of eatable wild animals. 3 )
4) For a woman with child the thunder is also taboo.
When she hears its sound she puts some soot on her forehead [i. e. for
herself] and upon her navel [i. e. for the child to be born].
5) The husband of the woman with child when going to
a funeral does not bury that his wife's child may not escape
6) A stranger who comes from a far country does not
at once enter the house of a woman with child. At first he rests at the
entrance and takes off his shoes; if he is thirsty, however, he drinks
water, and after that he enters with his weapons. 4 ) They do thus lest
7) The water-skin of a woman with child must be
filled without interruption. But at a well where there is very little
water at a time, [viz. not more than can be taken with the scooping
plate], only its portion [viz. as much as there is at a time] falls to
its share. And when they open it on the road they do not drink from it
lest its contents be short. And in order that nothing is drunk from it
on the road the carrier says: "It is the water-skin of a woman with
child!" And this taboo, too, they observe lest the child escape.
8) If a woman with child asks for meat or for some
fresh meal which she has not with her, they do not refuse it, [but] give
it to her; for they say: "She is two souls; let her not be frightened."
Also if they put grain in a vessel [borrowed] from a woman who has born
and than take [the grain] out of it they do not return it empty to her,
but leave a little rest in it, lest her bearing be interrupted.
9) If a woman is in the fifth or sixth or seventh
month of her pregnancy, the women of her father-in-law's family come to
her, and she gives them about two keffalo ') of grain or more. And the
women measure the grain off and grind it, and then after they have made
two polentas of it, it is cooked in her house. Thereupon those women who
are the first wives [of their husbands] eat the one polenta together
with the pregnant woman on her wooden couch; and those who are not first
wives eat the other on the floor. And with the milk which they use as a
sauce they mix a little semfaat ground. When they have eaten the woman
with child takes up the plate from which she has eaten with her company
and puts its against her two knees and her two elbows and her two elbows
and her forehead and kisses it. Thereupon she passes it on to her
companions towards the right. And they pass it on among themselves: and
each one of them takes off [one] of her trinkets or jewels and puts it
upon it. And on its way around it comes [back] to the woman with child.
She takes the trinkets from the plate and beginning at the right she
gives each piece back to its owner. Thereupon they put a little semffat
on a small plate and after moving it in a circle three times over the
head of the pregnant woman they throw it backwards. And all the women
shout ') up to seven times. This polenta is called ekkalat seinfc? (i.
e. the polenta of Lapidium sativum). Finally they wish her good luck and
go home each to her house. This is done lest the child escape from the
10) Again they sacrifice a young buck or a goat for
the woman with child. The husband of the pregnant woman offers this
sacrifice at the door of his house ; and while killing the victim he has
some one hold a staff and a stirring stick near him [i. e. that the
unborn child be a participant of the sacrifice ; the staff is meant for
a boy, the stirring stick for a girl]. And, after the sacrifice, without
putting the staff and the stirring stick on the ground they make the
pregnant woman hold them : she takes the staff in her right hand and the
stirring stick in her left hand. And this sacrifice .too, is [offered]
that the child may not escape [prematurely].
2) These pieces are made in Arabia and sold at
3) I. e. gazels, antilopes etc.
4) I. e., he is now allowed to come in and to bring
in all that he carries with him.
i) Literally : "property. 1 '