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X.-Birth, Childhood and Puberty Cere

monies among the Birhors.

By Sarat Chandra Roy, M.A. The Birhör's idea of life is one of continuous progress from stage to stage. At each successive stage-from birth and infancy through adolescence, youth and married state, to old age,—the Birhoş regards himself as gradually gaining in strength to combat supernatural evil influences that surround him on all sides till at length Death lands him on to the highest stage of existence when mın is transformed into an ethereal spirit—no longer subject to supernatural spiritual influences but himself powerful to influence man for good and evil alike The main object of the customary rites and ceremonies observed by Bthe Birhös at the passage from one state of life to another would appear to be to relieve him from some of the harmful spiritual influences peculiar to the outgoing stage and apt to cling to him in the new stage and infect human beings who are in intimate touch with him,-to purify him and his surroundings including his relatives and neighbours, to break all ties with the old state and to assimilate his nature to the new state of life he is entering. At no stage of life is a human being more exposed to super

a natural evil influences than while still in the mother's womb, at birth, and during infancy. Many, therefore, are the precautions and rites that a pregnant and parturient Birhöş woman, her family and community are required to observe.

1.- OBSERVANCFS DURING PREGNANCY, The observances that have to be attended to during the pregnancy of a Birhöş woman, appear to fall into three classes, those meant to protect the mother and the child in the womb


from danger arising from the spirit-world, those designed to avert the evil eye and other deleterious influences proceeding from human beings, and lastly those intended to avert dangers due to physical causes. The first class of precautions have to be taken sometimes by the pregnant woman alone and sometimes by both herself and her husband, and the other two by the woman alone. The neighbours of the parturient woman have also to observe certain precautions to avoid the infectious taints likely to proceed from her.

To avoid danger from the spirit-world, the inmates of the house must abstain from invoking any spirits and offering any sacrifices in the house during the pregnancy of a woman of the family. The head of an animal or fowl sacrificed to the spirits is always taboo to a Birhöş woman. But during his wife's pregnancy her husband too must abstain from eating the head of an animal or fowl sacrificed to any spirit or the head of any animal or fowl obtained by hunting. A breach of this taboo is believed to en• danger the whole community. Should either the husband or the wife eat such meat, the men of the țând à are sure to have illsuccess in hunting. And to propitiate the spirits in such a case, the husband must supply the Nāyå with one pig, two goats, and five fowls to be sacrificed a little away from the huts. Apart from this taboo against such flesh diet the Birhöş husband is not required to observe any other rules of diet or behaviour during his wife's pregnancy. The practice of couvade is unknown. The woman must take care not to lie down in the courtyard or other open space lest spirits and a particular species of bird called the Puni bird might fly across her. It is believed that should such spirits as a Muā or a Màlech fly across the woman, the child in the womb will be either still-born or deformed. And the flight of a Puni bird across her is believed to injure some limb of the child in the womb or cause 'puni-dukh' to it which will make it pine away.

Nor must the woman go near rivers and streams where churils or spirits of women who died during pregnancy or in childbirth are supposed to dwell. To avoid the evil eye, she must cover her womb with a cloth while going out of her house. To prevent the entrance of dangerous influences, she must neither touch nor see a human corpse, nor even see the smoke rising from a funeral Pyre. She must therefore keep indoors when & cremation is going on within sight of her tåndā. She must also keep indoors when lightning flashes are seen and the sound of thunder is heard. The prohibitions against eating stale rice and against crossing a river during pregnancy may be meant merely to avoid physical dangers ; but it is not unlikely that they are intended to avert certain super-physical dangerous influences as well.


