Ο τοπικός πολιτισμός της περιοχής των Τζουμέρκων
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Birth

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Λαϊκές δοξασίες σχετικά με τη γέννηση

Folk Beliefs around Birth

A pregnant woman would carry a stone believed to have fallen from the sky when it hailed. It was believed that carrying such a stone would avoid miscarriage. Also a stone with a natural hole would dangle from a pear tree so that its fruit wouldn’t spoil. The stone would then be broken into 40 pieces, which were subsequently soaked in water. The woman would drink the water but also carry the broken pieces of stone with her to protect the child. But shortly before her child’s birth she’d throw the pieces of stone away otherwise they might hinder the child’s birth. Also, it was forbidden for the pregnant woman to work on Sundays and holidays or work with any kind of rope because the baby would possibly choke on its umbilical cord and die.[1]

They’d roll an egg onto the woman’s stomach and say: “Just like this egg may the little one roll.” Any women who’d enter the home when the woman was in labor would have to untie her smock and throw it on the floor to “free” (i.e. release) the heavily pregnant woman.

After child birth the woman was perceived as dirty yet vulnerable to the effects of evil spirits, curses and subject to hostile dispositions towards the family. For this reason women who had recently given birth would refrain from going out of the house for forty days. Even guests weren’t allowed to visit unless it was absolutely necessary. In such a case they’d place two pieces of lit charcoal between a pair of tongs and then add a splash of incense. The visitor would have to step over the incensed charcoal so that he or she was cleansed before entering the home. On the third day after birth the new mother would come out onto the doorstep and strike the three sides of the horizon with an iron while saying the following spell “Mountains, I see you but you can’t see me” so that she’d become strong like the mighty mountains.

The women who’d recently given birth weren’t allowed to come out at night so that they wouldn’t lose their breast milk. Also they had to keep looking down as to avoid looking at the mountains beyond. Breast milk would discontinue from flowing if two women that had recently given birth happened to stare at each other. In fact, the one who stared second would dry up so it was essential to share a slice of bread thereafter. To cease breast milk the new mother would pour her milk onto three lit pieces of charcoal and extinguish them. For her breast milk to return, for the following child’s sake, she’d have to relight the same three pieces of charcoal.

To protect the new born from the evil eye they’d pin on its blanket its mother’s wedding ring for forty days in addition to a lucky charm that contained bread so that fate would find the child satiated. Beneath the baby’s pillow they’d place a σκρούμπο (i.e. wool fabric) and pour salt to distance the demons.[2]

[1]. Kalousios Dimitrios. The Settlement of Matsouki in Ioannina, Volume II, Folklore Studies, p 426-428.
[2]. Kalousios Dimitrios. The Settlement of Matsouki in Ioannina, Volume II, Folklore Studies, p 430-434.

When a woman that had recently given birth was at home beggars wouldn’t be given flour or bread during the dark hours. They’d tell them to come another day because a woman that had recently given birth was in the house. This custom was practiced so that the beggars wouldn’t place a spell on the baby.

When a male child was born, for it to live a long life they’d break a water tap made of stone. During meal times when someone’s entire piece of bread fell into his dish, they’d say that a visitor was coming to be hosted. To avoid a child from being born ugly or to be pursued by the evil eye the woman would hide her pregnancy. In order not to miscarry she’d hold a knife, a lightning rod and a lucky charm with the relics of saints. To protect themselves from the evil eye, gossip and spells, women who had recently given birth wore lucky charms with relics of saints, or a clove of garlic, an evil-eye protective gemstone and a cross. For milk to flow, new mothers would drink holy water. When a new born child couldn’t be supported they’d make a garland with coins gathered from forty women named Mary and they’d leave the infant at a crossroad. Whoever would find the infant would become its godfather.

Vihas Ioannis, Folklore collection from the settlement of Ktistades. Manuscripts of Students, Folklore Studies, School of Philisophy, the University of Ioannina, Series V, 1968-1969, p 193-214.

Oral Testimony.