The Birhör ascribes difficult labour either to the evil eye or to some sexual sin in the woman or to the anger of some evil spirit. And for each of thes: classes of impediments a different set of remedies is adopted. To counteract the evil eye as well as to neutralize the effect of sin which hampers delivery certain magical rites are performed ; and to propitiate the obstructive spirits sacrifices are offered. In difficult labour, magical rites are first tried, anıl, if these fail, the ghost-finder or Mati is consulted and sacrifices are offered to the

are offered to the spirit who is supposed to impede delivery. Among magical rites perforined to facilitate delivery the following may be mentioned. If the woman during her pregnancy happened to close the cover of any earthen vessel or vessels with mud or other similar substance, such covers are taken out. Or if she happened to have filled up with earth any holes, or cracks in the floor of her hut, these holes and cracks are opened up again. If these fail to bring about delivery, a handful of rice is waved over the head of the pregnant woman in the name successively of each supposed witch and then fried in an earthen pan. If this too fails to remove the impediment, the midwife mentally names one after another each man who may possibly have been in intrigue with the woman and be the real father of the child in the womb and at each name throws a grain of rice on her. It is believed that as soon as the adulterer is named (mentally), delivery takes place. It is said that the ancestor-spirits of the family cause difficult labour to an adultress in order that her guilt may be detected in this way. If all these expedients fail to bring about a speedy delivery, the ghost-finder or Mali is sent for to find out by the examination of a handful of rice which spirit is hampering delivery. If it is a spirit of an established position to who.n sacrifices are ordinarily offerd who is found to obstruct delivery, a vow is taken of making the proper sacrifices in case of speedy delivery, an l if it is only a stray spirit the Māli takes up a handful of rice, vaves it round the head of the woman and while naming the spirit in question throws it away as if towards the spirit.

III.-SEX OF UNBORN BABES. If a woman becomes thin during pregnancy, it is said she will bear a' male child ; if otherwise, a female. Blackish knots in the umbilical cord are supposed to indicate the total number of male children the woman will bear and reddish white knots the number of female children.


When labour-pains come on, the men leave the hut as their presence is believed to hinder delivery, and only a few women remain. The woman who acts as midwife sometimes rubs oil over the womb to facilitate delivery. One end of the hut is partitioned off to serve as the lying-in room and here the delivery takes place. Soon after birth a new door is opened at that end for the use of the midwife for seven days after the birth, and for the use of the parturient woman for a period varying amongst different clans from three to six weeks. The pathway from this new door up to a little distance is in most clans fenced off on both sides with hedges made of branches of trees so that the shadow of the parturient woman and the midwife may not fall on and pollute or endanger their neighbours or their houses. These branches are burnt by the midwife (Kusrāin) after the first seven days of impurity. In a


few clans, such as the Andi and the Shāmjhākoa (which are really of mixed Birhör blood) a new door is not opened; whereas in at least one of the wildest of Uthlü clans, an altogether separate hut is erected for the mother and its baby, where the baby is born without the help of any midwife or other person ; and nobody visits them there nor are they allowed to come near others during the period of impurity. If the placenta is delayed in coming out, the root of a certain plant is suspended from the woman's neck on a string. A copper coin is held below the navel and on this the navel string is cut with an arrowhead or a razor. The navel string and the placenta are now taken up in a leaf-cup and buried just outside the threshold of the hut in a hole about a cubit deep. The Birhöșs assert that the reason why the after-birth is thus buried and secreted is that should a dog or other animal eat it up the mother will sicken and die. If this hole is deep, the difference between the age of the present baby and its next brother or sister will be long, and if the hole be shallow, the difference will be short. The stump of the umbilical cord, when it dries up and falls off, is also buried just outside the threshold, but not so deep ; it is asserted that should it be eaten up by any animal, the child will sicken and die. If the stump of the navel string is buried deep, the teeth of the baby, it is said, will be late in appearing ; but if the stump is buried just below the surface, the baby will teethe early.

As soon as a baby is born, the midwife rubs a mixture of oil, pounded turmeric and powdered rice-husk over its limbs and bathes the babe in tepid water. The following day at about noon the mother drinks water in which kurthi pulse (Dolichos biflorus) has been boiled. This is mount to hasten the flow of milk at her breasts. If this does not serve its purpose, recourse will be had to the following rite. The following morning the husband of the woman will bathe in some spring or stream and come home with a jug of water which he will place in front of his hut. A piece of burning charcoal is also sometimes placed by its side, and over it a little gum of the sai tree will be sprinkled.

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